An image deformation method is herein proposed to monitor the crack propagation in structures. The proposed approach is based on a computational algorithm that uses displacements measured by photogrammetry or image correlation to generate a virtual image of the surface, from an initial input to any given stage of analysis. This virtual image is then compared with the real image of the specimen to identify any discontinuities that appeared or evolved during the monitored period. The procedure was experimentally validated in the characterisation of crack propagation in concrete specimens. When compared with other image processing techniques, for instance based on edge detectors, the image deformation approach showed insensitiveness to any discontinuity previously existing on the surface, such as cracks, stains, voids or shadows, and did not require any specific surface treatments or lighting conditions. With this approach the global crack maps could be extracted from the surface of the structure and extremely small changes occurring within a given time interval could be characterised, such as the movement associated with the opening of cracks. It is highlighted that the proposed procedure is general and therefore applicable to detect and characterise surface discontinuities in different materials and test set-ups.