Art: Fractals — My Process

Note: I’ve been off and on ill, so am starting to get back on my feet. I hope to start regularly posting again soon. Without further ado, here’s a piece I’ve been working on lately.

I have posted with my poetry fractals I created. So I wanted to go over a bit on how I create these. I always start with a base design in my head of what I’d like to recreate in fractals — this is often an abstract design, but sometimes I’ll have a set of colors and themes that I want to cover. (I especially do this when I create a piece for a friend. I think of all the attributes and identities that make them who they are, and then try to create a fractal that best represents that sum.)

Fractals are basically painting with math and programming algorithms. The program I use is Apophysis 7.x, but I also use Chaotica.

A big difference between the two programs is how the geometry part of fractal design is done. Apophysis uses triangles, which can be manipulated across a coordinate plane (Cartesian coordinates are used). However, Chaotica uses vectors in a Cartesian plane — each variation is two vectors that can be oriented in any direction within that plane.

Although Chaotica tends to have a more polished feel to some of the finished designs, I can’t render the full resolution I want without paying for the entire program. (Which I simply don’t have financial resources for that yet.) However, Apophysis 7.x is a free program, so that’s the primary one I utilize and the one I will describe within this blog.

I add in very little of my own programming to adjust the fractal as I use the program to do most of that. Both Apophysis and Chaotica have a wide variety of features to help artists fine-tune and diversify their designs. Below is a highlight of some of the features I utilize to create my designs:

When I start a fractal, I will either start with a blank flame or with a starter flame. Whenever Apophysis starts up, it automatically loads up a list of incredibly random starter flames. Most are nonsensical and I ignore them, but some make for great starting points. I take that starter flame and reset the geometry of all the triangles, then I look through the variations and variables the starter flame used and adjust them more to my vision.

To adjust that starter flame into the vision for my design, I open up the Apophysis Transform Editor.

  • Triangles are the color-coded based on the flame transform. The top row gives me a lot of options on what type of transform I want to create and if I want the transform linked to any existing triangle transforms.
  • Next, I go to variations. I have some add-ons that give me a total of thirty variations. Once I pick them, I select the “hide unused variations” so I could focus on the ones I was using for this piece. The right hand side, where the tabs are, lists all the different aspects that can be altered to create a fractal.
  • Variables is where I fine-tune the variations selected.
  • Xaos gives me the option to adjust the paths between the two transforms, and the weight of those paths.
  • Colors lets me fine-tune the color palette.
  • Transform is where I can adjust coordinates — there is also an option to use Cartesian or polar coordinates for the transform.
  • Triangle is where the placement, size, angles, and other attributes of the triangles are adjusted.
  • Weight field provides me with the option of having a transform be prioritized (weighted) more than others, so its variations have a larger impact on the render.

This editor also has a preview box in the upper right corner, so I can get an idea if my adjustments are coming closer to my vision.

Apophysis editor

Once I have created my fractal, I then wait for the render to complete in the program’s main display screen to verify. Then I go to my next step, which involves the Adjustment Feature in Apophysis 7.x:

apophysis adjustment

Adjustments do not alter the fractal design like the editor does, but does affect how the fractal is presented.

  • The Camera tab lets you zoom in and out from the fractal. Adjust its position in space — to move the fractal up or down use X-position and to move it left or right use Y-position. Rotation is pretty straightforward as it just rotates the fractal in a 360 degree arcs.
  • Rendering tab allows me to adjust the Gamma, Brightness, Vibrancy, Gamma Threshold, and Background. To see some definitions, check out the glossary here.
  • Gradient adjusts the colors in a multitude of ways. The color palette is a wide spectrum, and by rotating the spectrum, a different set of colors may become more prominent depending on where you are in the spectrum.
    • The hue, saturation, brightness, and contrast all adjust the look of the image.
    • The frequency and blur options affects the colors in the palette – how often certain colors appear and how much they blur into each other. Use too much blur, and the color palette ends up one muted color.
  • Image size adjusts the size of the image. I often set it for 2000 by 1600, so that I can easily scale up to my preferred render size of 6000 by 4800 (best for printing).
  • I love playing around with the Curves feature as that can cause other interesting changes to the appearance by altering the relationship between brightness and contrast and highlights.
  • Adding some perspective can give them a more 3D look.
  • Scale relates to zoom, but focuses on the fractal, why the zoom sliding scale focuses on a coordinate in space.
  • Depth blur differs from some of the blur variations in that it applies to the entire image rather than just one transform. Add in too much depth blur and strange spherical artifacts or smudges may develop, which could assist with a design or make it worse.

There’s other interesting features within Apophysis that can diversify the type of fractals. For example, I sometimes use Apophysis’ mutations feature, which are randomized alterations for the geometrical paradigms of my variations. This can be helpful if I’m feeling stuck and can’t get the geometry of the transform to render into the right visionary idea.

Sometimes I’ll go into Photoshop after I render an image in order to overlay several different renditions of the same fractal to get a manipulated one that has more of the features I wanted in the final design. Other times, I may combine several different fractals into one image to create a scene and Photoshop is useful in merging the different fractals seamlessly.

If I do a raw fractal, that means I didn’t do any manipulation in Photoshop.

So that’s a basic run through of some of the stuff I do when I create fractals! Feel free to ask any questions. Just be aware, this post isn’t meant to be a tutorial. It is just to explain some of the features I use the most when creating fractals in Apophysis 7.x and the basic design process I use.

By Aibird

Open the door, step inside. Here you find a forest, teeming with animals and birds, which sweeps up the sides of snow-capped mountains. Here in the small pocket of beauty, one finds the essence of my soul. A writer at heart, I delve deep into the finer details of humanity's spirit, and seek to share with others what gems I uncover. I find life exciting and full of interesting surprises, and despite the great pain that often confronts me, I persevere with the joy in my heart still bubbling, and the light of my soul still aflame. There is a time and a place to introspect one's self, but often enough it is best to not look back in regret, but leap forward in the present toward the achievement of one's deepest dreams. I am a wanderer. An explorer. One place cannot contain me for long, but to my friends and family, I remain loyal, for love is not bound by time nor place. Once cultivated and nourished continuously, it binds people together on a journey through the unknown reaches of life.

1 comment

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: