image editing is not new to photo manipulation applications and their
plugins. For instance, when resizing photos, the fractal-based algorithm
has been one of the best for years now, providing a very accurate
result when compared to traditional bicubic or bilinear methods (also
featured in Photoshop). Now, however, an artistic
approach has also been released in Redfield's Fractalius
An in-depth discussion
of fractals, I'm afraid, would require a lot more than my meager mathematical
skills, so I'll just say that fractals are iterative shapes that can
be described through mathematical formulas. Many such iterations can
be found in nature. "Fractal language" thus enables us to
describe supposedly complex forms created by nature. These forms can
often be encountered in photos, the two-dimensional reflections of
nature. Fractalius, a totally unique plugin, is "based on extraction
of so-called hidden fractal texture of an image".
But what should
this rather technical description mean in practice? An advanced artistic
effects plugin with hitherto unseen capabilities which enable us to
turn photos into artifacts resembling paintings, pencil and ink drawings.
newest version of Fractalius (1.50) was released Summer 2009. The
file is as small as 331 KB and installs in the blink of an eye under
Photoshop. After opening the editor, you'll find
the plugin in their usual place, in the Filter menu, under a Redfield
When started, the
typical Redfield user interface appears. Anyone who has seen another
plugin by the same company will find the view familiar. The controls
are intuitive enough for newcomers as well. Somewhat tougher are the
sliders controlling the effects. I have spent a few hours fiddling
with them but I must admit I am still using them a bit casually. There
are two slider groups with the same 5 controls. These are Sharpness,
Line Width, Radius, Diffusion, and Depth, plus a button in both groups.
Below, there are three general sliders named Brightness, Saturation,
and Scale. At the very bottom, the familiar Redfield buttons and menus
await. They are: undo and redo arrows, a die button for generating
random settings, the R button for restoring defaults, and the menu
containing factory and user presets. Finally, you can also find two
buttons for applying settings and cancelling. The left side of the
dialog is occupied by the preview pane, which is unfortunately not
zoomable, so with larger images, you can just get a general idea of
how things will look.
Well, the mysterious
slider pairs. The upper and lower groups of five serve the enhancement
of black and white edges, respectively. The upper Sharpness,
Line Width, Radius, Diffusion, and Depth sliders emphasize
edges and details in the picture with thick black lines, while the
lower ones do the same with white. With proper settings, these enhancements
resemble brush or ink strokes, being thick in the middle and thinner
about the ends. This effect lends the feel of artistic drawings.
increase this value to include more edges in the effect. Lower values
give a rough-and-ready look, higher ones show more details.
controls stroke thickness.
controls line complexity. Lower values result in more playful, winding
lines following the form of texture more accurately, while higher
ones bring straight, more deliberate strokes
controls the diffusion of lines. Instead of 0 to 100, value can be
set between +/-50. 0 gives the most accurate result, extremes make
the effect more washed and diffuse.
darkens/lightens lines. Values range from -25 to +75.
star buttons next to the slider groups invert black
or white lines.
bottom sliders affect the whole picture, not just the edges. Brightness
and Saturation are rather obvious. Setting Scale
to a high valuewill make the image rougher and more abstract, while
by lower settings, brush strokes fit to the original texture more
accurately, providing a more realistic image.
so much about boring theory. Let's get to practice instead! You may
want to use the plugin on a duplicate layer and blend it with the
original picture. Here's an example. In this case, we applied the
following settings to the upper layer:
The lower layer
contained the original picture and was blended using Luminosity mode.
The result is a color pencil drawing.
With a bit of imagination
and using other Photoshop tools such as layers, you
can create interesting visual worlds.
can be obtained for $39.99 from the developer's
website. You can also download a free trial there.