T.C. Design - Eye on Design

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Tutorial :: The Fractal Artists' Ring ::

This is a tutorial on how to get from there to here -- "there" being the raw fractal you see below, and "here" being the finished product you see at the end of the tutorial.

Well, let's see. Were you to see the file in Photoshop, you'd see that it has five layers, each represented by the graphics, below.

Step One: original render.

This is what Cosmos looked like after the original render, taken from the actual frac generator as a .bmp file. I always save as a .bmp and never as a .jpg, in the generator. Not only is the resolution higher, but it's more malleable in terms of increasing resolution and image size.

The first thing was looking at the fractal and figuring out how it wanted to be oriented. One of the most important design concepts is eyeflow. The eye should always be drawn around the design, whether it's a piece of art, an advertising concept, a magazine page, whatever. There are various techniques that can help you to direct eyeflow exactly where you want it, keep the eye moving around and around the 'page,' or even create tension, making the viewer uncomfortable. Scroll to the end of the page. Look at the finished frac and think about the route your eyes take when looking at it and why. Do you start at the center, at the lightest point, and then automatically move to the second largest swirl, on the left, then follow a rather sensuous path around the large swirl and end up at the one on the left, where, if you look at it long enough you repeat the procedure, maybe this time taking more time to look at the details? It may not apply to every single person, but probably to many. Design is deliberate, even if you're doing it subconsciously.

I ended up rotating it counter-clockwise and cropping it to the point where it is, below.

Step Two: The Background layer and Layer One consists of the original render.

The bottom two layers -- the background layer and layer one, are the original image. I like to give more than one layer, just because I think it works better that way when performing layer ops.

I liked the darkness around the edges, feeling it had a sort of mysterious quality to it, but wanted to bring out the blues in areas, as well as bring out the detail of the swirls and the oranges. Since I'm all about color, I think complimentary colors done well are marvelous things and not only add interest, but just overall tend to supercharge each other.

Step Three: Layer two after using various PS filters on it and doing layer ops.

As you can see, in brightening the orange middle part by going into KPT's channel surfing and then fading effects in Photoshop where I applied the screen effect and adjusted the opacity, and then increasing saturation in PS's native controls, really kicked up the detail and color saturation (I probably did a couple more things to it, but I don't remember what right now. lol). It also brought the outer edges on par with the center in terms of brightness and overall tonal quality. Not what I wanted.

Step Four: Layer three after using various PS filters on it and doing layer ops.

So, I created another layer on top of that one, copying Layer One, keeping the darkness on the edges. There was actually too much darkness in the left corner, which you can see by looking at the original image (remember I rotated it). Using the clone tool, I cloned another part of the image into the corner, making it more blue and upping the color contrast and adding interest. Using my paintbrush, set on Clear, at 100% (which means it's basically eating through that layer and down to the next), I worked on bringing out the swirls. I only kept it at 100% for the areas I wanted to be the brightest, and used various percentages of opacity as I worked towards the edges, where I wanted it to more gradually fade into the background.

Step Five: Layer Four, the all-important sig.

I always put my sig on a separate layer so I can move it around to see where it looks best. As I often do, I make it a color taken from the image itself, but end up using layer ops to make the color to my liking and also somewhat transparent so that some of the image shows through it. I also used a drop shadow, adjusted to give it a bit of a 3D effect in the final version. I intentionally made it look like, in a sort of surrealistic way, the fractal came shooting out of the 'C.' I think little things can add a lot and I often do little stuff that maybe no one else but me notices. What can I say, I'm easily amused. :)

The finished product before framing

There it is. When I first started fractaling, no one did post-processing in Photoshop. Nor did they use any kind of framing at all, and the images basically looked like this on the page, just flat. Because of my art, digital art, framing and graphic design training, that just bothered me, because I think it feels incomplete. So I started playing around with various framing styles in order to prepare my work for the gallery 'walls.' Some of the framing I did was more traditional, in the sense that it actually looked like a frame and in some cases like it was matted both with (click for examples), velvet or mat board -- things you would find in an actual framing shop (which is something I used to do for a living).

Beyond that, I have a fascination with light and color, so, feeling that the vibrancy of fractals lent themselves perfectly to the illusion of space and place, cast light and transparency (or both), or just whimsy. Or I give it what I call an echo. Or Just a drop shadow, as Cosmos has, to give it some depth. Or any number of things. In spite of the preceeding paragraph and corresponding graphic *g*, I am not one to want to just slap it up there and say "here it is." I like to present it.

After framing

A comparison...


An alternate view (click image to view a larger graphic)

Just to give you an idea of how there are multiple possibilities for each image (which is why once I find a parameter or look I like, I tend to like to do a series), here is something I've started working on, which is an alternate to Cosmos. I'm not sure if I'll keep it and keep working on it or not, but I don't really have the time to do it now anyway. It's taken from the lower left quarter of Cosmos, and was treated very differently than Cosmos was. It's very unfinished, but it's just to show you how differently the exact same frac can be made to look. It can be fun to play around and see what different effects you can get with just one image. To get a better view of this, try clicking on it (it will pop out a new window).

The Original original render (click image to view a larger graphic)

Each pleasing render is really a wondrous playground just brimming with possibility. This is the original render Cosmos was taken from. I always keep a version encompassing the whole playground before I zoom in to specifically play with just one thing. Cosmos was the result of me zooming into the area I've delineated with the rectangular box, above. You can get a better view of it by clicking on it (it will pop out a new window), and you will recognize the shapes, though not much else. :) In looking at the original render for Soul Evolution, you can see it is another example of an echo, and of how you can use one original fractal render to create multiple images by zooming into various areas. Because of the nature of fractals, you can zoom into it almost infinitely. So don't forget to save your parameter and then zoom away!

I use Stephen Fergusons fractal generators almost exclusively, because I feel they give the most vibrant colors and smoothest, loveliest blends. My favorites are all the versions of Tierazon and Vchira. You can find them here -- just scroll down a bit.

Hope this has helped to clarify and inspire. Most of all, have fun. :)

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