This is the first ever tutorial I have ever written so forgive me if’s not great, and I may edit it from time to time as I play with it a bit more or if anyone needs any extra information. The main reason for doing this is due to the comments I received on DeviantART. A lot of people liked the images and wanted to know how it was done. I also had a few not-so-nice comments from people on there, as they thought of this as a cheat to creating art as it was a ‘one button push’ job, which if you used the plug-in properly you’ll find it isn’t. I guess the same can be said for certain functions in Photoshop or Photomatix (HDR) as what we are essentially doing is using a tool to edit an image to your liking. When you use the plug-in you will quickly find that you have to play around with the different settings to achieve the look you want as the default settings are not what I wanted and didn’t look that good.
I originally wanted to play with this as I wanted a decent desktop wallpaper and that others could download and use for free. My SmugMug account can be found here where you can download any of the images if you wish and do with them as you wish.
Here is the image that I achieved (Looks great on a large 32″ x 28″ canvas by the way). You may want to try something different though as it’s not to everyone’s taste:
This tutorial assumes that you have both a 32bit version of Photoshop (CS3, CS4 or CS5) and the Fractalius plug-in.
OK, so the first thing you will need is the Redfield Fractalius filter plug-in for Photoshop written by the very talented John Bow which you can find here. It’s a 32bit plug-in so it will not work with any 64bit version of Photoshop and costs $39.90/ £25.20. I was unable to get it to work on Photoshop CS5 32bit, (this now works, read the update at the bottom of the article) but was able to find a work around. I use Windows 7 Ultimate x64 and was therefore able to install Photoshop CS3 (32bit version) in XP Mode which is a fee download from Microsoft here. This meant that I didn’t have to un-install my CS5 version to use this plug-in, but instead could just open up XP Mode and install CS3 in there. This is very useful as you will now have 2 OS (XP being a virtual one) where you can use 2 versions of Photoshop running at the same time without having to boot into XP just to use it.
Fractalius also works with:
- ATX all versions
- Fractalius version 1.75 or higher
- iEmboss version 1.50 or higher
- Sketch Master version 3.33 or higher
- Perfectum version 2.01 or higher
- Umatrix version 1.80 or higher
- PhotoPlus X5
Right, onto the main bit…..
The best results that I have achieved are from decent sized images (plenty of data to play around with) and with a decent sized resolution. With some of the images that I chose I had to increase the brightness of the subject and also try to remove any parts of the image that would interfere with the plug-in, like branches, fence posts etc. If you are going to try to bring back details in the eyes, you may also want to make sure that these are also nice and clear before starting. This is important as if you wish to use it as a desktop without stretching it you will be able to do so. Also, they make fantastic prints for your walls at home. I much prefer images of cats, be them wild or domestic and the sharper the better. Try to avoid images with any background interference or overly cluttered subject matter. I have seen a lot of amazing images of other animals and plants done, but for me personally I just prefer cats as the fur really works with this.
I found most of my images on-line via Flicker, DeviantART or high quality wall paper sites. Where possible I have asked the original publisher of the images for permission to use their pictures, but you will find that if you use images from a wallpaper site, then this is next to impossible. Flickr is a great source of images as these are freely available to download (most of the time) and the photographer can be contacted. You can also find some nice images via Google images, but refine your search parameter to look for images that are over 2MB (1600 x 1200) using the ‘Larger than’ button.
When you first open up your image in Photoshop, make sure you duplicate the layer so that if you want to bring back some of the detail (like the eyes, nose etc) you can. Then go Filter>Redfield>Fractalius where you will see the following window with your chosen image:
When you have the button checked, this is what it may look like:
As you can see, the image looks nothing like the finished version, so you will need to play around with the settings. I must admit that I am unsure as to what each one effectively does, but by adjusting the sliders you will see the effects applied. The Scale adjuster makes quite a bit of difference to the amount of glow here, but can be undone by reducing the Depth slider or any of the others, so you will soon see that there is quite a bit of playing around, to achieve your desired effect. There are also 15 other filters in there that you can try by choosing one from the drop down menu at the bottom of the window. I am using the ‘Glow100’ setting. There is also a ‘Random Settings Generator’ that you can play with to give you a feel for the program and the way that the different settings have on the image. Once you have the image the way you like, hit the ‘Apply Filter’ button at the bottom (Green tick) This will then take anywhere between 10-60 seconds to apply depending on your computer specs (more RAM the better) When this is complete, the applied image will then be open in Photoshop on the duplicated layer that you originally created, but having the original untouched image on the layer below:
Now if you wish to bring back any details/ features of the original shot like the eyes, you can do so. To do this make sure that the top layer (the one with your applied Fractalius settings on) is elected and then choose the eraser tool and make the eraser the size that you want it (Use the [ or ] keys to do this quicker on your keyboard) Now lower the opacity on the selected layer so that your original untouched image on the layer below will start to show through. This will allow you to erase over the parts of the image that Fractalius created and show the parts of the original image instead. I also adjust the opacity and fill values of the eraser tool, so that the details that I wish to bring back don’t look so sharp and unnatural when mixed with the image.
Once you have the image the way you want it (don’t forget to bring back the opacity to 100% or what ever you feel looks right on the later that you are working on) and save the file as a .psd so that you can go back at a point in the future and make changes. Then (with the layer you have been working on selected) save it as a .jpg. That’s it, you are done.
Here are a few of the other images that I have done. I have also created a Nexus 4 wallpaper gallery (full size versions can still be found here) over at SmugMug for the images in this article that you can download for free. The images have been re-sized to 1536 x 1280 for the Nexus 4. The full size versions can be used on an device.
I hope this tutorial was OK as I do tend to waffle and that it was easy enough to follow. Should you have any suggestions or questions, please leave them in the comments below. There are a few other tutorials regarding Fractalius around, but this is the one that made me interested in trying it out in the first place. It’s by @photoframd and can be found here http://blog.photoframd.com/2009/04/27/fractalius-unique-photoshop-plugin/ You will also find a lot of great articles on his site.
[Edit] According to Twitter user Litus Marshall you can run Fractalius on a 32bit version of Photoshop CS5, but you have to ‘Right-click’ on it and ‘Run as administrator’. Many thanks for the tip! I can confirm this works and am now using Fractalius with CS5. Thank Litus.