13.6. IFS Fractal

13.6.1. Overview

Figure 16.284. Applying example for the IFS Fractal filter

Applying example for the IFS Fractal filter

Filter IFS Fractal applied

This fractal-based plug-in is truly wonderful! With this versatile instrument, you can create amazingly naturalistic organic shapes, like leaves, flowers, branches, or even whole trees. (IFS stands for Iterated Function System .)

The key to use this plug-in lies in making very small and precise movements in fractal space. The outcome is always hard to predict, and you have to be extremely gentle when you change the pattern. If you make a component triangle too big, or if you move it too far (even ever so slightly), the preview screen will black out, or more commonly, you'll get stuck with a big shapeless particle cloud.

A word of advice: When you have found a pattern you want to work with, make only small changes, and stick to variations of that pattern. It's all too easy to lose a good thing. Contrary to what you might believe, it's really much easier to create a leaf or a tree with IFS Fractal than to make a defined geometrical pattern (where you actually know what you're doing, and end up with the pattern you had in mind).

For a brief introduction to IFS's see Foley and van Dam, et al,. Computer Graphics, Principles and Practice[FOLEY01].

13.6.2. Activating the filter

This filter is found in the image window menu under FiltersRenderNatureIFS fractal.

13.6.3. Options

Figure 16.285. IFS fractal filter options

IFS fractal filter options

The Main Interface

The plug-in interface consists of the compose area to the left, a preview screen to the right, and some tabs and option buttons at the bottom of the dialog. The Default setting (in the preview window) is three equilateral triangles. (This gives rise to a fractal pattern called the Sierpinski Triangle).


Some tools are directly visible in this tool bar: Move, Rotate, Stretch, New, Delete, Undo, Redo, Select All. You can see others, if your window is not wide enough, by clicking on the drop-down list button on the right of tool bar: Recenter and Render Options where you have have several parameters:

Render Options

Enables you to speed up rendering time. This is especially useful when working with a large spot radius; just remember to use even multiples of the default value: 4096, 8192, 16384, ...


Determines how many times the fractal will repeat itself. (A high value for Subdivide and Iterations is for obvious reasons a waste of process time unless your image is very large.)


Controls the level of detail.

Spot Radius

Determines the density of the brushstrokes in the rendered image. A low spot radius is good for thin particle clouds or spray, while a high spot radius produces thick, solid color strokes much like watercolor painting. Be careful not to use too much spot radius -- it takes a lot of time to render.

Spatial Transformation

Gives you information on the active fractal, and allows you to type a value instead of changing it manually. Changing parameters with the mouse isn't very accurate, so this is a useful option when you need to be exact.

Color transformation

Figure 16.286. Color transformation tab options

Color transformation tab options

Simple color transformation

Changes the color of the currently selected fractal component (default is the foreground color in the toolbox) to a color of your choice.

Full color transformation

Like the Simple color transformation but this time you can manage the color transformation for each color channel and for the alpha channel (shown as a black channel).

Scale Hue/Value

When you have many fractals with different colors, the colors blend into each other. So even if you set pure red for a fractal, it might actually be quite blue in some places, while another red fractal might have a lot of yellow in it. Scale Hue/Value changes the color strength of the active fractal, or how influential that fractal color should be.

Relative Probability

Determines influence or total impact of a certain fractal.

13.6.4. A Brief Tutorial

This is a rather complex plug-in, so to help you understand it, we'll guide you through an example where you'll create a leaf or branch.

Many forms of life, and especially plants, are built like mathematical fractals, i.e., a shape that reproduces or repeats itself indefinitely into the smallest detail. You can easily reproduce the shape of a leaf or a branch by using four (or more) fractals. Three fractals make up the tip and sides of the leaf, and the fourth represents the stem.

  1. Before invoking the filter: Select FileNew Image. Add a transparent layer with LayersLayers and ChannelsNew Layer. Set the foreground color in the toolbox to black, and set the background to white.

  2. Open IFS Fractal. Start by rotating the right and bottom triangles, so that they point upward. You'll now be able to see the outline of what's going to be the tip and sides of the leaf. (If you have problems, it may help to know that the three vertices of a triangle are not equivalent.)

    Figure 16.287. Tutorial Step 2

    Tutorial Step 2

    Start by rotating triangles 2 and 3, trying to keep them nearly the same size.

  3. To make the leaf symmetrical, adjust the bottom triangle to point slightly to the left, and the right triangle to point slightly to the right.

  4. Press New to add a component to the composition. This is going to be the stem of the leaf, so we need to make it long and thin. Press Stretch, and drag to stretch the new triangle. Don't be alarmed if this messes up the image, just use Scale to adjust the size of the overlong triangle. You'll probably also have to move and rotate the new fractal to make it look convincing.

    Figure 16.288. Tutorial Step 3

    Tutorial Step 3

    Add a fourth component, then stretch, scale, and move it as shown.

  5. You still have to make it look more leaf-like. Increase the size of the top triangle, until you think it's thick and leafy enough. Adjust all fractals until you're happy with the shape. Right-click to get the pop-up menu, and choose Select all. Now all components are selected, and you can scale and rotate the entire leaf.

    Figure 16.289. Tutorial Step 4

    Tutorial Step 4

    Enlarge component 1, arrange the other components appropriately, then select all, scale and rotate.

  6. The final step is to adjust color. Click on the Color Transformation tab, and choose a different color for each fractal. To do this, check Simple and press the right color square. A color circle appears, where you can click or select to choose a color.

    Figure 16.290. Tutorial Step 5

    Tutorial Step 5

    Assign a brownish color to component 4, and various shades of green to the other components.

  7. Press OK to apply the image, and voilà, you've just made a perfect fractal leaf! Now that you've got the hang of it, you'll just have to experiment and make your own designs. All plant-imitating fractals (be they oak trees, ferns or straws) are more or less made in this fashion, which is leaves around a stem (or several stems). You just have to twist another way, stretch and turn a little or add a few more fractals to get a totally different plant.