Apophysis - Post-Editing

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Apophysis - Post-Editing

Postby Muffin Fox on Wed Jan 28, 2009 7:44 am

Apophysis Post-Editing Tutorial

Heyo, it's a boring night, so I'm gonna do another tutorial for Apophysis, and since I lack the knowledge to be able to teach the fractal styles I know, I'll be focusing on another out of fractal part of the process, post editing. To post edit in the terms of fractals is to use a program other then Apophysis to make changes to the fractal, and the two I will be discussing here are Photoshop and GIMP.

I use Photoshop CS4 Extended and GIMP 2.06 (I changed the splash screen on my GIMP, cause I'm weird like that, the default one isn't as anime-ey)

I. Fractals and quality.
There's an old saying about polish and a piece of crap, and this theory applies to fractals as well, many people ask this question: "How do I make my fractals look HQ(High quality) in Photoshop/Gimp/Whatever?"


This said, if you're committed to doing half ass work, I'll give you a half-assed answer. Duplicating the fractal, using a Gaussian blur, and setting the new layer to overlay at a low opacity will work to reduce graininess, although it will destroy detail.

This said, let's continue.

II. The Tools
Now, you might be asking "If quality isn't something to be done in an image manipulation program, why are you still writing this?" Well, yes, quality shouldn't be an issue, and to be honest, there's only one thing left to really "post-edit", and that would be color. Color is important, and to demonstrate this, here's some examples:

This is the fractal I'll be using as an example in this tutorial, as it was when Apophysis finished rendering it:

Do note that it is not made by me, but rather by a close personal friend of mine who is quite a bit better then me at Apop.

That said, this is the image with one simple adjustment, the adding of a black background:

Quite a bit better, no? There's still more that can be done, however this next image is the same thing once more, however, I've done some....things to it that you will soon learn:

Now, it's best for you to get to know the tools you would use to do these improvements, for the most part, they are the same in both Photoshop and GIMP. However, there are some special filters that can only be used in Photoshop (this is assuming you're using CS4, if your PS doesn't have it, sucks for you), that GIMP doesn't have. Let's cover these two first.

Photoshop Exclusives
In photoshop, all of the color filters can be accessed by going Image->Adjustments. The two that we will be focusing on at this moment, because GIMP does not have them are Exposure and Vibrance.

More or less a light control filter, I'll get into how to use it later on.

Well, the definition of Vibrance is annoying to describe. More or less, this filter increases or (if for some insane reason you want to) decrease the richness of the color.

General Tools
Both PS and GIMP have these features. As a note, all color filters in GIMP (assuming you're using version 2.06 and above) are located in the Color menu.

Layer Mode: Overlay
Overlay is a quite common layer mode used in both PS and GIMP. It, as the name implies, puts an overlay of the layer onto the lower layer.

(Color) Curves
In laymen terms, a manual contrast tool. It has it's own section, so I won't go into deep detail right now.

I hope you know what this tool does. If you gain experience with color curves, this tool isn't quite important.

This tool adjusts the light and shade settings for the current layer, it will be explained when it is used later in this tutorial.

Not too many tools, but they're ally quite powerful, especially curves. I do make it a point to try and force any sig artist I know to use curves when I critique their work. It's a very useful tool for any artist. And with this.....WHOOSH, SEGWAY!

III. Curves: A Retrospective
I just always wanted to use the word "retrospective" in something educational. Now, as I said, the curves tool is a very powerful tool. This said, I really can't tell you the "science" behind it, I truly don't know, all I know is how to use it, and that's about all you're gonna get from me. Anyways, the curves tool looks for the most part, the same in both Photoshop and GIMP, but since I have PS open atm, I'll use that.

This is what the curves dialog looks like:

Now, you can use your mouse to drag points on the line to change the curve. As I said, I don't know the mechanics of what it does, but I will give you generic advice on how to use the curves tool.

In general, moving the line up will lighten the image, moving it down will darken it.

Extremes are never good, if you move the line all the way to the top for example, it will be come hyper-contrasted and look horrid. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you move the line to the bottom, the image will become under-contrasted, and will look even worse.

USUALLY, balance is good. If you make a movement up at one point in the line, try to make a movement down at another point in the line.

And finally, E X P E R I M E N T. There's no one magic line that fixes all, and you won't get good at it in one try. Art is about experimenting, and you need to do it as well.

That's it, try your best.

Now, with this section done, we can actually get to the main part of this tutorial (only 5500 chars into the tut too.), the process of improving the color of a fractal.

IV(that's four....read books, people). Color Enhancement, Step by Step
I will note when there is a program difference, ie something you cannot do in GIMP, and what you can do instead, if anything. To be honest, there are only 6 steps in MY process.

Step One
Well, open the completed fractal in photoshop, hopefully it is transparent, if not, well, you have to figure out the settings to do that. It's 2AM right now, so I'm not gonna tell you how to do this. Anyways, the first step for me is to create a new layer underneath the fractal and fill it with a color using the paintbucket. I use strait #000000 black about 99% of the time, but if it's a fractal with a lot of black in it, I'll use an off-black or even white.

Step Two
Duplicate the fractal layer, and make sure the duplicate is above the original. Set the layer mode to Overlay. Now, this is a point where your judgment (?) comes into play. If the image looks over contrasted because of the overlay, decrease the opacity of the layer, if it looks fine, just leave it.

Step Three
Ok, we have to get the image into one layer now. There are many ways to do this, you could flatten the image, for example, but I find it yields better results to use another method. In GIMP, it would be a Copy Visible, in PS it would be an Apply Image, I will explain how to do both now:

GIMP - With the top layer selected, go Edit->Copy Visible->Edit->Paste->New Layer
Photoshop - Create a new blank layer. With new layer selected, go Image->Apply Image. Use the default settings.

Step Four
This is where the messing around with color curves comes in. In PS, it is found in Image->Adjustments->Curves. In GIMP, it is found directly in the Colors menu.
Now, when you get something you like in curves, click ok.
You can also use Brightness-Contrast, but curves are still the best. Refer to the previous section for information about curves.

Step Five
Now, in the same place you found curves, you can find levels. A dialog will appear with two sliders, one will have three sliders on it, one will have two sliders on it. Ignore the one with two, and focus on the one with three. The general starting point with Levels is this: slide the two outer sliders in, and the third one, slide depending on what your aiming for. If you slide to the left, the image will be lighter, if you slide it to the right, the image will be darker.

Step Six - Photoshop
You can only do this if you are using Photoshop, and if you paid attention before, you know what I'm about to explain, Exposure and Vibrance. They are in the same place as curves and levels.

The Exposure filter more or less is a light level filter. You can increase many things that have to do with light here. I usually just increase the Exposure slider, and leave the rest alone. A value between +.70 and +1.20 works best for me.

With Vibrance, there are two sliders. Saturation is never good in excess, just focus on the Vibrance slider. A high positive value will yield good results.

Step Six - GIMP
There's not much you can really do with GIMP to emulate the two PS only filters used in the above step six. All I can really think to do is to do another copy visible, then switch to the "pastel rainbow" gradient. Then go Colors->Map->Gradient map. Set the new layer, which should be on the top of the stack, to Grain Merge, and lower the opacity to something between 5 and 20. It won't looks any the same, but lightness should be increased.

That's actually it. There's nothing more you should need to do to your fractal in terms of editing in PS or GIMP. I hope this tutorial was helpful enough, and considering the time, I am going to sleep. G'Night.

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Muffin Fox
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