Fractal Art: Creating Gnarls in Apophysis

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

The gnarl style of fractal is a beautiful and fun fractal, and perhaps one of the trickiest to create. Don't be dismayed, however, because we'll walk through the process in this tutorial step by step to produce the beautiful fractal you see above using the Apophysis software program. You'll then possess the tools to create amazing gnarl fractals on your own. From the dizzyingly detailed to the soft and smooth-as-satin, you can make them all!
Open Apophysis and check that you have the waves2 plugin. This plugin will be essential to our approach to the gnarl fractal style. You can check for the presence of waves2 by opening the Editor, clicking the Variations tab, and typing "waves" into the search box. Alternatively, you can simply scroll through the list and look for it. In some newer versions of Apophysis this plugin is included, and in others you will need to install it yourself. If waves2 is present, then skip to step 3.

Search for the waves2 plug in

If you're missing the waves2 plugin, you will need to download and install it. Close Apophysis as you cannot install a new plugin with the program open. The waves2.dll file needs to be copied into the Plugins folder inside your Apophysis program directory. Once you've copied this file over, open Apophysis.
Open the Editor and click the New Flame button to create a blank slate from which to start.

Create the Blank Canvas to Build our Fractal

For Transform 1, leave Linear set to 1 and add in the value of 1 to radial_blur. Switch to the Variables tab and change the radial_blur_angle to as well. After you have explored the tutorial as a whole, you may wish to come back to this step and adjust the radial_blur_angle as this can provide you with some very unique results.
Finally, set the Weight of Transform 1 to 0.125. This transform has a lower weight because we're using it as a blurred base. It simply needs to be present but does not need much emphasis to be placed on it. The higher weights will be applied to transforms that affect the overall shape and structure of the fractal.

Adding Variations to Transform 1

Create a new transform by clicking the New Transform button in the toolbar. Change the weight of this transform to 10, much higher than the setting of Transform 1. Finally, remove the linear variation by setting it equal to 0 and add the waves2 variation by setting its value equal to 1.
As mentioned above, this transform has a higher weight assigned to it because it will control the actual structure of the fractal. By modifying this weight value you can adjust how crisp or blurry your fractal will appear. The more weight you apply to this transform, the "cleaner" your fractal will appear; the lower the weight, the more blurred and "dusty".

Transform 2 Basic Setup

Now we need to make some adjustments to the waves2 variation. Switch to theVariables tab in the Editor. Adjust the values as follows:
  • waves2_freqx: 2
  • waves2_freqy: 2
  • waves2_freqz: 0
  • waves2_scalex: 0.05
  • waves2_scaley: 0.2
  • waves2_scalez: 0
Each of these settings can be modified in the future, but for now, stick with these until you get used to how the variation affects the overall fractal.
At this point, you still will not see any pixels plotted on your viewport or the main window. In our next few steps we will finally start to see the fractal taking shape.

Transform 2s Variables are Set

Open the Triangle tab in the Editor. Make certain that Transform 2 is selected.
Click the rotate 90 degrees counter-clockwise button to rotate the transform. At this point, depending on the current gradient, you may already be seeing some shape in your viewport.
Change the value of the move units to 2. This is the middle text box that is located between the up/down and left/right arrows. Move the transform to the right by 2 units and then down 2 units.

Moving Transform 2

This step is very tricky and yet quite fun at the same time. In the Editor window, click on the Yellow X (Transform 2's triangle). Move this node around. The idea is to stick close to the corners of the unit grid. Watch the viewport window as you move X around and find a shape you like.

Result of Moving the X Node on Transform 2

Now the real exploration begins! At any point in time, feel free to modify the X and Y points by values between 0.001 and 0.01 on the Triangle tab. Do so independently to find some amazing combinations.
Open the Variables tab. Start to explore different options with the scale variables. Try setting waves2_freqy to something between 0.1 and 1.
Modify waves2_freqx as well. Try using negative numbers to see how they impact the fractal.
Change the scale values for x and y as well. See what happens when these two values are equal and when they are very different.

Adjusting the Transform 2 Variables

At this point we have created a basic gnarl. You could simply stop here and render the fractal. However, let's take things a few steps further. First, we will add some texture to the fractal. This is another opportunity for you to get very creative in your use of the different variations within Apophysis. Next we will work on coloring the gnarl and then finally, we'll add in a final transform and render the fractal.
Add a new transform by clicking the New Transform button at the top of the editor. This will be Transform 3. Remove the Linear variation from this transform by setting the value to 0 in the Variations tab.
Add different amounts of variations to this transform. Feel free to add multiple variations and see the effect it has on the gnarl. Don't forget about negative numbers!
Here are the variations I finally decided upon.
  • horseshoe : 0.283
  • hyperbolic: 0.52
  • unpolar: 0.461

Texture Variations

To begin coloring the fractal, we need to select a gradient. Open the Adjustmentwindow and switch to the Gradients tab. I've chosen gradient 403. Feel free to pick this one, or find one of your own to experiment.

Gradient Selection

Close the Adjustment window and return to the Editor. Select Transform 2. Switch to the Colors tab. Change the Color Speed to a value between 0.9 and 0.975.
Finally, drag the Transform Color slider slowly and watch the fractal really come to life! Once you've explored the coloring, decide upon a setting you like and continue on below or go back and choose a new gradient and use the Transform Color slider again until you find something that makes you happy.

Colors Have Been Decided Upon

In the editor, click the button that looks like a triangle with the letters FX beside it. This will enable the Final Transform. Remove Linear by changing its value in the Variationstab to 0. Experiment with adding different variations, including negatives and multiple variations, until you find a structure that makes you happy.
All that is left now is to crop the fractal so that it is pleasing in appearance, modify any rendering settings, and render the fractal.
Close the Editor as we are finished manipulating the actual fractal. In the main window of Apophysis use the move, zoom, and rotate tools to focus on an aesthetically pleasing area of the fractal you created. There is a nice tool called Show Guidelinesthat allows you to use the rule of thirds and the golden ratio in positioning your fractal.
Open the Adjustment window and select the Rendering tab. Change the Brightnesssetting to be slightly higher than what you would expect; a setting of 5 usually works well.

Crop Settings

To render the fractal, open the Render window by clicking the purple gear in the main Apophysis window. Use a high value for your render Density. I normally use 10,000. A higher Filter Radius of 1.0 will normally yield very good results. As for Oversample, you can simply use 1 but do not go higher than 3. This option renders your fractal larger and then scales it down before it is saved to the hard drive to prevent or limit anti aliasing. Click Start and let the computer crunch the numbers.

Render the fractal

Congratulations! You've completed your first gnarl-style fractal. Now that you have the basics under your belt, start exploring all the different options. You can begin by seeing what happens when Transform 2 is rotated. Use very small degrees, 1 or 0.5 at first because the changes will be huge even at such small numbers. Position Transform 2 in an entirely different area of the grid. Use different variables for waves2 or try different texture variations. The different options are sure to keep you busy for many hours to come!

Finished gnarl fractal


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