Fractal Flame Editor

A fractal flame randomly generated by Aphophysis

I would like to share with everyone some information about a software program I came across several years ago. It’s called Apophysis and you can use it to create fractal flames. You’ve almost certainly heard of fractals, but you might not know what they are.1 They are geometric patterns that have “self-similarity.” They are frequently formed by rules that repeat. It’s easier to understand with an example than with a description.

A Sierpinsky Triangle'The Seirpinski Triangle2 is formed by making a triangle. Then you make three triangles half the size of the first triangle and place them so that their corners touch. Then you do the same thing again within each of the new triangles. Repeat. Repeat again. Keep doing this forever. Each step is called an iteration.

A portion of the triangle.

The top triangle was made using the program Apophysis. Then I zoomed in more closely in the upper left portion of the triangle. It’s hard to tell where I zoomed in, because the different areas resemble one another. That’s the self-similarity. The large triangle will be divided into smaller triangles to the extent it is physically possible to render it. If you zoom in, more triangles appear.

There a quite a few programs out there for making fractals. I once made some wallpaper (real wallpaper for walls, not computer screens) based on the Julia Set using Fractal Forge. It was quite beautiful, in my opinion, for what that’s worth.

Flames are created by an algorithm, a step by step recipe, for images and animations. Apophysis is a program for generating these images. The algorithm was written by Scott Draves. Draves’ code was translated by Ronald Hordijk and Mark Townsend created a graphical user interface to create the Apophysis program.

When you first open the program, a randomly generated group of flames appears in a list on the left and the highlighted flame is rendered in a pane on the right. Sometimes when I’m experiencing a creative block, I just like to look at the randomly generated images.

A randomly generated fractal flame.

The default background is black and the gradients to color the flame are randomly chosen, but they are easy to change and probably one of the first things you’ll try.

A randomly generated flame.

Another really fun and easy thing to do is to open the options panel (ctrl+p) and under the tab marked random choose forced symmetry. For type pick rotational or dihedral. This will make manadala-like images.

A fractal flame with rotational symmetry.A fractal flame with rotational symmetry
A fractal flame with dihedral symmetry.A fractal flame with dihedral symmetry.

If these changes have whetted your appetite for more control, open the editor window (F4). There’s a lot to play with here. From here I leave you on your own to experiment. There are quite a few how-to‘s out there. Following someone else’s directions might not feel very creative, but it’s a great way to learn what all of the options do.

This final image is one iteration of an idea for a mural for my dining alcove.

A fractal flame.

All images in this post, including the Sierpinsky Triangle were made using Apophysis. Most I did today using Apophysis 7X. Apophysis 2.09, another current version, currently has some display problems on my computer, so I suggest Apophysis 7X for the time being. Oh, right, it’s free.

Take a look at what other people have done with the program on Flickr and Deviant Art. There’s some very impressive stuff.

  1. I’m trying to keep the description as simple as possible. If anyone would like to add more information in the comments, please do.
  2. Also known as the Sierpinski Gasket.
  1. I just like to play with the fractal thing on Gimp. Never have anything in mind. Just click around. lol
    I think tutorials or following someone else’s directions is a great way to learn. I don’t do many original things. But still have lots of fun and feel good that I could even follow along. 🙂

  2. fojap said:

    I stopped using Gimp a while ago when I purchased Photoshop and I never played with their fractal editor. I’ve used a few different stand alone programs.

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