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The unusual art apps that I use


V.I.P Member
So, I've gotten really into this stuff in the last few months. Bit of a new special interest, I could say.

For the most part, what I create is fractal images... often 2D things, sometimes 3D, always bizarre and generally surreal. If you want to see the things I've made so far, go here and have a look at my gallery: ScrapFractals - Hobbyist, Digital Artist | DeviantArt

That should give you an idea as to the sorts of things that the programs I use can create.

So, why am I making this topic? Because this stuff is darned neat, that's why. I think a lot of artists out there could really like using these things, and while they look hideously complex, it's not as hard to get started with them as it may at first seem. Even the ones that are about 3D rendering. Because this stuff is very... exploratory. Experimental. When you make things like these, you dont go into it thinking "Well today I'm going to make a cat with a tophat". You go in there and say "Well let's start with... this thing here. Okay, that's freaking weird, let's dive into it further and tweak things".

Similarly, you cannot just color parts of these in the way that you might color anything else. All of these operate off of gradients, applied to different sections based on the algorithms used. Which sounds like a complex mess, but here's the thing about these: You dont have to know a bloody thing about math to use them. You just need to be willing to experiment. The more you use one of these, the more you get a feel for what any given thing does.

Seriously, there's so much potential for cool stuff here, so... that's why I'm sharing it.

Let's have a quick look and a brief description of each:



This first one is probably the easiest to start with. Yes, it looks like a horrid mass of confusing buttons, but you dont need to understand every bloody thing to work with it. I actually found this one quite easy to learn, though as with all of these programs it is very feature-rich, so there are still many things yet for me to learn. There is a VERY high skill ceiling with these programs, just like any other type of art.

This program creates "flame" fractals. I'm not going to try to describe what that means.

JWildfire can be found for free on its own site, or for about $10 on Steam (to support the developer).



As a 3D rendering program, this one is more complex than JWildfire. Yet, even so, it's not that hard to learn. Well, not that hard to start with. Certain functions... like formula combinations... are a little more confusing to use. And it takes more work and time to create these. You'll have to create the overall fractal bulb thing, dive towards/into it with the camera, search for something good, make tweaks to parameters to transform it, and do things like create materials and lighting effects.

But also, like all fractal programs, it takes time to render the images, both as you're working with them, and when it's time to create the final render. A complex thing at high resolutions can take quite some time to render. It gets even crazier if you create an animation... yeah, most of these programs can do that! It takes a hideously long time!

Mandelbulber is free.


Ultra Fractal:

Unlike the first two, this one works with the Mandelbrot and Julia sets specifically, which makes for a very different experience in creating things.

Every fractal program is good at different things; this one is good at creating layered images. You can do a lot of cool effects here. Its interface is also not too tough, and it comes with great tutorials.

It costs about $50, I think.



Like Ultra Fractal, this one works with Mandelbrot and Julia. But it has a different sort of focus and is good at different things.

This one is all about texturing and lighting and things like that. It is very, very good at these things. The interface can be a bit strange, but a quick tutorial was all I needed to get going with it, and now I can make things like... whatever the heck that is. Like I said, fractals can be VERY strange.

Jux costs $24.



I'd say this one is the most difficult to learn. Made by the same people who made Jux, it is an extremely feature rich program. Like Mandelbulber, this creates 3D stuff. But it is drastically different from what Mandelbulber does... it's not even the same type of thing. Frankly, I'm not sure what to call it. This is a program that rewards creativity, that's for sure. You can do some incredible stuff with it. Fortunately it comes with some very good tutorials to help you get started. But it still takes quite awhile to make something with this. But hey, that's 3D rendering for you, yeah?

Xenodream is professional-level software with a pricetag to match, coming in at $90. And yes, it lives up to that price. This one is definitely only for those who are really into this hobby. I really like it but boy do I have a lot to learn yet...


Amberlight 2:

This is more... fractal-ish. It creates images using a sort of particle pushing-and-shoving system. It is hard to put into words, but surprisingly quite easy to use. Yes, I know, that screenshot is confusing, but the program is extremely intuitive and very well designed. It wont take long before you start to really get the hang of this one.

I quite enjoy using this one, and have been experimenting with it a lot lately.

Which is good, because like Xenodream, it is very expensive at $90. The creators of this one also make some other really high-level, incredible art programs... there's a reason why their stuff is pricey.


Abstract Curves:

Now we're getting into some weirder territory. It's very hard to explain what the heck is going on in this image, even though this one is actually darned easy to learn. Took me about a day? This is a bit similar to Amberlight in terms of the basic concept, yet at the same time works very differently, controlled in large part by those oscilloscope things on the left.

It doesnt take long to make really cool stuff with this program.

Abstract Curves costs $20. I only just got it like, yesterday, but I've already made some stuff I'm very pleased with.



Aha, now this one is something special. Kaleider cannot create anything on its own. Rather, you jam an image into it, and then you can start applying kaleidoscopic effects to it. Like everything else here this is a very feature-rich program... I never would have guessed that there could be so much to the concept of kaleidoscope stuff!

This is probably my most frequently used program, as it combines VERY well with fractal creations (though you can use it with any image at all). It's also probably the most fun to use. I really freaking love this one.

Kaleider costs $28.



I chose a non-fractal image to use in this screenshot to give a better idea as to what this screwball program does. It is made by the same guy who made Kaleider, and like that program, it cannot create anything by itself. Jam an image into it though, and you can do all sorts of funky stuff to it. Liquib is about manipulation and twisting and stuff... it has many very strange features.

This one costs $26.

So there we go! That's some of the stuff I use to create the weird stuff I make. There are others, but these are enough for now.

I dont remember how I found ANY of this to begin with, but I'm glad I did... such a fun and creative hobby.

Silhouette Mirage

Super Nerd
V.I.P Member
Wow, these look awesome! I've been learning how to code for the past year so that I can eventually create the mandelbrot set or fractals myself, but since that's going to take much more studying and work these look like awesome pieces of software to use in the meantime!

Have you ever checked out TouchDesigner or Filter Forge?


Hopefully Human
V.I.P Member
@SL!ME, your stuff is looking pretty awesome - that video you made and posted in mandalas was so cool.

@Misery, thank you for all the detailed information. I would’ve missed this post if @SL!ME hadn’t replied to it. This is super inspiring, and it seems like the sort of thing you could get into quickly, for free, to just mess around. But, then the more you get into it the more you can invest in good software and such. It’s really helpful to have specific suggestions.

@Misery, I think I see the original post here is quite old – are you still doing this kind of artwork?

This is awesome, gives me a new avenue for an interest. I’ve been feeling rather dull in the drawing department.

I think this one is incredible.


V.I.P Member
Wow, these look awesome! I've been learning how to code for the past year so that I can eventually create the mandelbrot set or fractals myself, but since that's going to take much more studying and work these look like awesome pieces of software to use in the meantime!

Have you ever checked out TouchDesigner or Filter Forge?

I had a look at those.... as far as I can tell TouchDesigner is more of a programming thing? Not something I have any skill in whatsoever... the closest I've come to programming is some game design stuff, but that was simple scripting. Very simple, the main engine and "deep" stuff was done by someone else.

Also, I cant do math. Like, at all. At this point I actually heavily suspect dyscalculia, which I only heard about recently. Like, I dont let anyone see me do it, but I will count on my fingers for some things (usually trying to determine clock stuff, like "okay it's 7 AM, in 8 hours it'll be... uh.... okay nobody's looking, let's find out").

These programs work for me because the math is unnecessary (which is good, I understand literally none of it).

I think I see the original post here is quite old – are you still doing this kind of artwork?

I had a bit of hiatus for a good while as my arm kept flaring up with the mouse for the longest bloody time. Only recently did I get THAT nonsense figured out and I can properly use the stupid thing again. So I started back on these like, just a week or two ago.

As it is, all of the stuff I've done so far since I started doing these can be seen here:



Hopefully Human
V.I.P Member
I just took a closer look at both of y’all‘s artwork, @Silhouette Mirage and @Misery. Really impressive. Really beautiful work.

I’ve seen this kind of artwork, but found it bewildering (as to how to make it). To have two people here showing the tools of the trade is very cool indeed. And again, your results are really awesome.

Silhouette Mirage

Super Nerd
V.I.P Member
I got this app on Steam a few years ago called Project Dogwaffle / PD Howler that tries to tackle image processing, 3D rendering / raycasting and procedural rendering while somehow falling somewhere in the middle of all of those things instead... it's such a weird hodgepodge of aspirations that it never manages to fulfill, but at least you can sometimes generate a cool texture map or something weird with it to use elsewhere. It really feels like an alien app from another universe.

Side note, I'm apparently the top negative review for it, but if it's on sale it's worth experimenting with just for those weird parallel universe vibes. I paid full price and it took me a little while to recover from that one

Also, has anyone heard of Tooll3? Apparently it's free, and I've been meaning to look into it but it keeps slipping my mind. It looks like a really cool procedural tool, possibly in the vein of TouchDesigner but way more experimental and weird. Definitely looks capable of a lot of different things.

It kind of has a Bespoke feel (if anyone has used that for audio), but for visual art
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