India Ink-194.8bf

Download parameter file “”

I’ve found a new toy.

It makes everything look like it was ripped out of an old book, so to speak.

Costs money. $15 US. Fully functional demo download.

Just like uscomic.8bf, it often takes uninteresting images and transforms them, lifting them to higher quanta.

People like me need all the help they can get.

I mostly use the Bayer pattern, but the bubbles can be pretty good too.

I use queen (or burn), softlight, or procedural+. Overlay has worked once or twice. Some of them seem to do the same thing.

I think you’ve got 2 weeks to buy it before it stops working, but maybe you can rip them off for longer.

Download parameter file “”

It’s one of the cheapest filters made by Flaming Pear, but it’s also their best. I tried out a bunch of the other more expensive ones, but I didn’t find them useful. I don’t think freaks like me are their target market.

I think it just adds a patterned layer and merges it with a preset method, but the Bayer method is a little more sophisticated. I’m just guessing.

One of the best rationalizations for not paying for shareware is: I’m not finished checking it out yet, I need another year. The next one is: I’m not a rich professional like they are, so I don’t need to pay. Next: If they want people to buy it, then why are they giving it away for free? After that: Pretty soon I’m going to be so sick of using this thing I won’t want it anymore, and why should I pay for something I don’t want? Finally: Stealing is a victimless crime, like throwing a rock into a crowd.

When used with the GIMP it’s really slow. Which is too bad since the GIMP has tear off menus which makes it a lot more convenient to access frequently used filters. XnView is much faster, but it’s hard getting used to having only one level of undo.

Download parameter file “”

What does it do? It dithers the image using a variety of patterns. Not really, but that’s the general effect. Dithering is much like a texture layer, but it can also re-draw the image, creating something that is categorically different.

Dithering or half-tone patterns can be very creative, altering the color and appearance of the image in intriguing ways. But not always.

Saving as a jpg makes for smooth gradients, but to keep the colors from changing (for the worse) you’ll have to up the quality to the point the file size is ridiculously big. I save them as 256 color pngs, indexed in Irfanview which has a good dithering algorithm that preserves gradients adequately.

When something works out well, ask yourself why and try to reproduce those conditions. Digital skill is all about becoming part of the algorithm.

Download parameter file “”

Filters are tools, they don’t do anything on their own. That just about describes me too. Computers make everything so easy. That’s why we’ve accomplished so much.

This filter really works well with the Inkblot Kaos fractal program. I only use the first “stalks” setting, but that one makes such awesome stuff I wouldn’t have time for any others. The formula parser allows you to dream up enough creative variations to keep you busy for ages.

I think of the two programs as a team: Inkblot is the pottery wheel which forms the clay, India Ink is the kiln that fires it and adds the glaze.

October 2, 2006

Cult of the Microbe King

Who would have thought this humble pest would someday take a seat beside the likes of David Copperfield or Martin Chuzzlewit, as The King of the Microbes.

One of the most startling events for fans of Charles Dickens this past year has been the recent discovery of an unpublished manuscript, The King of the Microbes. It’s authorship is still controversial, due to it’s peculiar subject matter, but some scholars say it’s nothing new, and argue that Dickens made numerous references to it in his diaries and letters although, until now, everyone assumed it never became more than just an idea.

Published for the first time after being written over a hundred years ago, Charles Dickens’ strangest work has become an instant cult classic.

A noted scholar on Dickens’ work has responded with total disbelief, “Charles Dickens never wrote anything remotely like this sort of science fiction novel. They didn’t even know about microbes when he was alive. It’s ridiculous, not even one of his contemporaries could have written it.”

Tracing the life of Jim, a microbe, the novel describes his impoverished beginnings and subsequent separation from his family at the tender age of 8, when he’s sent to a large industrial center to earn money to help support his family back home.

Exploited by the factory owners and earning nothing but a meager ration of gruel each day for his work, Jim uses his organizational talents and sincere charm to lead a labour revolt that eventually grows into something of a revolution ending with him being crowned as their king.

Standard Oliver Twistian fare, excusing the revolutionary theme, but this all takes place on the microscopic level and there’s none of the happy, plump and playfully named humans which the readers of other works by Charles Dickens would expect. In fact, there aren’t any people at all, and his best friend is named “Zorax.”

Download parameter file “”

The prestigious Royal Institute for Victorian Literature said, “It’s obviously Dickens’ work. While he never actually quotes from it, he mentions a work, Microbe Town profusely in his diaries and letters, a few of which are to his publisher, who for some reason seems uninterested in it. Perhaps it wasn’t finished, although most of Dickens’ works were originally published as a continuous series of magazine installments. I rather suspect Dickens was uncomfortable with it and died before he could make up his mind to have it published.”

Still only available in hard cover, and elaborately illustrated, The King of the Microbes has completely sold out it’s first, and rather short, printing run. Copyright issues have blocked publication in the United States as the estate of Charles Dickens has said that since the manuscript was never published, it’s not in the public domain yet, unlike the rest of Dickens’ work, and therefore they still hold the copyright.

Borderbooks, a U.S. publishing house in New York, says it intends to publish the work since they say they have an exclusive contract with someone they claim to be the real, and currently “living” author. The real “Charles Dickens” who wrote the book they say is an american who uses “Charles Dickens” as a pen name and was something of a drifter who previously worked as a microbiologist and has been an avid fan of the original victorian writer all his life.

This american microbiologist apparently was intrigued by the references the original Dickens made to the unknown work, Microbe Town, and set out to write the novel that he thought the real Dickens would have made.

The mysterious writer has so far been unavailable for comment and, according to his publisher, was last seen “dressed up like the Ghost of Christmas Past on a motorcycle he bought with his advance money, seriously drunk, and intending to head out to California, with a surf board tied to the back rest of his motorcycle and promising to write a sequel along the way that he’d drop in the mail when he got there…”

Alright. That’s too much. I should have stopped before I got to the motorcycle, or the drifter.

Anyhow, I thought these processed Inkblot Kaos images would fit in just perfectly with such a novel, The King of the Microbes. Should it ever be written. Or discovered. Or whatever.

September 27, 2006

He played the Balalaika

He played the Balalaika… then ate it!

I wasn’t quite sure what to do, so I clapped.

He wasn’t finished yet.

Everyone in the alien dinner theater scowled at me while he started again, from the beginning.

I couldn’t see why this guy was such a big celebrity on this planet.

Until he started to sing. It was the most amazing performance I’d ever heard.

But the local aliens at my table weren’t too impressed. “Anyone with two heads can sing harmony like that,” they muttered.

September 18, 2006

Electro Sine Trap Tentacles of Terror

It’s been ages now since ants took over the Earth, but they still enjoy reliving the old battles.

“One small step for an ant, one giant leap for all insects.” Conquering the humans was the defining moment in the civilization of the ants.

When they read what we wrote about them in textbooks, they weren’t insulted. “Look how the mighty have fallen!” they roared with joy.

Every year on Veteran’s Day (for ants) they re-enact the great battles and tell their children and grandchildren about the Revolution.

“Son, the history books will tell you that the 214th Leaf Cutter Division captured Washington. But by the time they got there it was just me and few other guys. Beat but not beaten.”

“Just me, a few guys and our Electro Sine Trap Tentacles of Terror!

“Boy, tell your children and your grandchildren, if the humans ever come back from their holes in the ground, just let ’em have it with the Electro Sine Trap Tentacles of Terror. Those babies will fry ’em where they stand!”

September 11, 2006

I walked with Warhol

Hey, how about it? Is this the Campbell Soup Cans of fractals or what?

Anyhow, Andy told me, and no one else knows this, that he’s taken all his talent and everything he’s ever learned about art and put it into a single photoshop filter.

And he gave it to me, on a diskette.

I’d post it for download, but I promised I wouldn’t, or else I’d lose all my super-powers.

A long time ago when I was in university I wanted to learn Spanish because I was going to go to Mexico for two months in the summer. Being exceptionally lazy when it comes to learning languages, or anything else mathematical, I checked out, started to study, and gave up on, a number of Spanish grammars.

I was in the public library looking for a different kind of Spanish textbook when I found a hardcover one with no dust jacket from the 1950’s illustrated with small line art drawings. Each little ink sketch was signed, “A. Warhola.”

I laughed. It had to be Andy Warhol. In fact, I figured he was a little embarassed with putting his real name on these trivial illustrations so he contemptously wrote his last name “Warhola.”

Years later, when I began to read about things, I was surprised to find out that Warhola was actually his real name from the beginning, and he dropped the “a” off the end later on so it wouldn’t sound so…

I never finished reading the book about Andy Warhol. I don’t know what the reason was. A lot of people have altered their names to make them sound more or less of something. I’ll bet there’s even been someone with the last name Warhol who’s added an “a” and changed it to Warhola.

Here’s the original before “warholization” occurred, made in Inkblot Kaos.

Download parameter file “”

Which is better? The Warhol or the Warhola?

Actually, the effect is just the uscomic.8bf thing with the darkness slider moved to the lighter end of the range, the image inverted and the hue moved about half way around the spectrum. But maybe that’s all Andy Warhol ever did when he made his famous stuff.

Of course he would have had to do it the hard, old-fashioned way.

September 5, 2006


I’ve been spending alot of time in my garbage can lately.

Never before has it been such a delight to retieve stuff I thought was worthless, even the things stuck to the bottom of the can. I feed them into the uscomic.8bf machine and out comes instant Strange Tales and Journey into Mystery 1960’s vintage comic book imagery.

Not only that, part of the process reduces the image to only 8 colors which makes for bright and solid indexed pngs with file sizes as small as the prices on old comic books. (They used to sell for 10 or 12 cents in the early 60s.)

Of course it’s not art or anything like that. Are comic books literature?

In keeping with my cheap, economical ways, I’ve been using a program called XnView. It’s just one of those free image viewers that allows you to browse directories of images by creating a bunch of thumbnails.

It also had a few “effects” with it. Nothing special, just versions of common things like oil painting and the shakey shifty smudgy ones. Also a funky dithering thing that makes images look like they’re full of cross hatching and dots like they used to use in the old days to fake colors that were too expensive to print separately.

A really bad inkjet printer does the same thing. It looks great.

Anyhow, XnView has this menu option that says “Adobe Photoshop Plugin.” Now that sounds professional and stuffed with money to me. But no, you can get them for free too.

Whoever figured out how to get Photoshop plugins to work with other programs for free deserves some kind of special award. (That is, as long as it doesn’t cost anything.)

So among three or four hundred other plugins I downloaded one evening, was this uscomic.8bf. Filters or plugins or whatever, are either very cool or absolutely stupid. I got about 398 stupid ones and two cool ones. The other one produces a black and white (2 color) pen and ink image.

What was I thinking when I saved this? (57k)

Oh yeah! Cosmic Creatures and the Invasion from Space! (18k)

The comic filter fixes up lousy color too. Or rather it makes it look like an old comic book; which might not always be what you want.

Of course, the real excitement comes when you start to combine filters and develop sequences or “algorithms” that, more often than not, produce good effects.

For instance, inverting the output of uscomic looks pretty interesting sometimes. It looks silkscreened and rather artsy; not comic bookish at all. But I guess that’s what you’d expect the opposite of a comic book to be.

I could have anti-aliased this, but it would still be a mess (46k)

Ahhhhh!!! Who left the door open to the 4th Dimension! (16k)

As a somewhat humorous postscript, I accidently discovered the underlying simplicity to much of the uscomic filter. I clicked on the adjust “brightness/contrast/gamma/balance” tool to prepare my raw image for the filter and saw the image go comic book all on it’s own.

It seems the last settings for the tool (which it automatically restored when I went to use it again) were +77 for brightness (range is -127 to +127) and +127 for contrast. This produces almost exactly the same results as the uscomic filter –even the color reduction to 8 colors. Bright images will need to be inverted to complete the effect.

The graphics program is like a guitar. Look at all incredible music that can be made with a guitar. And it’s only got six strings.

August 28, 2006

The other machine

It sits there, quietly. Unused but waiting.

Sometimes while working on the fractal machine, I look over at it. Our eyes meet. I say nothing and return to the fractal machine.

Before I discovered fractals my hobby was making seamless background tiles and web graphics in my graphics progam.

I made thousands, maybe ten thousand tiles. It was a lot of fun taking any kind of image and working it over with filters and effects then hitting the “make seamless” filter.

I used the GIMP because it’s the most graphics program you can get for free. Photoshop probably has more capabilities but I couldn’t justify paying that much for something that was just a hobby.

I’m not trying to boast or anything, but when you make ten thousand unique background tiles over the course of three years, working for a couple of hours every evening, you aquire some familiarity with your graphics machine. If I had practiced the piano or guitar that much, I’d be a reasonably good musician. Anyone would be.

But then I discovered fractals and the effect of the seamless filter didn’t “become” them. I made one seamless fractal tile early on, and despite many hours of subsequent work, couldn’t make another that looked appealing.

So with the arrival of my fractal machine…. dust settled on my graphics machine.

Occasionally I sparked it up to make some web graphics to accompany my new (and ever-expanding) fractal gallery. Sometimes I would embark on a weeklong binge of “tinting” old photos I got off the internet (public domain).

I never fed one of my pristine fractals into the titanium teeth of my graphics machine, ever. Never. Stop it! Stop looking at her like that! You filthy graphics program!!!

It wasn’t for any ideological reason, like I was against “post-processing” or anything like that. It was just that the fractal programs I was using, Sterlingware and Xaos, produced such wonderful images on their own that I didn’t see any use in adding a second machine to the process.

Also, the process of creating fractals was a very complicated one and meant that you needed to see the results of any parameter adjustments right away and then make changes to the basic image (zoom in or out). All I could do in a graphics program would be to add graphical effects to a single image. If it didn’t produce anything worthwhile, all I could do is go back to the fractal machine and start over again.

Xaos actually incorporates two styles of edge-detection within the program, and good, random palette generation. And what could my coal-burning graphics factory add to the refined imagery made on a fractal Stradivarius like Sterlingware?

Nothing but crude effects and general graphical graffitti.

But things change. I changed. My fractals changed. I went from making super-crisp photorealistic images in Sterlingware to making flatter, more abstract, silk-screen like images.

My fractals started to look more like the “tinted” or post-processed photographs that I liked to make. I was getting closer to producing the same type of imagery with two different machines.

Maybe I could process a fractal image the same way I processed a photographic one? If I could turn an old National Wildlife Service photo of the desert into a glowing green moonscape, maybe I could put a fractal “photo” into a similar orbit?

A dull, ho-hum, recycle-bin grade fractal
Should have been anti-aliased, but who cares?

Whoa! Beam me up Scotty!
It’s the..
Alien Portal to the 4th Dimension!

I resized it up to 400×200; reduced the palette to 8 colors with a dithering thing; applied the “oil painting” filter; and then took the rest of the week off.

Some times it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. But when it does, it’s like turning straw into gold. And if that happens often enough, it’s worth the extra time jolting, zapping and irradiating a fractal …in the other machine.

August 21, 2006

Tugando: the dancing fractal bear

Download parameter file “bear01.loo”

Where is the music? What is the music?

It must be jumpy and fast; look at the way he’s dancing.

Check out the shoes: He’s a stylish fellow.

And that strange flowing white stripe, like a flame, a scarf unfurling from his brain.

Hey, he’s got two heads.


In another place,
in another plane,
he would not be a bear

He would be some royal seal
an emblem, rich and strong
glowing with tradition and history,
and dignity that never really was

I’d better leave now,
Both his heads are looking at me.
And the music has stopped.

August 20, 2006

Pencil Legs

August 1, 2006

More Watercolors

Download parameter file “”

Without anti-aliasing the hand-painted effect is greater.

Download parameter file “”

But sometimes the anti-aliasing gives a nice, polished, finished look.

Download parameter file “”

They look a bit like maps to me. Old hand-drawn images from the days before computer graphics.

Download parameter file “”

I guess the eye has appetites and after months of seeing nothing but digital perfection, the old faulted styles of the human hand become new and interesting again.

July 27, 2006