Fractal FAQ's

Fractal ImageI have received many e-mails over the years with questions not specifically addressed in my tutorials, so with that end in mind I have added this FAQ page about creating fractals, printing fractals, copyright issues, graphics software etc.

This is a compilation of answers to many questions that I have received from visitors to this website. I hope this is helpful and if your question is not answered here, feel free to drop me an e-mail.

Frequently Asked Questions About Fractals
How do I print my fractals?
In order to print a fractal, you need to first determine what size print you would like. In order to get the best results you need to render a print for between 200 to 300 DPI, or Dots Per Inch for printing purposes. Simply multiply each dimension of the size print you want by the DPI you wish to use. For instance, for an 8.5 x 11 inch print which would be printed at 300 DPI, you would multiply 8.5 & 11 by 300, for a final render size of 2550 x 3300 in Tiera-zon.

Keep in mind, that the larger the size print, the longer it will take to render your image. The time it takes to render depends on a number of factors including; the complexity of the formula/image, how fast your computer is, how much memory you have installed, if there are other programs running & your graphics card speed, to name a few.

To access & render custom sizes in Tiera-zon select the XY button on the left toolbar, or right click over the image. Then select "Custom" at the bottom and enter the dimensions, in this example, 2550 x 3300.

What is the difference between DPI & resolution for my fractal prints?
Resolution is measured in pixels, and is only relevant to a TV, or computer monitor. Pixels are simply little squares which are the smallest display elements that make up the images you see on a computer monitor or television. A typical fractal image contains millions of these pixels.

DPI on the other hand is only relevant to printing, and represents how many dots per inch the ink coverage is on any given printing medium.

Why don't the colors of my fractal prints match what I see on my computer monitor?
This is the million dollar question! Any one who has attempted to print anything displayed on a computer monitor, such as a photo, graphic image, fractal etc. has struggled with this issue.

The primary reason is that every computer monitor, even exact models, vary in the color you see displayed. My fractals that I post online may look more washed out, or too dark, etc. on your computer monitor, compared to mine. Unfortunately, that is a fact of life in the world of computer monitors!

In addition, there are other factors that affect this, including; where you have the images printed, what type of printing press they are using, what color calibrations/profiles they use etc. You may luck out and have the printed image look just like you see on your monitor. However, it is much more likely that your print's colors may look quite different.

There is no easy solution to this problem, but there are a few things you can do to ensure the best results.

First, if possible purchase a monitor calibration kit and re-calibrate your monitor each month.

Second, if using a high end graphics program, like Photoshop, you can use custom printing profiles. Find out which profiles your printer uses and then calibrate based on these profiles.

Third, trial & error! Try printing a smaller, inexpensive print of your fractal. Once you have received it back, compare that with what you see on your monitor. Using a graphics program, correct the color inconsistencies & try again. Be sure to keep a record of what you do, so that when you have a successful match, you will be able to re-print the image correctly the next time.

Most of all, good luck! It takes time and effort to achieve good results, so be patient and determine what works for your printing/monitor combination.

Can fractal art be transferred to to other materials like clothing, T shirts etc.?
Yes, any image can be printed on virtually any medium, including glass, metal, paper, cloth etc. Fractals are simply a digital file that can be rendered at any specific resolution/DPI for any printing purposes.

Can I take a small fractal image and blow it up to print it?
Yes, but the image quality will be horrible if not done properly! These images are made up of tiny squares, called pixels, and when they are blown up the squares simply get larger and the detail is lost. In order to achieve the best reults, you will want to render the image at the desired final size that you wish the print size to be. Optimally you want to render your image for printing at 300 dpi (dots per inch), which is 90,000 dots per inch when printed. To calculate this, simply multiply the two dimensions of your prints final size by 300, and then render at that size. E.G. 8x10 print would be rendered at a resolution of 2400 x 3000.

However, you can enlarge an image for printing by making sure that when resizing you are NOT resampling the image during coversion. Be aware that this will reduce the resolution, or DPI.

A resolution of around 200 dpi - 225 dpi is fine as long as the viewer will be no closer than a foot away from the image. Any closer & they will be able to see the actual dots from the printing process within the print. If the image will be large, say 5 feet wide, and presumably up on a wall farther away from the viewer, the resolution can be even lower without sacrificing the look of the image. Think billboard from a 1/4 mile away!

You can take any larger image and reduce the size without any quality loss in the image. In this case select resampling when downsizing.

How do I save a fractal as a jpeg in Tiera-zon?
When Tiera-zon saves an image it saves it as a bmp file format, not jpeg. Some programs allow you to save an image in multiple formats, but Tiera-zon does not.

However, it is a simple process to convert a bmp to a jpeg. Virtually any graphics program these days allow conversion of multiple image formats, like jpeg, png etc. If you do not have a graphics and/or photo program, there is a great little program that I have used for years, and highly recommend. It is called Irfanview and is the most downloaded free program on the internet.

Irfanview has all the basic photo editing features and filters, and will quickly convert any image file to your choice of multiple image formats.

While Irfanview is free, with no obligations, nags or restrictions, I gladly paid the $15 donation/registration that the author asks for. It is worth the price many times over! Do a search on Google for it, or you can find a link to it from my Software page.

This is probably a dumb question, but I can't even open this program. My computer doesn't have a program to open it with.... Can you help?
Not a dumb question, everyone has the same questions when we are learning something new! First, I'm not sure what program you are referring to, but I will assume that you mean the fractal program Tiera-zon.Second, this program is for Windows operating systems only, if you have a MAC that would be the problem. Third, if you have a Windows machine, (ie. Win 98, Vista, XP, Windows & etc.) you can open the file using a zip program, which will decompress the files for use. Zipped files are compressed into smaller file sizes for quicker transfer/download times etc. on the internet.

If you have Windows XP, or later, you should be able to right click on the file and select from several extraction options on the pop up menu. If you have an older version of Windows, like 95,98 etc., you will probably need to download a zip utility from the internet. Here is a link to a free program:


Or just Google free zip program to find other programs.

There is also a free service that will unzip the files online for you. You can find that website here:

Is there a program that I can use to change a photo, or other image, to a fractal? (ie; Can I take a picture, or photo, & turn it into a fractal?
I have been asked this question many times. Unfortunately, I am not aware of any program that will convert a photo into a fractal. Fractals are mathematical equations, and a photo is not a math equation.

In theory I would assume you could create coordinates of an image and then write a program that would convert that to a formula which could be generated in a custom fractal program, but that is just an assumption on my part!

You can combine a photo with a fractal within a graphics program, but this is not actually creating a fractal from the photo. There are also ascii generators which will convert a photo into a black & white image made up of text characters, but again, this is not a fractal!

Graphics programs like Adobe Photoshop (Quite expensive), Paint Shop Pro (Quite Affordable) and Pixia (Free) can combine a photo and a fractal quite easily, and the ways to combine them would only be limited by your imagination. That is not the same thing though as actually turning an image into a fractal. (See my Fractal Software page for Pixia link)

Can I combine a photo, or a drawing, or image of my own, and open it in Tiera-zon? Can I take a fractal from one program and use it in another program?
Generally, no. Most fractal programs have proprietary files that only work, or read correcly, within that specific program. You cannot take an Ultrafractal parameter file and open it up in Tiera-zon, or Xeno Dream etc. There are some programs that do allow import features, like Xenodream, and I believe UltraFractal also has some capabilities in this area now. For instance, XenoDream allows you to use a photo, or any image, as a background. However, this is basically the same as opening up multiple images in any good graphics program, like Photoshop, and combining the elements there.

Any good graphics program will allow you to combine any combination & number of images, photos, fractals etc. to create a new digital form.

How long does it take to generate a fractal for a print?
The larger the size print, the longer it will take to render your image. The time it takes to render depends on a number of factors including; the complexity of the formula/image, how fast your computer is, how much memory you have installed, if there are other programs running, what resolution you are rendering & your graphics card speed, to name a few. If you have an older computer and you are trying to render a large print, it could take a day for one print! Even then, it could crash your computer!

However, if you have a machine that is newer, with plenty of memory, you shouldn't have any problems.

If you are rendering a very large print, I would suggest closing other programs and rendering it over night, or when you do not need to use the computer for other purposes.

(Copyright) - If I download any of the fractal programs, play around with the settings and create something entirely new, am I allowed to do whatever I want to with it? Am I allowed to use my creations in products that I sell?
Yes! As long as you are not using another individuals parameter files to begin with, anything you create is yours to use as you wish, and you have full copyright rights to that image. This includes the base images/formulas built into most programs.

One caution, Ultrafractal has many users who share their files in a UF database, these are their creations, and simply "tweaking" the color etc. does not make that creation yours. While those users share their parameters in the database for others to learn from, most have copyright restrictions. Be sure to respect others rights, in the same way that you would not want your creations to be used by someone else! Any unathorized use of anyone elses image files is copyright infringement.

Linda Allsion has written a good page on this subject. You can find that here. While you're there check out her awesome fractals!

Which fractal program is easiest to use?
I often get this question asked of me, and there is not a simple answer. There are a number of factors that may affect this. For example, what operating system are you using, PC, or Mac? Each of us learn in different ways, our brains are wired differently! One programs interface may be easier for one person, and more difficult to understand by someone else. Some programs are more complex in the variety of program features they offer, but most have help files, tutorials etc. to help get started.

I have written several tutorials for the fractal program Tiera-zon, & one for Xeno Dream to help beginners get started. Others have written tutorials for Ultrafractal, Fractal Explorer etc., so there are a number of good resources for most programs out there.

My suggestion? Download and try them all! ;-) You will discover which ones work best for you, and produce the type of fractals you wish to create. Almost all have free trial periods, so you've got no excuse not to try them!

What fractal programs do you recommend?
See the previous question! However, this is dependent on what OS you are using, Mac, or PC. It also depends on your budget. If you do not want to spend money, try the free ones, like Fractal Explorer, which is an excellent program. As I mentioned in the previous question, I would recommend trying them all, I have!

I am looking for MAC fractal programs, can you tell me which one is best?
Unfortunately, I can't be of much help. I only use PC's because that is the OS that most fractal programs are designed for. However, there are beginning to be more fractal programs for MAC, so check out my software page for programs for MAC, see my suggestions there, and try them for yourself to see what works best for you and your system version.

Regarding your fractal program, I have a question...
I have received this type of question many times! First of all, I did not write any of these fractal programs, they are not my programs! If you like them, thank the authors, not me! If you have a question regarding the program, or it's functions, I will do my best to help, but keep in mind, I am not the author of the programs, so I can't change what the programs do, or don't do! ;-)

Here is my fractal, how can I improve it?
Honestly, I really don't like this type of question! First of all, do you really want me to criticize your art? ;-) I may hate your art, or I may love it! But that is subjective, so does it really matter what I think? Does it need improvement? I can't answer that, only you can determine if the image meets your vision for what you wish to accomplish. Create for yourself, create what you like and brings you a sense of satisfaction, and don't worry about what anyone else thinks!

That said, my suggestion is experiment, experiment, experiment! Refine your skills. No one becomes an accomplished artist, in any medium, without a tremendous amount of time spent, devotion to learning the skills neccesary & trial and error. Anyone can take a photo, but by taking thousands of photos one begins to recogonize what is a "keeper", and ones that are not! Musicians have to practice hour upon hour to begin to play something of beauty. Fractal creation is the same. Be patient, practice & experiment, think creatively, and you will begin to see "improvement" in your work.

I have been using the fractal program, but my images don't look like yours. How do I get those results?
If you go through my tutorials carefully, I have shared the techniques I use to get the results that I have achieved in my images (for better, or worse!). One key factor is that I use my own formula combinations, and combine those with the techniques I have outlined in the tutorials. Because of these unique formulas, you may not get the same results. However, while I appreciate the compliments I recieve on my art, I would encourage you to not strive to get results like mine, but create your own style which will make your own images unique.

See the previous question in the Faq's which also outlines what I think is neccesary to achieve good results.

Do you use a graphics program to layer, or otherwise enhance you fractals?
Because every computer monitor displays differently, I sometimes use a graphics program for a few minor changes, but I do not layer the fractals. The only "tweaks" that I sometimes use in a graphics program are a slight change in contrast, or gamma correction. I also use a slight sharpening filter to bring back the detail after rendering with the anti-alias feature which automatically blurs the image slightly. However, I do not change the fractals with filters, etc. but try and achieve good results with "pure", unadulterated fractals. This is not a criticism for those that do, it's just my preference to create this way for my own fractal art.

I would like to have more control over the images, can you recommend a software program?
Unless you are a mathematician, (which I am not!), fractals are inherently random. That said, you can achieve more specific results once you understand the programs, and their functions. Most programs offer a great deal of control over results once you have spent the time to learn the programs, and the features they offer. Even so, much of the creative process is at least in part, random. It is part discovery, part creativity. By experimenting a painter may try a different combination of colors & techniques and achieve a unique result, quite unexpected and random. This serendipty can be found in any type art, music etc. See the next question for more specific examples.

Are fractals just completely random, or can I get specific results?
As I mentioned in question 16, there is an inherent randomness to fractal creation, unless you are a mathematician, which I am not! However, by understanding the programs and their functions you can start to get some specific results. I use all original formulas in Tiera-zon. By experimenting within the formula parser you can start to see certain specific results.

For example, within Tiera-zon, try these very basic formulas to see how the fractal form changes:

z*z*z+c, z*z*z*z+c, z*z*z*z*z+c, z*z*z*z*z*z+c, z*z*z*z*z*z+c+c+c.

As you can see, you can start to get very specific forms within the program. From there, be creative, experiment and you will begin to be able to fine tune the results that you achieve.

I like this image, what software did you use to create it and did you use plugins with it?
The vast majority of fractal images on my website were created with the program Tiera-zon. I also have some images displayed that were created in the fractal programs, Ultra Fractal, XenoDream, Xaos & Mind Boggling Fractals (no longer available). I use no plug-ins, filters etc. on the images.

In a lot of your fractals, it looks like you have lights coming out of do you create that effect?
This is a result of using a combination of RGB color and color filters within Tiera-zon. Each image is different, and some formulas combined with a particular color combination produce this effect. It is only by experimenting with color on any given image that this effect sometimes occurs. There is not a "recipe" that works on all images. Experiment with color cycling, different RGB values & color filters. I often use an atan trig color function.

Why do you use Tiera-zon?
Because it was one of the few fractal programs for Windows that I found when first starting creating fractals. The most widely used program at the time was DOS based, and I was a "newbie" to computers and found the DOS interface to be far more cumbersome. In addition, Tiera-zon had great features and full color, the old programs only used 256 color mode. Once I started using it I found it created the type of fractals that I wanted to create, and I have never looked back!

That said, I have used almost every fractal program at one time or another. I still often "dabble" with XenoDream, & occasionally with other programs like UltraFractal, Fractal Explorer etc. which are all excellent programs.

How do I enlarge the fractal image when working in Tiera-zon? I can barely see it, and "view" doesn't seem to offer anything useful.
Select the XY button from the left toolbar, or right click over the image to reach the XY size window. Set the image size to whatever you are comfortable with. Keep in mind that the larger sizes take longer to render. I usually start with 180 x 240 for quick rendering. Once I have an image I want to keep, I will render at a larger size. If you wish to use a size other than the presets, select "Custom" at the bottom of the XY window and enter whatever dimensions you wish to use.

Suppose I want to start with something besides "Jungle" (the default image in Tiera-zon), how do I do that?
The program opens this file, the basic mandlebrot image, by default. You can always save any image as Jungle to replace it, but keep in mind that the old image will then be lost. One solution is to save the default jungle file under a different name, perhaps name it default. Then open the image you want to start with, and then save it as Jungle.

How do I create a spiral, or Fibonacci sequence?
Fractal spirals are a very common form and are found throught the standard madelbrot set (z*z+c). There are certain areas within the set that are known for their spiral forms. Try zooming into the area where the "head" of the mandelbrot bug meets the "body". From that point draw another zoom rectangle at that point again and select the Julia button (In Tiera-zon), instead of just zoom. This should produce an image that you will see spiral forms that you can zoom into. This is just one area out of an unlimited amount of areas in the mandelbrot set to discover. Try zooming into the "edges" within different areas of the mandelbrot.

How can I get unique images like yours?
Experiment and develop your own style. I would recommend trying to experiment with the formula parser by writing your own unique formulas. The good news? You do not need to be a math whiz! You simply have to understand the few variables that work within the parser and then experiment by using various combinations of those parameters. My Tiera-zon tutorials explains those functions and how to use the parser.

How do you rotate the image in Tiera-zon?
While you can rotate some images, but not all, within the program, it is far easier to use a graphics program after rendering for any change of view. You can try and rotate them within the program by using the Orientation command from the Convolve menu, on the programs top tool bar. There is an explanation there why some formulas will not work with this feature.

Can you send me the file to create this image on your site?
I'm sorry, but no. My creations are my own. I have spent countless hours over the years developing my skills, and I also sell my art, so I do not give out my proprietary files. I have shared some parameter files in my tutorials that are free to use for your own personal use. The purpose of the tutorials, and a primary reason I do not share my files, is to show you how to create your own unique creations. I have spent a great deal of time writing those in order to help those interested in this art form. Make use of it, develop your own style, and most of all have fun!

Do you offer classes, or tutoring?
I wish I could, but unfortunately I simply don't have the time. The good news, I have written my online fractal tutorials to help you!

Occasionally I do demonstrations creating my art. I have done demos a couple of times, including last year, at the Western Washington State Fair which has over a million vistors each year. I was asked again this year, but unfortunately had to decline. Perhaps next year, 2011, I will do it again. In the meantime, I will try and add to the tutorials this year to share other techniques not covered in the the previous tutorials.

I love your art, do you sell prints of your work?
I'm so glad you asked, I do! ;-) You can find prints, screensavers for PC's etc. from my other website, Seattle Fractals Digital Art. The sales of my prints help keep this website alive, so if you enjoy this website and would like to help out, feel free to purchase a print! ;-) If you find a specific image on this website you would like, please write and I will let you know if I can produce a print. Some images have been lost over the years etc., but most are available.




submit to reddit