The choice of colours Return

Generally, a fractal picture is generated in two steps:

  1. the program computes a number for every pixel of the picture
  2. the user adjusts the mapping of these numbers into colours. Here is the place where talent and artistic feeling are decisive.

The theoretical number of possible choices is breathtaking.

Even this number is so great that it no longer makes real sense. It is roughly 10**2000 (10 to the power 2000) in the case of integers ranging from 1 to 1000 to be mapped over 256 colours. If one could consider a thousand million choices per second and if one had begun at the Earth birth, only 10**25 choices would have been examined so far –nearly nothing compared with the total number.

However, do not believe that a great artistic genius is required to extract valuable pictures out of this seemingly boundless ocean. There are simple techniques to bring out the possible structures of the pictures; then the colouring is mainly a matter of personal taste and of handiness of the program.  

It must be emphasized that a well-designed application can make things considerably easier. All the pictures in this page have been obtained with my Mandeltour. They correspond to various interpretations of the same basic computation and one may go from one to the other through a few mouse strokes. Moreover, MandelTour proposed automatic colouring routines which maybe did not lead to masterpieces but at least to valuable starting points for the final adjusment of colours. The yellow and green picture on the left has been obtained in this way, with no intervention of the user for arranging the colours.

However it must be added that these automatic routines have been designed for Mandelbrot-like pictures. It is not sure that they could be applied to other kinds of fractals with no change. In fact, Mandeltour proposes a succession of random colour arrangements, following a few chromatic harmony rules, until the user stops it. Therefore the user does not settle the colouring himself, but he chooses the picture which seems the most enjoyable to him.

The two pictures below show what may happen when the colouring is messed up (with Mandeltour, one had to make it on purpose!). On the left, the center area is filled with a shapeless pulp. On the right, the image is more readable but lacks strength.
image image

It must be emphasized that there is no unique solution for the colouring. Below are four of them, very different, but as valuable in my view as the top image in this page. To tell the truth, I do not like very much the acid colours of the top left picture, but I accept that some could be fond of them.
image image
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Finally, the choice of colours for Mandelbrot pictures can be very easy when one is using a program with well-designed colouring functions. I shall refrain from too rapidly generalizing this conclusion to any kind of fractals. Some of them look quite more complex, and their colouring could be intrinsically more difficult (I am not sure of this, for lack of experience, but I suspect it). On the other hand, the programs like Fractint are not renowned for their ease of colouring. This does not prevent from getting very fine results with them but overcoming this practical difficulty should not be considered a bonus in the artistic value of the picture.

Preceding Page Other colour choices

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Discovering the fractal world:
Introduction - Mandelbrot Exploration - Lyapounov Exploration - Von Koch Curves - IFS Fractals - Fractal Dimension - Mandelbrot Relatives - Finest Fractal Pictures - Software - Biblio and Links

Fractals and mysticism:
Introduction - The Mysticism of Infinite - Non-Euclidean Art?

A new Art?
Introduction - Fascination of Fractals - Fractals and Photography - Definitions of Art - The Colour Choice - Other Colour Choices - Fractalists Painters - Compositions with Mandelbrot - Put a pretty girl - Algorithmic Art - Beyond the "Fractal" Art