No, the developers of Fractalius haven’t quite broken down and offered those of us using macs the plugin we’ve been pining for, but I have found a way to get similar results. You may have seen a very cool effect in the threads or photo pools in your favorite photography forum. I, like many, found myself attracted to the effect produced and became discouraged when I found out that the software that enabled the digital artists I’d been admiring, was a Windows only program. I’m no fanboy, nor do I get paid to push one brand over another so I in no way mean to stoke any ‘which is better’ type conversation, but merely pass along a work around that I’ve found to create a similar effect for very, very little money…
For just shy of thirty bucks, you can use Topaz Clean 3 to create similar edge manipulation to that seen in Fractalius, plus you get a pretty killer skin retouching app too! (you can read my review of Clean 3 HERE) Here are the settings I’ve found that tend to work well to recreate the effect as well as the work around to resize your file (you’ll see why this is relevant shortly). You can download a free 30 day trial of the Photoshop plugin Clean 3, or purchase it for $30 via the Topazlabs.com website HERE.
Here is the original image prior to running it through Topaz Clean followed by a screen shot of the settings I used to get the hair to look the way it does. I actually masked the rest of the image out leaving just the hair as I found the effect on her face to be weird.
The trick here is that Clean3 manipulates edges based on pixel measurements where larger files (higher amount of megapixels) make for a much more subdued effect as each pixel is much smaller, relatively compared to the whole of the native image dimensions. To gain the fractalius like effect, you need to work on a smaller version of your image. I have found that by downsizing my image to roughly 1000 pixels on the long end is just about the sweet spot. I know, I know, we have taken a beautiful, large image file and stripped it of much of its detail. (If you aren’t using a ‘nondestructive’ DAM like Lightroom or Aperture, duplicate your image file before resizing just because like mom always says, never mess with your originals.) Well, the effect we will apply is going to be fine without the millions of extra pixels and we can resize it back to near original proportions via reopening the finished file as a smart object in Photoshop, so, while not perfect, it is a way for those of us working on Macs to play with the whimsical styling of a fractalius like effect. After downloading and adding the Topaz Clean 3 plugin into Photoshop;
- open an image with the dimensions at 1000 pixels on the long end in Photoshop.
- duplicate the background layer and run Filter>Topaz Labs>Clean3
- play with the presets, adjust the settings or try my settings above as a starting point.
- to resize back to a larger native file size, save the image and in Photoshop, open the image as a smart object File>Open as Smart Object.
- I then create a new photoshop document at say 2000×3000 pixels (go bigger if you need to) at 300dpi, drag the smart object onto that new file and click CMD(Cntrl-PC) + T to free transform the smart object. Holding SHIFT while doing so will maintain the proportions. Drag out the corners, flatten and viola! You have a resized image. Of course it isn’t as clean at a pixel level as the original file was, but especially with this effect, it isn’t as crucial as most detail has been blurred anyway.