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tutorial is © COPYRIGHT by José María Andrés Martín (ALZHEM)
The total or partial reproduction of this tutorial by any means is prohibited to third parties without prior written authorization from José María Andrés Martín (ALZHEM)
Aproximated duration: 1-2 hours
Software: Filter Forge and Photoshop
Filter Forge is an incredibly powerful brand-new plugin for Adobe Photoshop. Using it we can apply existing filters or even create our owns. The limits? We define them.
Once we open it we see it works with components, something that can seem difficult to understand at the beginning, but will show us its massive potential in a few hours. These components are used to create effects to apply to textures or to existing pictures and, because they are procedural they work with extreme high resolution pictures as well as with small ones.
Another important feature for 3D artists is you can make your filter or effect “seamless”, so we could repeat our pictures generated by Filter Forge along a 3D surface avoiding the typical seams of many texture packages. This and its capability to generate normal maps, bump, diffuse color, specular, alpha, etc. from any created texture give Filter Forge the title of Lost Link between 2D and 3D.
And this is not the end! Filter Forge can effectively work with 8, 16 and 32 bits images, use the power of the new multithread PCs, has a huge free library with more than 5000 filters made by other users, and much, much more! (wow, looks I'm getting money for this, haha, but no, it's just I'm excited about the program :-)
Once introduced this new plugin we will start to create our first filter. If we don’t have Filter Forge installed we can get a trial version from Filter Forge’s official web site (www.filterforge.com). Also, there we will find the filters made by other users and all the necessary information about the program.
1.- Preparing the image
The filters generated in Filter Forge can basically be of two types: textures or effects. Textures are created from procedural components and images and use to have bump, specular, reflection, etc. Effects are more used to modify existing images. In this tutorial we will create one of this last group.
Our intention is to get a distortion effect to transform our original picture in a cartoon type, and to get it we will use the “Refraction” component which will be explained ahead. This component “displaces” the pictures simulating a refraction defined by a second picture, where brighter colors represent the more distorted areas and darker colors the less affected.
In order to begin we have to prepare the image. With the purpose of saving problems with the aspect of the picture this will be square.
The selected image is the Mona Lisa, or Gioconda, by Leonardo da Vinci.
With Photoshop’s “Crop tool”, and keeping “Shift " pressed, we will cut the face
saving a small border as we can see in the following picture.
Once done, we enter in Filter Forge through Photoshop. After we
install it we should
find it in the “Filters” menu.
2.- Creating our filter
First of all, we see its interface where we can select the filters to apply, but this is not useful for us right now, because the main purpose of this tutorial is to create a new filter from the beginning.
To do that go to the menu “Filter” and click on “New”…
…to get in here in a second.
Is here where we are going to start working. We can see in the middle of the
screen a component. This is the component “Result " (as we can read at the top
of it, with the green background) and everything connected to it will be the
final result of the filter. Just under it we can see the “Filter Controls” area,
a kind of mini-component where will be stored all the controls added later.
3.- Start. Creating the first circumference.
To create our first component (apart from the "Result" one) we must open the window “Components”…
… and drag and drop the component “Tiles” (placed in the section “Patterns”)…
… to the left of the component “Result ".
Although this component is more used for another kind of textures, it will let
us to create in 2 easy steps a circumference, very important to show where the
distortion is going to be produced. Click on the new component and change its
parameters (shown in the left of the screen) for the following.
With these changes the component “Tiles” will be like this. We can see a preview
of the component in the up-right of it.
If we want to see a bigger preview of a component we can do a double click on it
and see the result in the preview window, on the left of the screen, designed
just for that.
Now, the next step is converting those four circumferences into one. To get it we will use another component, “Kaleidoscope”, placed in the section “Patterns” too.
Drag and drop it to the grid as we did before, and place the components as you
can see in the next image.
When we work with components is very important to keep a clear scheme to see and
modify everything with a little effort. A chaotic scheme will produce duplicated
or not used components, and a not optimized and long to render filter.
Once said this we are going to create the first link between components. Click and drag the little green arrow from the component “Tiles” to the parameter “Source” of the component “Kaleidoscope”.
The component “Kaleidoscope” creates new and interesting shapes (I encourage you
to try it) but if we want to get those four circumferences turned into a big one,
copy these parameters.
With those parameters we will get this.
This new big circumference will help us to show where will be placed the
4.- Copying components
The next step is to create a circle based in the recently created circumference. For it select the components “Tiles” and “Kaleidoscope” clicking and dragging a selection box over them.
Once selected, copy (Ctrl. + C) and paste (Ctrl. + V) the components, and set them as shown in the next picture.
Change the parameters of the new component “Tiles” to these …
…and we will get a nice white circle in the component “Kaleidoscope”.
5.- Adding controllers
Until now, what we have done is just to create a circle and a circumference. If now we linked any of the components “Kaleidoscope” to the component “Result " the final filter would do only that, to create those figures without letting the user any possibility of interaction, be we don’t want this.
First of all we would need to control the size of the figures created to apply the distortion effect to every zone, independently of the size.
If we move the parameter “Mortar Width” (by default 0) of any of the two components “Tiles” we will see how the size of the selected figure changes in their corresponding component “Kaleidoscope”. Now that we know what parameter is the one to be controlled we only need to create a controller component to let the final user to modify it.
We can find it in the section “Controls” inside of the “Components” window. Its name is “Slider”, so once found drag and drop it into the grid.
Once dropped we should place it on the left of the components “Tiles” because we
will need to link it to one of their parameters.
Because we want the same size in both figures, circle and circumference, connect
the component “Slider” to the parameters “Mortar Width” of both components
At this precise moment, if we connected anyone of the components "Kaleidoscope"
to the component "Result " and applied the filter to an image we would have an
extra controller called "Mortar Width" would change the size of the figure. The
only thing that can be strange if we do this, or if we try to select the
component "Slider" and to move it from a side to another one is that when moving
it towards the left the size is increased, and vice versa. As this can be a
little strange so, besides to change the name "Mortar Width" for another more,
we are going to edit and change the values of the component "Slider" and learn
to map these controls.
6.- Mapping controllers
To map controllers is very simple, just to redefine what is the maximum value and what is the minimum, change the values by default (100 and 0). In this case, to invert the action of the component “Slider” we should change the maximum to 0 and the minimum to 100.
To do this select the component “Slider” and change its name to “Dot #1 - Size” or another name that helps you to know that value controls the size of our figures. Also we will click on the checkbox “Use remapping” to have the option of mapping the controllers.
Once done this, we can see how a little box has appeared in every arrow with the
value “30” inside. This is the value the will be applied to the parameter “Mortar
To modify the mapping, click on the boxes…
… and change its parameters to these, inverting the minimum and maximum values.
When this mapping is done we will see how the numbers in the boxes have changed
If now we select the component “Slider” and move its bar we will see how
dragging it from left to right will increase the size of the figure, and vice
7.- Controlling the vertical and horizontal offset
Right now we have full control of our figures’ size, circle and circumference, but what we still can’t do, and it’s very important for the plugin, is to move them vertically and horizontally to place our figures just where we want. We will get this with the component "Offset " set in the section “Processing”.
Drag and drop this component to the right of the top component "Kaleidoscope”
and connect the arrow of this last one to the parameter “Source” of the
component "Offset ".
This new component is really easy to use because basically controls the
horizontal and vertical offset, and the percentage of actuation of it.
Because we want to control the horizontal (H) and vertical (V) displacement we will create two components “Slider” as we did before and we will place them more or less as shown in the picture.
Rename both components “Slider” with better names than by default (in this
exercise I will rename them for “Dot #1 – Horizontal” and “Dot #1 – Vertical”)
and activate the checkboxes “Use remapping” as done with previous components.
The best mapping is -50, 50 for “Offset H” and 50,-50 for “Offset V”.
Create another component "Offset " and link both components “Slider” to this new
component, doing the same mapping. This way the same controllers will control
both figures, exactly in the same way the first “Slider” controls the size.
8.- Working with external images
Until now we have worked only with procedural components but our main intention is to deform an existing picture, so now we are going to add a new component to work with external images. If we are working with Photoshop, this image will be just the current layer we are working with. In this particular case, this picture will be the Mona Lisa’s face.
To add this component drag and drop the component "Image” from the section “External” to the grid. Once there we will see that picture in the little preview window of the component.
Also we will drag the component "Blend” from the section “Processing”, which will help us to combine our circumference with the image.
Order the components more or less as shown in this picture.
A brief explanation of how the component "Blend” works could be the following: this component controls 2 initial colors, white (“Foreground”) and black (“Background”), this last color changed by a picture thanks to the component "Image”. The opacity of the color “Foreground” will be set by the colors, in this case, of the component "Offset ". The brighter colors the more opaque and vice versa. That’s why when we link the components like this…
…we can see the white circumference (due to the
color of the “Foreground”) over Mona Lisa’s face.
To let the user to change the color of the parameter “Foreground” (important if we want to apply this filter to a very bright picture) we will create a color controller. This component is in the section “Controls” and its name is “Color”.
Drag and drop it into the grid zone and modify its parameters (name and color) to get this.
9.- Creating the distortion using the component "Refraction”
The end of this tutorial is close. We have created a circumference, which shows where the distortion is going to be produced, and a white circle. This hasn’t been used yet but now we will see why it was created for.
The distortion of Mona Lisa’s face will be done with a component called “Refraction”. This component produces an effect similar to a piece of glass, deforming everything seen through it. This deformation will be controlled in a similar way to the component "Blend” used recently: the brighter colors the stronger effect and vice versa.
If now we used the white circle to deform the portrait we wouldn’t get any effect, because there is no soft transition between the black and the white, and the component would process it as two flat surfaces which wouldn’t produce any kind of deformation. The fastest and easiest way to fix it is with a component "Blur”, blurring the circle and getting those soft transition areas.
For it, add the component "Blur” what is inside the section “Processing”…
…and link the component "Offset " with the parameter “Source” (from the
component "Blur”). The parameters will be the following.
Now we only need to add the component "Refraction” and do the needed links to
see how our filter works. This component is in the “Processing” and we should
place it on the right of the component "Blur”.
To get the refraction working we must link the component "Blur” to the parameter
“Height " of the component "Refraction” and the component "Image” (not the
component "Blend”) to the parameter “Source”, just as shown in the following
Finally there we have our deformation, although it looks too much intense. If we
change the parameter “Refraction” of the same named component we can see a value
from 0 to 3 is right, and higher values produce weird and ugly effects. To fix
that we create an extra component "Slider” mapped with 0 and 3 as minimum and
maximum values and link it to the parameter “Refraction”.
10.- Component "Switch” and final touches
Let’s think about what we have got until now. He have the picture of the Mona Lisa with a circumference over it showing us where the distortion is going to be applied, and we have the same picture but already distorted. Now we only need to let the user switch between those two versions.
The best idea, due to the long time to render of the component "Refraction”, is to show by default the picture of the Mona Lisa with the circumference superimposed. This way, the user will know where the distortion is going to be placed before applying it, and once done, he could switch to the final version. We get this with the component "Switch”, found in the section “Processing”.
The use of this component is pretty easy. Basically we must connect our two
possibilities to two of the parameters (“Source 1” y “Source 2 in this case) and
use the “Selector” to change from one to other.
As far as we would like that the final user can do this change, we will use the last component of this tutorial to get it. This component is called “Checkbox” and you will find it inside the section “Controls”.
Possibly is the easiest component from the section “Controls” due to it is no
more than a verification box. If it is checked happen one thing, if not happen
On its parameters we will change the name, as usual, and select the “Use
remapping” option. The mapping is slightly different. We must indicate what
option will be shown if “Checked” (option 1 - “Source 1”) or “Unchecked” (option
2 - “Source 2”).
After this, it only remains to connect the component "Switch” to the component "Result
… and we will get our filter finished.
Now we are going to save the filter and test what we have just created. For it
we will play with the sliders we created until we place the circumference where
we want, and until we got the size and distortion desired.
Next we would only need to uncheck the checkbox which controls the switch that
shows the circumference visualization to pass to the deformation mode.
Here we have some images created using this filter.
We have seen a little example about how to work using Filter Forge, but this is only a very little part of its capabilities. There are so many components to work with and to mix, and not to mention textures which help us to take control over relieves, reflections, etc. Even, if we would like to develop this filter, we could by creating copies of the whole tree and connecting them correctly to deform individually eyes, nose, mouth, etc. as in the example below:
Please, don’t submit this filter or its variations to Filter Forge because I
already did it. Filter Forge’s policy doesn’t allow to send the same filter or
similar filters several times.
The advanced version of the filter created for this tutorial is called “FF.Goo! 2.1”. You can find it on http://www.filterforge.com/filters/2015.html
Finally, I would like encourage all you to create your own textures and effects trying all parameters and components and, once created, to submit them to Filter Forge. If your filters are selected as favorites, you could even win a free license of the program!!!
You can download a free trial version of the program clicking on the next image:
If you like this tutorial, please write a comment or a suggestion in the "Guest Book" section. Thanks