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Generate spectacular 3D fractals with Mandelbulber

26 October 2015, Mike Williams

MandelbulberFractal generators have been around for a very long time, but most of them just provide yet another way to produce the same Mandelbrot-based imagery we’ve seen so many times before.

Mandelbulber is different, because not only does it give you more formulae to play with, but it also renders your creations in spectacular 3D.

When we last looked at the program, back in 2013, a complex interface made it difficult to get started. But fortunately a complete rewrite for version 2.x has made it much more accessible.

There’s no need to choose a formula from a list any more, for example, as they’re all represented by thumbnails of their starting image. Select one, click Render and a preview is generated in a few seconds.


Mandelbulber generates fractal landscapes, organic objects, and the inside of Borg cubes, apparently

If you spot an interesting area, clicking it zooms in and generates a new image (you can press Ctrl+Z to Undo if it turns out not to be interesting, after all).

There are buttons to move or rotate the camera, and/ or the object, to help you get the view you need.

The starting resolution of 800×600 makes for speedy fractal generation, but image quality isn’t great. To fix that, click the Image Adjustments tab bottom left and enter your preferred resolution. (This isn’t restricted to your screen size, and in fact if you want to generate an image for use elsewhere – printing, maybe – you may want it to be much larger.)

You’ll probably want to adjust your image colours, at least occasionally, and there are a lot of palette options to explore. Or you can avoid all that complexity by simply clicking Effects > Generate New Random Palette until you find something you like.

Mandelbulber’s more advanced features haven’t gone away. At all. If anything, there are even more in these latest editions.

The program does have a lot of tooltips, though, and we don’t just mean the usual short text phrases. Many have a lot of detail, and some even include detailed graphics to explain a particular point.

Put it all together and this is a great package for anyone interested in fractals, or computer art. Go download it immediately.

Mandelbulber is an open source application for Windows, OS X and Linux.

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