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| Spiral Graphics' Genetica For 2D illustrators and 3D modellers
realistic natural textures are an essential tool of the trade and, for maximum flexibility and end quality, you really need to be able to create them yourself. What makes Spiral Graphics' Genetica special is that it lets you build up your textures by combining basic building blocks or "nodes". This recipe-style approach offers huge advantages in that you can non-destructively fine-tune endless variations on a theme all of which are guaranteed to tile seamlessly. Even better, the textures are truly resolution-independent so they can be re-rendered at any size and at any level of detail. In short you can tailor a unique texture perfectly fitted to the job in hand.
The difficulty is that producing realistic end results as different as a zebra skin or a wooden crate can easily involve dozens of different interacting nodes. This has processing overheads, but far worse is the daunting complexity involved. This is the issue that Genetica 2 addresses. To begin with, the program now provides no less than 500 presets ranged into categories such as Cloth, Marble, Plant and Animal and so on. For most textures you can start with one of these presets and the job is already half done.
Even more significant is the introduction of a completely new type of master node called a "Lab". These Labs are used for handling common high-level texturing tasks - creating starting substances, fractal noises and wood patterns and then weathering, tiling and layering the results. Unlike the basic nodes which are each controlled with a couple of settings, each Lab provides a whole host of connected parameters and is capable of producing widely ranging results. With the Layering Lab for example you can produce effects as different as peeling paint, vents and grates or fabric weaves with all necessary controls immediately to hand.
For those advanced users looking for even more power, the new Genetica 2 Pro adds an Atmosphere node for creating realistic volumetric effects such as clouds, and a new Hair node and Fibre Lab for creating materials such as fur and grass. It also provides a batch processor so that you can automatically generate new texture variations and render your textures as ready-to-use bitmap presets at various resolutions. And it also provides an option for converting any Lab node back into multiple basic nodes so providing absolute control.
It's a useful option for experts, but for all users the real strength of Genetica 2 is the way that its new Lab-based system unlocks and unleashes the full potential of its existing texture engine.
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| PhotoSEAM is ideal for converting photographs into seamless textures.
Building up a library of seamless textures is an important task for every designer whether they are working with photo-editing, vector drawing or 3D modeling apps. There are plenty free available on the Web, but there's relatively little quality control and it's difficult to find exactly the right texture you need for any particular job. The solution is to produce your own and that's exactly what PhotoSEAM does. PhotoSEAM is produced by Roman Voska, the creator of the excellent Real-DRAW Pro, and it's based on his work on another of his programs, the bitmap editor Photo-Brush. In fact PhotoSEAM is Photo-Brush but with a twist: whatever you paint onscreen is automatically seamlessly tiled.
The implementation of this is beautifully simple. The tile you are working on is presented in the middle of the screen surrounded on all sides by copies so that you can always see the overall patterned effect. The big difference is that you can simply paint over the edge of the central tile and this is automatically mirrored on its opposite side with all the visible tiles updated accordingly. In fact all the tiles are live so that you can freely paint anywhere on the pattern as a whole. It's not just simple - it's addictive. Especially as PhotoSEAM provides a good range of pressure-sensitive customizable brushes including PSP-compatible image hoses which make it child's play to produce seamless textures based on multiple bitmap images such as a forest of trees or a pile of coins.
PhotoSEAM is excellent for building seamless textures from scratch but it really comes into its own for converting existing photographs. The key to this is the two-stage Tile Preparation dialog in which you first select a suitable section of your photograph and then interactively fine-tune the size, shape and angle of your tile while seeing the effect of your changes on the resulting overall pattern in real-time. This enables you to create the best starting off-point for your pattern but, even so, visible seams are almost inevitable.
PhotoSEAM is ideal for converting photographs into seamless textures.
The usual way to try and obscure these distracting grid lines is to use the Rubber Stamp tool to clone areas of the existing picture, and this is particularly easy thanks to PhotoSEAM's ability to simply paint over the tile's edges. You can also use PhotoSEAM's Texture Pick command to quickly create a seamless texture from a section of the image that you can then paint wherever you want (the program also comes with a range of preset textures or you can load your own). Best of all, is PhotoSEAM's unique Cross-Border Cloner. This remembers the areas of the image immediately outside the tile that you created on loading and enables you to clone them back in so that you are almost guaranteed naturalistic end results.
It's another example of Roman Voska's brilliant lateral thinking and programming and worth the price of the program alone.