Where Math Meets Beauty: Generate Stunning Fractals With These Free Tools

Danny Stieben 21-07-2012

fractal generatorIf you’ve ever seen fractals and their near-infinite zoom capabilities, you might as well stare at them all day long because of how interesting they can be. Not only are fractals visually entertaining, but the math behind them can solve some pretty interesting real-world problems.


Either way, it’d be great to have some fractal viewers in hand so that you can explore their unique worlds whenever you wish. Even better, there are some very good tools out there which are also free, so why waste the opportunity? Here are some great, free tools which anyone can use on any platform.

Turtle Graphics Renderer

fractal generator
The Turtle Graphics Renderer from L-Systems is special because it’s an online tool for generating and viewing fractals. More importantly, this tool makes good use of the new canvas element which is part of HTML5. Therefore, it increases performance by reducing the number of software layers while helping with the effort to switch the Web to HTML5.

Turtle Graphics Renderer is very flexible as it lets you change numerous aspects such as iterations, angle, constants, axoim, and up to 5 different rules. The page also includes a list of a couple different examples, where the details are automatically entered in for you for each example you click on. These examples can show you how fractals can relate to nature, as one such example resembles a tree.


make fractals
Did you know you can make fractals using GIMP? Indeed you can, and pretty easily as well! Simply go to Filters – Render – Nature – IFS Fractal. In the following window, you can choose all sorts of options for your desired fractal to get exactly what you want. You can even drag around the shapes in the positioning box to the top. The downside to using GIMP is that you can’t zoom into the fractal for an long amount of time without the quality deteriorating, as the rendered fractal is still limited to the pixel parameters of the image itself. The up side to using GIMP is that it’s freely and easily available to most people.


fractal generator
If you’d prefer a desktop application which is entirely dedicated to showing you perfect fractals, there simply isn’t anything better than XaoS. This application, which is also available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, really offers every feature you could possibly want in a fractal viewer. You can set a very high number of iterations so you can have virtually unlimited zooming capability, you can change between different algorithms to generate your fractal, you can add image filters to your fractal, save the fractal as a high-resolution image, use an “autopilot” which automatically zooms in on the fractal’s features for you, and much more.



Of course, there are plenty of other free tools out there which are worth your time, but these three tools have their own distinct advantages. Give them all a try if you’d like, as I’m sure at least one of them will work for you. If you don’t have the time to try them all, go with XaoS as it’s the most powerful one.

What’s the most interesting application of fractals you’ve seen? Is there a website or program which you think should have been included? Let us know in the comments!

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  1. Colin Ryan
    July 28, 2012 at 9:59 am

    I love Fractals!

  2. Cliff Mccullar
    July 27, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    fractals are awesome

  3. Shehan Nirmal
    July 27, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    I've never tried this with GIMP... Is there any way that I can do this trick with Photoshop...?

  4. Theresa Banks
    July 26, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Thanks to all who submitted additional sites.

  5. fd29efbaad71752b1a7bb37f418d9501
    July 26, 2012 at 7:19 am

    Hmm, the turtle renderer and ChaosPro mentioned by Jay is interesting, but I don't really understand doing fractals using calculation method, so I guess I'll try ChaosPro.
    I'm surprised Travis mentioned Apophysis but do not mention Apophysis 7x(which is, the one I use now), available in 32bit and 64bit windows, linux, and Mac.
    [Broken URL Removed] << the maker of apophysis 7x's dA profile

    for tutorials/pallete/etc you could find it in dA itself, some links:

    • Danny Stieben
      July 30, 2012 at 1:21 am

      Thanks a lot for the links! :)

  6. kevin
    July 24, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    You left out winfract and fractint for dos.

    • Danny Stieben
      July 25, 2012 at 1:16 pm

      A DOS program? I'm pretty sure not enough people use DOS anymore for me to be able to recommend it. But thanks for the suggestion. :)

      • kevin
        July 25, 2012 at 1:29 pm

        well winfractal is the windows port of the dos program called FRACTint. but its a classic program. its great. always was. [Broken URL Removed] .. ultrafractal is also worth mentioning ...

  7. Jay Maynard
    July 23, 2012 at 8:42 am

    My favorite is ChaosPro.
    Make sure you download all the formulas.
    I've been known to get lost for hours using this application.

    • Danny Stieben
      July 25, 2012 at 1:15 pm

      Don't you just love when that happens? :)

      Thanks for the tip, Jay!

  8. leon chan
    July 22, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    Really cool :D

  9. Ryszard Grodzicki
    July 22, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    I agree with Travis - out of many programs I've used, Apophysis is the best. I could sit few hours straight and fool around with it's countless settings.

    • Danny Stieben
      July 22, 2012 at 1:49 pm

      I'll definitely take a look at Apophysis! I'm surprised that I didn't know about it...

  10. Krzysztof Buzko
    July 22, 2012 at 8:18 am

    On my Assembler classes in university we were writing program that generated fractals (everyone had different one). it was a lot of fun but also a lot of work ;)

  11. Andrey Zvyagin
    July 22, 2012 at 3:13 am

    Oh, how I love fractals!

  12. Shakirah Faleh Lai
    July 22, 2012 at 12:37 am

    Never use GIMP to make fractal, I'll should try it.

  13. Travis R. Williams
    July 21, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    I am a little disappointed to see that one of the best freeware fractal programs out there, Apophysis, didn't make it to this list. Apophysis has been around for years now and has gone through a great many iterations (a fractal pun!) to be where it is today. It's an excellent open source program that allows users to make IFS fractals (iterated flame system) like Gimp does, only better. It allows plugin created variations which means user freedom to come up with unique fractals. It's a pretty neat program.

    As for website inclusion, I would check out these following links for great examples from all sorts of fractal programs. (I would suggest setting the displayed work to the best of all time/most popular of all time setting)

    • Danny Stieben
      July 22, 2012 at 1:42 pm

      Thanks for all the tips, Travis! If I ever write a refresh, I'll be sure to consider all of those.

    • BuddhaKat
      September 18, 2012 at 4:51 pm

      excellent links, Travis - the best of the best!!
      here are a couple comprehensive resource links as well:
      Paul N Lee ([Broken URL Removed])
      DA Fractal Resources ((
      not to mention that which started me off: Electric Sheep (


  14. Frank ScanMan
    July 21, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    Genarating fractals is one of my hobbies. Nice articele I learned something today with the Turtle Renderer, thanks for that. I especially like freeware programs. Here is a massive list I once stumbled upon; [Broken URL Removed]
    And not mentioned on this list, Google also contributed with their freeware 3D fractal renderer: Mandelbulber;
    One needs a heavy duty GPU for this program though, but its worth it. Capable of animation if you have the patience..

    • Danny Stieben
      July 22, 2012 at 1:55 pm

      Thanks for those suggestions, Frank! :)

  15. BoobLove
    July 21, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    Very good article. Gimp continues to impress :)