Over the past several weeks I've been concentrating on various brush customization strategies in Painter. This week, we're going to take a break and just have a bit of fun with Painter's Kaleidoscope Dynamic Plugin Layer. We've all experienced the fascination of gazing into a kaleidoscope at one time or another. Bits of glass, buttons, beads, even our immediate environment are mirrored and reflected by the kaleidoscope to produce amazing ordered patterns that delight both the eye and the mind. The Kaleidoscope Dynamic Plugin Layer enables the painting and building up layers of varied content in Painter. You are virtually guaranteed a pleasing result with this technique. Let's go kaleidoscoping!
The Beauty of Symmetry
Kaleidoscopic imagery derives its compelling visual appeal by virtue of its use of symmetry. The mind's eye naturally is attracted to symmetry; there is a great deal of symmetry in nature. The human form itself is bi-symmetrical. A kaleidoscope takes any visual source—be it symmetrical or not—and mirrors and reflects the visual source into a set of quadrants. The Kaleidoscope Dynamic Plugin Layer is subdivided into eight fixed quadrants. The top left quadrant is the live quadrant; any painting or layer content placed in this location will be automatically mirrored and repeated in the remaining seven quadrants. The method I describe takes advantage of multiple layers to build up an image. Not only does the use of layers enable maximum edibility, the individual layers can both be moved and their stacking order changed. This introduces an even greater range of kaleidoscopic imaging possibilities.
Creating the Initial Kaleidoscopic Layer
Painter's Kaleidoscope Dynamic Plugin Layer is a member of the Layer palette's Dynamic Plugin suite. These layers are located in the Dynamic Plugin Popup menu (the second-from-the-left button at the bottom of the Layer palette). Note that Kaleidoscope images are designed to be square. The initial image should have equal horizontal and vertical lengths. For this tutorial, I am working with a 1000 X 1000 pixel image.
To create a new Kaleidoscope Layer, select Kaleidoscope from the Layer palette's Dynamic Plugin popup list. You will be presented with the Kaleidoscope dialog. By default , this dialog is always set to create a 100 X 100 pixel Kaleidoscope layer. For our tutorial, change the editable numeric field from 100 to 1000. This matches the size of our initial image. Don't be concerned with the fixed secondary 100 value unit in the dialog; the Kaleidoscope plugin will automatically create a square based on your single entry. Hit the OK button to create the Kaleidoscope layer. Check in the Layer palette list to confirm the creation of your Kaleidoscope layer.
Before you do anything else, lock this layer using the Lock Layer button (located above the top right of the Layer list). Why? This will ensure that you do not inadvertently select and move the layer. Doing so will alter the symmetry of your image.
Painting in the Kaleidoscope
Of course, you could just start painting with a brush of your choosing on the Canvas, but I recommend first creating a new layer beneath your Kaleidoscope layer. To create a new layer, first select the Canvas (this will place the new layer beneath the Kaleidoscope layer), then click on the New Layer button (the third-from-the-left button at the bottom of the Layer palette). As you create new layers, always be sure to first select the existing layer that you want the new layer to be stacked on top of. If you inadvertently create a new layer above the Kaleidoscope layer, you can click and drag it in the Layer palette's Layer List to place it below the Kaleidoscope layer. You are now ready to start adding content to your kaleidoscope.
The top left quadrant of the kaleidoscope is considered the live quadrant; only imagery added here will be reflected throughout the resulting kaleidoscope. You may want to try out a few different strokes and brush variants to get initially oriented to kaleidoscopic painting. You'll quickly see how the symmetrical mirroring creates a powerful visual design. After you've got a bit of initial brush strokes that you like, try using your keyboard's arrow keys to nudge the layer containing the strokes. You'll observe that the symmetrical composition changes as the reflected layer's location is adjusted. This is a powerful technique for discovering new compositional relationships within the kaleidoscope.
As you arrive at a pleasing result, I suggest creating a new layer and start adding content on this new surface. This prevents you from over-writing an element that you are pleased with. After you have added a few layers, you can additionally play with their layer stacking order to observe any interesting variations.
Adding Other Imagery
So far we've been adding visual content by painting with different variants on layers. We can also add photographic imagery, as well. For this tutorial, I used a couple of graphic elements found in the default Image Portfolio (Window menu: Show Image Portfolio) (I selected the Leaf and Column elements). For this exercise, I used the Image Portfolio for convenience, but any graphic element that you can create as a layer can be used.
With the Image Portfolio palette onscreen, simply click and drag an element from the palette into the live kaleidoscope quadrant of your image. The full resolution element will be created as a new layer. Note that if you attempt to use the Layer Adjuster Tool to click and drag a layer element positioned beneath the Kaleidoscope layer, it will not interactively update as you'd expect. The dragged element will not become visible until you lift up your pen (or mouse). I typically only use the click-and-drag method only for gross relocation adjustments; otherwise, the arrow keys work best for visibly nudging the layer element.
As you begin to add more layers. you may find it convenient to lock layers that you don't want to inadvertently move. This makes it easier to move a layer embedded under other layers without disturbing the overhead layers.
I could go on about other brushes and layer techniques, but I want to keep this tutorial simple. The power of the kaleidoscopic image is so strong that you won't feel the need to get too complicated creating highly pleasing images. Just about all of Painter's tools can be used in conjunction with the Kaleidoscope Layer; you can even experiment with a smaller Kaleidoscope Layer underneath a larger one for unique results. Occasionally, the Kaleidoscope Layer will not know how to update a specific Painter feature. Try turning the visibility of the Kaleidoscope Layer on and off if this happens. Be aware that this form of painting can be quite addictive. If you get hooked, don't say I didn't warn you!
Viva la Painter!