Texture Fun

Nature is based on a small set of rules. Everything around us is made of pretty much the same stuff, but arranged in an infinite number of different combinations that nature has had the patience of putting together.

Enter the world of synthetic textures.

At Alien Skin we can set aside 10% of our time to work on a fun project of our choosing. I decided I wanted to revisit Alien Skin’s very first product.

A bit of math can generate a simple image, add some more and things start getting interesting.  Now let the computer throw some dice and combine them in random, weird and unexpected ways and then you really get cool stuff, stuff that you want to print and put in your living room.

One of the beauties of this random system is that you get totally unexpected results that make you scratch your head and ponder how you got this or that image. We use basic functions that mimic real word physics and as a result we get many images that look organic, almost like real objects.

It is fun to try to find names for the images. You can see why this inspired us to name the company Alien Skin.

All of these images were randomly created by the system, you just sit there and press a button and they come out. We are having so much fun with it that we are tempted to create a product so you can have fun too.

Would you be interested in something that generates these kinds of images?

Are you ok with just a “randomize” button and no other control over the design of the image? This type of system doesn’t allow for much control.

Would you want this as a Photoshop plug-in, stand alone desktop program, web site, or a mobile app?

About the Author:

Asdiel converts morning coffee into lines and lines of source code for your enjoyment.


  1. Chris Barke October 28, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    I am an original owner of the Black Box plugin. I still have the floppy disc.

    I also sorely miss the original Kai’s Power Tools that had effects that would generate image textures similar to the ones here. It is regrettable that KPT and Metatools fell by the wayside. Where is Mr. Krause when we still need him. Living in some castle in Germany is what I heard?

    Anyway, I would very much like a tool for this purpose as a plugin so it can be further modified in Photoshop Elements, etc.


  2. Eddie October 28, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Not if it is just randomly generated textures. But if they are catalogued, like cloth, wood, metal, fog, water, paper not to forget about skin etc. , then, yes, definitely. I think lots of people might be interested in real human skin texture: baby, children, teens, adult, old age, from different races and walks of life. Often, after a portrait is retouched, it looks too plastic. It would be wonderful if there is an add on that can fake that true texture efficiently, effectively and realistically.

  3. Alessandro Bennetti October 29, 2011 at 6:58 am

    I sell canvas art prints and a programme such as this would be great for my business. These images would sell, not in the hundreds or thousands but still would be interesting to see what the take up would be.

    I am currently testing your Blowup 2 and Gallery wrapper and I am impressed with the Blowup 2 but it does have some issues where you only have the sizes with the lowest dimension being the width, that is 20 x30 for instance. I sell a lot of 30 x 20 and I keep having to go in and change the sizes manually, whereas if the option buttons were added it would so much better.

    • Jimmy November 1, 2011 at 11:59 am

      Hi Alessandro,

      We usually auto-rotate for instances such as you describe. In Blow Up 3 we have a button for rotating the dimensions, this way you won’t have to manually input the size.

      Check out the Blow Up 3 demo, and give it a try yourself. http://www.alienskin.com/downloads

  4. Sunira October 30, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    If this were to have a wee bit of control, to allow us to create textures that overay photos, I would be totally interested! RIght now we are limited to buying textures from others but creating our own would be great! 🙂

  5. chris Garland November 2, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    I love these texture generators. Since my Kai’s Power Tools went out of date ages ago, life hasn’t been the same. Market the plugin and I’ll buy.

    Give the user some basic sense of control; at least a starting point. Note the variety in your samples. Otherwise, the payoff (like hitting a slot machine) may be just too random at times.

    BTW — make mine a Photoshop plugin, thx you guys,

  6. RobertL November 3, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Sunira and Chris,

    Thanks for the input. We will pass that information on to the developers. We appreciate any input that you can provide.


  7. Rex November 3, 2011 at 9:58 am

    This would make a great tool. I’d like to see it as both a plug-in for Photoshop and as a stand alone tool (for folks that don’t have Photoshop).

    The tool reminds me of early fractal pattern generators which did offer some control in the way of constants for the fractal generation functions. Could this level of control be made available?

    It might also be nice to be able to specify the range of colors to use. I envision a color spectrum bar with a pair of sliders to define the limits. Better still would be a series of, say, three to five such spectrum bars to allow the selection of multiple color spectrum ranges.

  8. Dave November 9, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    I second Eddie’s motion about realistic human skin textures. I’m a photographer, and I insist that skin must have texture. Otherwise it looks like porcelain or plastic. Sometimes that limits the retouching that I can do in extreme cases.

    A standalone application plus plug-ins for Photoshop and Lightroom would be best. If I had to choose one, it would be a Photoshop plug-in.

  9. Pradeep November 17, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    plug-ins for Photoshop and Lightroom would suffice!

  10. bernard bowles November 29, 2011 at 9:37 am

    A plug in for photoshop would be very nice.

  11. Ignatius Fay November 29, 2011 at 9:39 am

    I would be extremely interested in such a plugin for Photoshop. Of course, as much control as possible would be desired, but I’ll take random generation if that is all that is offered. Coming up with interesting, unique and seamless backgrounds is a daily challenge that such a plugin could meet quite nicely.

  12. Michael White November 29, 2011 at 9:40 am

    I would be interested in a semi-random texture generator… with some of the usual controls of size, shape, color

  13. Andre November 29, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Those textures you have in the news letter are really cool. Great for PS composite. I would be very interested

  14. NSpell November 29, 2011 at 9:58 am

    I would be interested in textures. I agree with Eddies’s comment about having realistic textures because I like to add them to my photos and I want the photo to look realistic. I would also like the option of changing the texture itself, just like you do with the Snap Art software. I would also want textures that can be used to make your photo look like a watercolor, or oil painting, etc…. I think the issue would be to make it not look so perfect when the texture is added.

    I also think that it would interesting to have the choice of random select to make abstracts out of photos and art. I would want it to be a plug-in for Photoshop. If you need someone to test and add their opinion to your product, I’ll do it. I’ve used a LOT of textures. Thanks.

  15. Quint November 29, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Yes, I would like this plug-in, especially if it is free. I don’t know how long it take to generate each texture, but if it is say 15 seconds and you can just keep clicking generate until one pops up you like that would be awesome.

  16. Henrique Azevedo November 29, 2011 at 11:38 am

    As a digtal artist I’m totally interested in this tool.

  17. Rosa Perry November 29, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Would love to see this as a plug in for Photoshop. Absolutely!!!

  18. Don Vine November 29, 2011 at 11:56 am

    I think you should use this concept to generate different background “papers and canvasses” for Snapart.

    On some paper background settings, you can see a repeating pattern which spoils the entire image once a viewer notices it. Shouldn’t be an extra program and charges, should just be random paper /canvass generator for the program

  19. Pat November 29, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    I love the looks you’ve created. I’d use them. It would be preferrable though that if you found a design you like, that you could save it as a preset so you could recreate it later.

  20. Pat November 29, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    I’d love it if you’d post these in hi res. They are cooool.

  21. Hector Caroselli November 29, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    The sample images are incredible. A new product would be fantastic. My first choice would be a Photoshop plugin and maybe a standalone app. The other options do not interest me very much but perhaps others have stronger feelings about that. I am not sure what kinds of controls could be added. Can the resulting images be saved as used as backgrounds or overlays for photo images? That would be cool.


    • Jeff November 29, 2011 at 5:14 pm

      If we make this into a product then we would probably have a button for making the image your desktop background. You would also be able to save it as a JPEG or TIFF and then use it in Photoshop as an overlay.

  22. MALDON November 29, 2011 at 3:23 pm


  23. Bob November 29, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    I have been looking all over the place for a descent texture generator. I think the tool needs to have controls to guide the direction of the textures so that you can create such things as clouds, plasma, marble, wood grain, sand, fractals, etc., with controls that affect color ranges, types of colors (pastels, bold primaries, etc.), graduation levels, complexity, density, saturation, etc. That being said, an ability to create something totally random would be great (a “roll the dice” button), especially if you can then use that as a starting point for fine-tuning the image and morphing it using the types of controls previously listed. I remember Maxis produced a program called El Fish where you could use controls to produce various random fish, then adjust whichever fish most closely matched your vision. You had the ability to make minor changes or really large changes to tweak the final look. Oh, and if you could toss in the kitchen sink, that would be ideal! 🙂 I would buy such a program in a heartbeat!

  24. Tim November 29, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    I provide plans and digital resources, including textures, to woodworkers so I agree with Eddie on the first comment “if they are catalogued, like cloth, wood, metal, fog, water, paper not to forget about skin etc. , then, yes, definitely.” as I wouldn’t want to wait ages for wood type textures to appear. I am running Eye Candy on the Mac version of Photoshop Elements 9 so if KPT were available as a plugin and I could access random wood type textures (even if there’s no micro controls as in Eye Candy), then I’d buy.

  25. scott_m29 November 29, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    This does remind me of the earlier Alien Skin. A standalone generator would be cool. Or a plug-in if you could avoid the current installer scheme. Could the results be tileable?

  26. DL Smith November 30, 2011 at 7:46 am

    Ok I use loads of textures; I use photoshop and my alien skin eye candy an xenofes plug ins to design clothing, and of course if I can create my own textures all the better. I would definitely use it but I would prefer some control rather than totally random, and if there could be a way to make the textures tile that would be even better! I also touch up a bit of photography from time to time and incorporate that into art, so yeh I would welcome such a plug in!

  27. Mike Yenco November 30, 2011 at 9:57 am

    I would like to see this (and some of your existing plug-ins for that matter) done as stand-alone apps on the Mac, ideally for sale on the Mac App Store. I’ve been using Pixelmator recently and it has a lot going for it, in fact, I gave up on Photoshop completely. (Yes I know… you can all gasp in horror at the very thought… but honestly the ONLY thing I miss since giving up Photoshop is having access to some of the Alien Skin products/effects).

    • RobertL November 30, 2011 at 2:01 pm


      You dont have to miss all of our products since giving up Photoshop. Blow Up 3, Exposure 3, Snap Art 3, and Bokeh 2 can all be run as stand alone applications without the need for Photoshop.

  28. Richard from Milwaukee November 30, 2011 at 11:17 am

    A plugin would be great. I second Eddie: a catalogue would be wonderful, in addition.

  29. Charlii November 30, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    I would be interested. I don’t have Photoshop, I use Corel PSP X3 so if it is compatible with that it would be great.

    • RobertL November 30, 2011 at 2:07 pm

      Currently we do not have any plans to support Corel products. If this was designed as a stand alone application then you could import the image into PSPX3 for your use.

  30. Paint with Numbers | Alien Skin Software April 24, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    […] (typeof(addthis_share) == "undefined"){ addthis_share = [];}Asdiel recently created a system for exploring patterns similar to the one I made in 1993 that gave us the name Alien Skin. I don’t know if […]

Comments are closed.