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Beginner’s Guide to Ultra Fractal 6 – Lesson 4 of 6

Lesson 4: Working with layers

You can do some really nice things with layers in UF. But layers can also be very practical. To start out with, I will explain what a layer is and then I will show you how to work with different layers.

What is a layer?

Imagine layers as sheets of paper lying on top of each other. When you stack drawings on top of each other, you always only see the top drawing. It’s the same in UF. Well, as long as you don’t do anything special with the layer … but we’ll talk about that later.

Working with layers

Figure 4.1 shows the window where layers are displayed.

[figure 4.1]

Figure 4 1

In this example, I still have only one layer. As soon as you open a new fractal, it will be in a layer. This layer is always called Background by default in UF.

To the left of the layer name, you see a thumbnail of the Background layer image.

That’s all well and good, but what can you do with such a layer? Well, you can use the layer to experiment with your fractal.

Imagine that you want to enlarge part of the fractal to see if something interesting happens there, but you don’t want that fractal to change completely, because it’s actually quite nice. Well, you can first give this fractal a name, save it, adjust it, and give the adjusted fractal a different name (are you still following me?). That’s one method that works, of course, but at a given time, you’ll have saved so many fractals that you can no longer see the woods for the trees. What you can also do is the following:

Open a new layer by clicking on the Icon 13 icon in the layers window. A second layer – a copy of the first layer – is opened.

Caution! You can experiment as much as you like with this new layer (figure 4.2). But you have to keep two things in mind:
  1. To the left of both layers, you see a magnifying glass icon Icon 14 with a plus sign. This means that if you zoom into the fractal, both layers will change. To enable or hide the magnifying glass, simply click on it. Make sure that the magnifying glass icon with a plus sign is visible only next to the layer you want to change.
  2. The active layer is underlayed with blue. So if you want to change something in a layer but you can’t see it working, it may well be that you have activated the lower rather than the upper layer.

[figure 4.2]

Figure 4 2

In the following figure (figure 4.3), you see how I changed the top layer (Layer 1). What I always do is make a copy of the basic fractal (by adding a new layer) before I change the new layer by zooming in or applying a different formula.

[figure 4.3]

Figure 4 3

Besides using layers as copies, you can do many things with them:

Merging layers

Here’s where it gets exciting! By merging different layers, you can create a completely new fractal. By working with layers and merging them, you get fractals with more depth (see e.g. figure 4.8).

How does this work?

You can only merge a layer with the layer directly underneath it. But you can merge them both with the one underneath both. Let me show you a simple example first. It’s not a very pretty fractal, but I hope it shows you clearly how the layers can be merged.

First, select the topmost layer (click on the name of the layer, and it will be underlaid in blue).

Next, open the dropdown menu in the left upper hand corner of the layer window (see figure 4.4).

[figure 4.4]

Figure 4 4

Now click on a value in the list. You will see that the layer you select will merge with the layer directly beneath it. Figure 4.5 shows what my sample fractal looks like if I select the value Difference:

[figure 4.5]

Figure 4 5

Tip: Press the arrow keys to easily and quickly move up or down the dropdown menu and view all merging options.

As I said, not a pretty fractal, but you can clearly see the two different layers.

You can produce very nice effects by merging layers which are very similar but whose formulas you have changed, for example, as described in lesson 2. Figure 4.6 shows an example.

[figure 4.6]

Figure 4 6

Figure 4.7 shows the layer properties of this fractal:

[figure 4.7]

Figure 4 7


  • Here, I added a third layer (“Layer 2”) that is a copy of Layer 1.
  • Next, I chose a different formula in the Outside tab.
  • Then I adjusted the colors.
  • Finally, I selected a merge value. In the example in figure 4.7, it’s Screen.

You could add another layer on top and follow the same steps as with Layer 2. Then your fractal will look very different again (figure 4.8).

[figure 4.8]

Figure 4 8

To make the fractal in figure 4.8, I copied Layer 2 (the third layer); next, I merged it with the second layer (“Layer 1”). Here, too, I changed the formula and the colors before merging (figure 4.9).

[figure 4.9]

Figure 4 9

If I want to adjust a fractal before I merge it with the underlying layer, I ensure that merge mode Normal is selected, because if I copy a layer, all values are also copied, including the merge values. But it is difficult to see what has changed in this new fractal, so I always select the setting Normal at first.

Hiding layers

You see the following icon (visible icon) in the layers window: Icon 15. Click on it to hide a layer (only in the main window). Toggling the visibility of the layer has various advantages:

  1. If you work with different layers without having merged them, sometimes you might want to continue working with a layer that is not at the top. Because only the top layer is visible in the main window, you should move the layer you want to adjust upward. What you could also do is to hide the layers above the one you want to adjust by clicking on the visible icon.
  2. In merging layers, you always merge a layer with the one directly below it. If you hide the second layer, the topmost layer will merge with the third layer. It’s always interesting to take a look at this effect. Who knows – this might produce a wonderful fractal. I hide the second layer in figure 4.10, and the result is a completely different fractal.

[figure 4.10]

Figure 4 10

Moving layers

You can easily move a layer by clicking on it, holding down the left mouse button, and then dragging the layer to its new position.

Naming layers

It can sometimes be useful to name layers, for example to indicate the effect of this layer in merging. Figure 4.11 shows an example of this. It shows the layers of the fractal in figure 4.8. The third layer produces spherical shapes, so I chose a name which reflects this.

[figure 4.11]

Figure 4 11


Merging different layers will often also change their colors, depending on the merge mode you have selected. I don’t know how you can directly influence this. If consider this part of the adventure in making fractals. You change something now but never know for certain what will happen next.

What you can always do, of course, is change a layer’s colors. This, in turn, affects the final fractal.