The April 2003 PC World cover CD includes a free full working version of Genuine Fractals 2 LE. This column will show you how to get the most from the plug-in and produce high-quality enlargements of your digital images. Genuine Fractals is an extremely handy tool to use when an image has been cropped and you want to scale it up to a size suitable for printing. Before rushing in, you may want to read over the previous graphics columns which covered the basics of enlarging and how a tool such as Genuine Fractals can make the process simpler with better results.
Keep in mind that Genuine Fractals is a plug-in. It does not run as a stand-alone program — it appears in the menu system of any compatible graphics program. The program is officially a Photoshop plug-in, but many applications support this format (see below).
When you run the installation program, it will check for any existing Photoshop plug-ins and create a new folder in this group. The default folder is ‘Photoshop-Plug-ins-File format’ and within this location will be a folder called Altamira Group (the company has since changed its name to LizardTech). You can choose to install the plug-in at a different location, but make sure you select one that is easy to find.
After you have installed the software, you will need to check that your software has found the plug-in. Run the graphics program, create a new image and select Save As. Click the Format menu and scroll down the list. If you can see the file type ‘Genuine Fractals 2.0 LE *.stn’, then the plug-in has been found. If it is not present, here is how to get started with various packages.
Photoshop 7 and Photoshop Elements 2: Start the program and choose Edit-Preferences-Plug-Ins & Scratch Disks. In the Preferences window, check the box labelled Additional Plug-ins Directory, click Choose, and select the Genuine Fractals folder from the list (this is the Altamira Group folder you selected during installation). Click OK. Restart the program — don’t skip this step, it is very important.
Corel Photo-Paint 11: After launching Photo-Paint, click Tools-Options. In the list of categories, double-click Workspace, then Plug-ins (it’s lower down on the list) and Add. Choose the folder containing the plug-in. Restart the program. If .stn does not show up in the Save-As menu, try checking the box marked Initialize Plug-ins at startup. Restart the program.
Paint Shop Pro 7: From the Paint Shop Pro menu, select File-Preferences-File Locations… and click the Plug-ins tab. Click Browse and navigate to the Altamira Group folder. Click OK, exit and restart the program.
TIP: If you have installed more than one graphics program, use a common folder for your plug-ins and change the default plug-in directory so that all programs use the same files.
Using the program
Start your graphics program and load the image you want to enlarge. Select File-Save As, click the Format menu and scroll down the list until you see the option ‘Genuine Fractals 2.0 LE *.stn’ (See here for a screenshot). Click Save and select from either Lossless or Visually Lossless — beginners should choose Lossless. Close the file and reopen it. This process is important. For example, if your original image was called birthday.jpg, the file should have been saved as birthday.stn (or any other name ending in .stn). Close birthday.stn and then reopen birthday.stn (File-Open). Note the file extension — do not open the original file birthday.jpg.
Opening any .stn file will prompt the plug-in to spring into life. Make all the adjustments in the next screen. Most are fairly obvious: use the settings at the bottom to scale your image and adjust resolution. You can also take the opportunity to crop the image, but this is a little tricky in the small preview window. You would be better off cropping your image before using Genuine Fractals.
The file size is limited to a 64MB enlargement (around 5600x4000 pixels) in RGB mode. Assuming you have access to a large printer, this translates to a poster-sized 70x50cm. If you want to enlarge the image even more, save the scaled-up file in a different format such as TIF (File-Save As and select TIF format) and then use the standard resize tool to take it further. For the home user, there are few practical reasons to go beyond 64MB.
Unless you are working with an extremely slow computer, always check the highest quality option in the bottom left. Q1 is the best, but Q3 is the fastest. The quality differences can be quite remarkable on certain types of files, so stick with the Q1 option wherever possible.