Fractal art.

Fractal arts are geometric designs reminiscent of recurring patterns in nature but devised by algorithms and equations. They can be captivating creative pieces, with many famous artists offering their own versions of fractal designs


Delve into the ever-repeating, self-similar world of infinitely unfolding patterns in our guide and discover how to make your own fractal art. Read on to learn about the complex history that gave form to this art style. 

Gold, blue and pink fractal swirl pattern

What are fractal patterns?


Fractal art pairs mathematic equations with recursive, equation-led generative art to create an infinitesimal number of fractal patterns that hold an almost space-like, artistic quality that you can fall into. Simply put, a fractal is a repeating shape that gets smaller to then create abstract art and shapes.


The Mandelbrot set – a mathematical set (a collection of mathematical objects: numbers, shapes, variables) – gained popularity outside of mathematics for its complex structures and patterns arising from simple rules. These fractals were first discovered by mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot in 1980, though before the visuals, the set was devised by Robert W. Brooks and Peter Matelski in 1978



Examples of fractal art.


There are many fractal designs devised from repeating patterns – not only in digital art but in nature too. Think the swirls of coral and shells along the coastline, the symmetrical lattice of a snowflake and the geometric patterns of plants of all shapes. These are all natural fractals.


Fractal designs can also be seen in Roman architecture, though these may not be fractal artwork in the way we came to know them with the Mandelbrot set.


Inside the Mandelbrot fractal alone, there are a multitude of shapes and patterns as the set reduces. As you magnify, the simple set gives way to a valley of sea horses and double spirals, which in turn reveal curled tails, crowns, and satellites. It’s a psychedelic piece that consistently reduces into something more.


Other examples of fractal objects include the Menger sponge and the Sierpinski triangle. Additionally, some famous art prints – such as the poured patterns of American artists Jackson Pollock – are considered to be fractals.


In the modern era, abstract fractal art can be constructed through fractal art programmes and equations to generate shapes and patterns from sets. While it takes an artistic eye to identify patterns that resonate, you can generate them easily with little artistic or mathematical knowledge.

How to make fractal art.


While fractal art can be created using special programmes, you can also create them yourself without the need for anything fancy. Creating fractal art is more accessible than it was in 1980.


Since a fractal pertains to an image repeated in a shape, there are many ways to draw fractal designs following this basic premise:


  • In your chosen programme, draw a large version of a shape, pattern, or image that you want to repeat on itself.
  • Create a rule that you will repeat – stick to this rule. It may be to always add three triangles, for example.
  • Follow this rule again and again and again and… (repeat it, basically).
  • Continue until the details become undefined and you can no longer draw, or until you’re satisfied.


How to create fractal art in Photoshop with brushes.


Fractal art is an easy concept to grasp, and you could simply repeat the steps above in Adobe Photoshop to create your own fractal images. However, with a touch of ingenuity, you can make your own fractal images in a fraction of the time.


With Photoshop, you’ve got an array of options at your fingertips to create self-similar, never-ending patterns that tumble into fractal images. Photoshop brushes also offer a selection of thematic, fractal brushes ready to go. These could be geometric brushes, floral or even themed from animals, or something altogether more abstract.


To use brushes for fractal art:


  • Get a Brush. Visit the Photoshop Brushes page to discover fractal brushes, perfect for creating fractal art.
  • Reopen Photoshop & Install. Once you’ve got your brush, drag the fractal brush you downloaded into the Presets/Brushes folder located in your Photoshop installation folder.
  • Open a Document & Select your Brush. Re-open Adobe and create a new document. Select the Brush tool from the Tools menu and click the drop-down next to the brush selection. Click the gear-cog and choose Load Brushes. Then, simply pick your brush and click Load.
  • Choose Your Brush Size. Once you’ve chosen your fractal art brush, you’re good to go – just amend the size using the size slider.
  • Create. Click on the canvas and you’ve begun. You can now start creating fractal art. Play about with the size, colour, and patterns to see what you can create.


How to create fractal art in Photoshop from scratch.


Want to create fractal art in Photoshop without using pre-made brushes? With Photoshop, you can remove some of the tedium of creating fractal images thanks to our useful Photoshop tools.


To get started with an example fractal:


  • Open Photoshop. To start, launch Photoshop and create a new document for your fractal art.
  • Add a Ruler. Next, click View and choose Ruler from the menu. With the Horizontal Ruler, drag your cursor toward the centre of the canvas. Then, do the same again with the Vertical Ruler. Now, you can determine the centre point of the canvas.
  • Create a Background. Grab your Paint Bucket or Gradient tools and create a background for your image, depending on what you prefer.
  • Add References. Draw a circle in the middle of the canvas using the Ellipse tool and the centre point as a guideline – you could use other shapes if you prefer.
  • Layer Up. From the Layers window, Create a New Group and name it “Fractal”, “Pattern”, or something similar. Drag the Ellipse layer into the new Fractal layer on the Layers menu.
  • Select Blending Options. On the menu bar, click Layer and then Layer Styles. On that menu, click Blending Styles. Customise and apply different effects such as gradient, shadow, embossing, and even texture.
  • Duplicate the Circle Layer. Use the alt key and drag the circle to duplicate the layer or make a copy. Press Ctrl + T while holding Shift to easily resize the circle by half, then create two more layers and place these in a pattern around your circle. This is the start of your fractal art, so place them as you see fit.
  • Merge Layers. Merge your original circle layer and the smaller circle layers in the Layers window. Simply right-click and then choose Merge Layers. Name this layer something to differentiate, like “Fractal 1” or “Pattern 1”, as you’ll be adding more as you continue.
  • Transform and Duplicate. Duplicate this layer you created by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T. This time, move the pattern off-centre (for this example, left). Then hold Shift and drag the free transform grid to size it and rotate it.
  • Alter the Transform Centre. Once again, press Ctrl + Alt + T to mimic the previous effect on a new Layer. Keep pressing Ctrl + Alt + T to create a fractal image with the pattern set you created. Right-click on the original “Fractal” group you made in the Layers window then click Duplicate Group. Look for the eye icon to hide the original “Fractal” group.
  • Place Fractal Layer. Click and drag the newest fractal layer to beneath and to the right of the images centre point. Then, rotate the copy (in this example, by 90 degrees) and press Ctrl + Shift + T.
  • Experiment. This example gives you the method, but you have creative freedom. Try new shapes, images, rotations, and placements to create your own, unique fractal images. You could even follow along while experimenting – give at a go and see how your piece of art turns out.


Creating fractal art with Adobe Firefly.


Generative AI tools, such as Adobe Firefly, can create incredible fractal art with unique prompts in a fraction of the time. As an artform which found its success in equations, it’s particularly suited to AI image generation – and it couldn’t be easier. Just write out your prompt and watch AI fractal art images spiral to life.


  • Enter Your Prompt. Enter your prompt, making note of colours and shapes. Be sure to use the words “fractal art”. Consider other elements – synth-wave, sci-fi, galactic, pastel, natural, there are so many styles. What do you envision?
  • Adjust Your Results. Once Firefly generates your images, you can amend the style, lighting, and effects. Finally, you’ll have four computer-generated fractal images to choose from. If one speaks to you more than the others but isn’t quite perfect, you can click it for more regenerations with that as a baseline.
  • Save or Amend Your Prompt. Save your fractal art image or re-enter your prompt if you have a better idea of what you’re trying to create now.


Create fractal art with Adobe Firefly >


Fractal art FAQs.

How do people make fractal art?

There are a lot of ways to make fractal art, though the most common ways are to use generative AI to create fractal images, to use fractal generation software, or to create your own using Adobe Photoshop’s tools.


Which famous artists used fractals?


Popular artists that used fractal images in their work include Desmond Paul Henry, William Latham, and Hamid Naderi Yaganeh, though fractals can be seen in many classic artworks and forms of architecture. For example, Turbulence by Leonardo da Vinci could be said to use fractals, though not as we know them today.


How do you know if something is a fractal?


One of the defining features of a fractal is its self-similarity – a substructure must resemble its superstructure to be considered a fractal. For example, in the Mandlebrot set, the seahorse is a recurring image that you can see in other parts of the fractal.

Create your own fractal art with Adobe.

Discover incredible patterns and find new ways to create fractal art with a wide range of artistic tools in Photoshop.