Kirby Dots Plug-In
installing the plug-in
Download the Kirby.8bf file and copy it to your Photoshop/Plugins/Filters folder. It was written to the windows Photoshop SDK v6, so it should work on all versions of Photoshop 6 or higher - or any other application that uses Photoshop 6 filter plug-ins (PaintShop Pro, CorelDraw, etc., but we haven't tested it on anything other than Photoshop yet).

making an image to kirby-ize
Kirby Dots works on Grayscale, RGB, and CMYK 8-bits-per-channel images ONLY. No indexed, HSL, LAB or 16-bit channels please.

Here's how it works: the filter puts big dots in dark areas, small dots in light areas, and no dots in white areas. So to make a CRAZY SPACE VORTEX, I used the Paintbrush tool to draw some white squiggles, then roughly outlined them in light gray, with darker gray around the edges. The white will be the center of our vortex. Next add a whole crapload of Gaussian Blur -- you want nice smooth gradients. On the third image there, I increased the Contrast a lot.

step one blurred more contrast

The dots themselves will be made with whatever two colors you have selected over on the Tools bar: In this case the dots will be black on a pink background: colors in toolbar
Remember Kirby Dots works with NEGATIVE space, so the usual way of using it is to have a DARK (black) foreground (dot) color and a lighter (white) background color setting. Kirby Dots will replace your source layer/selection with dots and a blank fill based on the foreground/background colors. If you don't want to lose your source image (ie: for blending) then use a duplicate layer.

Go to Filters/Octopus Motor/Kirby Dots. You'll need to hit "Preview" first to see your image in the Preview window. Play around with the settings (see below) until you get something you like. NOTE: Whenever you change a setting, you'll need to hit "Preview" again to see the change - the window doesn't automatically update. It doesn't automatically generate a preview upon opening, because it remembers your last used setting, and if those are slow, then it takes forever to open the plug-in window. When you're happy with your dots, hit "OK".

the interface
Kirby Dots interface

Density: A higher number gives you more dots. [example of low density, large dots] [high density, small dots]
Threshold: The plug-in works by checking the intensity or brightness at each source pixel when putting down dots. Threshold determines what level of brightness the plug-in considers "white" and leave dot-free. Pixels with a brightness above the threshold value will not receive dots and will remain the background color. The range below the threshold value will receive dots which are sized in relation to the brightness of the source image pixel. With a color image, there are multiple color channels available, so Kirby Dots needs to know what channels to use to calculate the brightnes level for each pixel. It can average all channels, pick the brightest of any channel at each pixel, or use only a color channel (R,G,B or C,M,Y,K) you specify. With a grayscale image, there is only one channel and all these options are equivalent. [example]
Random Seed:The random number seed is used to determine where to place the dots. This is useful in animation where you don't want the Kirby Dots flickering and jumping around like static from frame to frame. You can also change the seed if you want different random dot placement with the same settings.

Min Size: Sets how small the dots can get.
Max Size: Sets how big the can get. NOTE: Kirby Dots can get slow if you use a high value for density and/or a large dot size (both of these values are automatically scaled to your source image size).
Softness: Blurs the edge of the dots. [example of softness at max]
Fuzz: More Fuzz makes a grainier edge on the dots. [example of fuzz at max]
Distort: A higher number will give you less circular dots, more Mignola-style. [example]
Preview: Use these arrow buttons to move around in the preview window

finishing touches
The result right out of the filter (first image) is pretty basic. To get a soft shaded effect, make a duplicate of your Kirby-ized layer and add a lot o' Gaussian Blur. Then set your layer to "Multiply" or "Darken", whatever looks around with it. You can also add a Gradient Style to that layer, like I've done on the third image. Whoa, dude - Dr. Strange could come flying out of that crazy vortex any minute now.
click for bigger
using other images
What kind of image works best? You need something with areas of smooth transition from dark to light (that's why you use the Gaussian blur). Crisp edges won't give you a nice range of dots. Below is an example made with a photo:

Source photo of plasma disk Apply Gaussian Blur Brighten and increase Contrast.
Duplicate layer.
Apply Desaturate, so the image is black & white, then set this layer mode to Darken.
Set Default colors (ex. green and black).
Flatten layers.
Animating the dots
Kirby Dots supports Photoshop scripting/Actions. To create an animation, just record all of your actions on a sample frame (new layer, brightness adjustment, blur, Kirby Dots, flatten, etc.) and then use the Automate -> Batch command to run the recorded action on a folder full of frames. As long as the seed value and image size is the same for all the frames, the dots will appear in consistent places for animation (growing or shrinking as the intensity changes in each area).

You can Kirby-Dot an existing movie or animation, or make your own (see examples on the main page). The animation below was made from a Particle Illusions effect:

© 2007 Octopus Motor