Digital Quilling

When I saw “quilled paper” images the first time, I was certain they were fake. The bright colours and meticulously spiralled paper bits looked impossible (or at least impossibly tedious) to manufacture by hand. They are most assuredly real – most backwards image searches lead to Yulia Brodskaya, who does immaculate, gorgeous quilling work with incredible subtlety and variation. Here’s a couple of her pieces.

There’s no way on earth I’m going to find the time to sit down and master something like this, but the work is so beautiful and I’d love to produce something like this, so I did the next best nerdy thing, and wrote some MaxScripts to generate faux Quilling out of Illustrator vector files. Here’s an early preview, without fancy colouring.

And up close…

If you’re paying really close attention, you’ll notice that all of my paper bits form closed shapes – whereas a lot of Yulia’s curls are open and usually terminate in cute little spirals. My first go at generating procedural spirals off the ends of shapes looked terrible. I think it’s the kind of thing you need to be judicious about – at some point some artistry is required. (Although I haven’t quite given up on perfecting this yet) The digital bits are at least a lot less fidgety than real paper, and it’s super fast – to create the shape file I just subtracted an artsy wingding from a bold-font J, and one minute thirty seconds later I had a GI rendering of fake paper curls. There’s colour, texture, and lighting yet to get polished up, but the early stuff is promising.