Spatial Pixel

Making Design Computable

Particle simulations have many applications and a lot of creative potential. Here's a demonstration of using them to create energetic abstract imagery.


These images were created with a simple Processing using a particle-based physics engine. The particles were drawn as spinning lines, were randomly positioned, and were given attractive and repulsive forces that alternated with a keystroke.


The parameters of the sketch are:

  • the number of particles,
  • mass of the particles,
  • length of the rotating lines,
  • colors,
  • the parameters of the particle system itself (drag, gravity, etc.),
  • strength of attraction/repulsion, and
  • any initial particle velocity.

If the reversal from attraction to repulsion were automated, we could add an additional parameter.


By design, Processing's semantics mimic a painter's canvas. When used this way, sketches can produce a great deal of complexity and depth without much coding at all. A great deal of variation comes out of this particle system, but they all portray ribbon-like form and a kind of convergent behavior where local collective centers emerge and then move towards each other.


Get the code on Github.

I'm Allan William Martin, a product manager, computational designer, and software engineer in New York City. I work at Pivotal on Cloud Foundry, a cloud-native application platform. I've taught at the Yale School of Architecture, New York Institute of Technology, and General Assembly.

This post was published on by .