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Getting Started

Quick start

Registration is NOT required to evolve and publish images! You can jump right in and start creating artwork by either clicking on the Evolve button located under the images in Picbreeder or by clicking on the image under the "Start From Scratch" header on the main page. If you'd like to learn more about the details of Picbreeder, then please continue reading the rest of this tutorial.


Picbreeder is an online collaborative website that allows users to create artwork. No artistic talent is needed because computer programs are actually drawing the pictures for you. Your job as a user is to select the images that you like most and then let Picbreeder create a new set of images based on your selections. After selecting and generating images, you may find an image that you really like and share it with the world. Once you publish your image, others can branch from it to create images of their own. In this way, you can collaborate with others to create a complex tree of life where the possible creations are endless!

The ability to branch from the work of others is what allows Picbreeder's users to build on each other's creativity.

Creating an account

If you'd like to get credit for your work, rate other users' images, or post in the forums, then you'll need to create an account. However, if you'd just like to evolve and publish images, then no registration is required! To register, click on the Register link located on the left panel of the website. The "Register" page asks you to create a username and password and also asks for optional personal information. Only the fields with a red asterisk (*) are required. After creating an account you can log in and begin creating your own artwork. You can also log into the Picbreeder fourms using the same username and password.

Using the forums

You can click on the Forums button in the top bar to access the Picbreeder Forums. You must be registered with the main site to use the forums. You must log into the forum with the same username and password as you use on the main site. You cannot register seperately on the forums.

Creating pictures

Currently, there are two ways to create images: starting from scratch and starting from an already created image.

Starting from scratch

To create an image from scratch, simply click on the image under the "Start From Scratch" header on main Picbreeder site. After clicking this link, you will be brought to a page containing a Java applet. This applet allows you to create artwork of your own by selecting the pictures that you feel are the best, which are used to create new images. Images created from scratch usually don't look like much at the beginning, but after a couple of generations, you'll start to see some interesting pictures emerge.

You can also start from scratch at any time by choosing the "Evolve a New Image" option in the left panel or the "Create a new image from scratch" option in your User Evolution Panel. This option is only available to those registered with Picbreeder.

Branching from an existing image

This option is what makes Picbreeder unique: You can actually continue the work of other users to create new creations of your own! You may have noticed the Evolve button under each image you see on Picbreeder. Clicking on one of these buttons will bring up the Picbreeder applet, where you'll see images that somewhat resemble the image you decided to evolve. Creating new images based off of old ones allows you to extend Picbreeder's tree of life.

Evolving an image (inside the evolution applet)

The evolution applet (pictured below) allows you to evolve and create new images. The applet requires the Java Runtime Environment which can be downloaded at Sun's website.

Menu items

At the top of the applet, you will notice a menu containing the following two items: System and Render. This menu gives you access to advanced features which are not necessary for evolving images.

Small and big evolutionary changes

The slider bar located in the Guidance box allows you to choose how much images change each generation. When you have yet to find an interesting image, you can move the slider bar towards Big Changes to give you big jumps in the evolutionary space. Once you find that image you've been looking for, you can begin to tweak it by moving the slider towards Small Changes.

Evolving in color

Picbreeder allows you to evolve both colored and black-and-white images. To toggle between the two modes, simply check or uncheck the Color checkbox.

Focusing the evolution

If the Color checkbox is checked, then the Focus dropdown will allow you to control the evolution of your image. When Structure is selected, the overall color theme will remain the same while the structural part of the image evolves. Selecting Color keeps the structural part of the images constant while the colored part changes, and when Both is selected, the color and structure will evolve. Note, if the Color checkbox is unchecked, you will only be able to evolve the structure of your image.

Basic controls

If you're using the applet's basic controls, you will notice the Quit, Evolve, and Publish buttons underneath the applet's menu.


Clicking Quit closes the Picbreeder program and brings you back to your user panel.


To create new images, click on the ones that you like and then press the Evolve button. The Evolve button will create a new generation of images based on the ones you selected, i.e., the ones outlined in green. Repeat this selection/evolve process to find a picture that you really like.


If you aren't satisfied with the new images that you see after clicking Evolve, click the Redo button to create a new set of pictures. You can click Redo as many times as you would like until you find the images that you want.

Advanced controls

By default, the applet only shows the basic controls. However, you can choose to use the advanced controls by clicking the Advanced option in the Controls box. Along with the Quit, Evolve, and Redo buttons found in the basic controls, the advanced menu gives the Back, Forward, Redo, and Save buttons

Back and Forward

You can go back to a previous set of images if you're not satisfied with the images that you're currently getting by clicking the Back button. Clicking Forward after pressing Back will bring you forward through the generations.


The Save button allows you to save an image that you like but do not yet want to share with the world. Your saved images will not be accessible to other users, but you can access them through your "My Panel" page (available when you are logged in). You can continue working with a saved image by clicking on the evolve link under it from the "My Panel" page. When saving an image make sure you only have one selected, i.e., only one image has a green border around it.


The Publish button is the key to sharing your chosen image with the world. It will take you out of the Picbreeder program to a page where you will be given the option to describe your image so that others can search for it. When the Publish button is pressed, only one image should be selected.

Publishing an image

After clicking the Publish button from the applet or the Publish button below a saved image on your "My Panel" page, you will be taken to the "Publish Your Genome" page where you can choose which tags to place on your image. Tags are small, descriptive words or phrases of text that allow images to be categorized and searched.

The figure below shows how you can add tags to describe your image so that others can find it later.

Rating an image

Below each image on the website are five stars that indicate the rating for that image. If you are logged in, then clicking on one of the stars below an image will rate it, and your rating will be confirmed with a pop-up box. After rating an image, you are permitted to change your rating by clicking one of the other stars, but only your most recent vote will count towards the overall rating of the image. You will not be allowed to vote on your own image.

DNA Analysis

Basic instructions for the DNA analysis applet can be found on the applet page. For more detailed instructions, see the applet's documentation.
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Picbreeder: Collaborative Interactive Art Evolution (Genetic Art)
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(c) 2007 University of Central Florida
Found a bug? Email: bugs@picbreeder.org
Need Help? Email: help@picbreeder.org