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I want to generate an area of random pixels in Photoshop. By random, I mean the 24-bit RGB values of the pixels vary uniformly over the range 0x000000 - 0xffffff. The opacity should not vary. I've experimented with the Add Noise filter, but I can't get anything like the desired effect. Is this possible with Photoshop?

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Back in the day you could generate weird pixel images buy going to OPEN RAW > then select a non-image file (like an .exe or something). Not sure if that still works in the later versions. – DA01 May 8 '12 at 15:19
Can you explain, in detail, why the noise filter in not appropriate? I want to point out that your definition of "random" (uniform variation) appears to be a unique definition of the term. Also: does "opacity" at a pixel scale have meaning in this context? – horatio May 8 '12 at 15:54
The noise filter is not appropriate because it doesn't do what I've described. Opacity does have a meaning in this context: if pixels are not opaque the distribution will be skewed based on the background colour. – fredley May 8 '12 at 17:53
The Uniform Distribution is a statistical distribution, that's uniform. I don't want it to be influenced by what's underneath, hence the requirement that all the pixels are opaque. – fredley May 8 '12 at 20:14
That's fine. He should edit his question with clarifications he made in all the comments. It sounds like the only problem here is that the noise filter requires a background color. – horatio May 15 '12 at 15:00

Photoshop isn't really meant for this kind of randomness as it is meant for control.

But here's a workaround without any scripting:

  1. Select the Pencil Tool

  2. Go into the brush options

  3. Select 'Color Dynamics'

  4. Crank up Foreground/Background Jitter, Hue Jitter, Saturation Jitter, and Brightness Jitter

  5. Change the background/foreground color so it isn't just black and white.

This will generate some random values. It won't be 100% random, but you can play around with it.

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I've just used Add Noise, set to "Uniform" in an empty white document and it looks like a uniform distribution to me, with a mean of 127 as expected, when I look at the histogram (after refreshing it). I tried both default (RGB) and monochromatic.

Edits: The histogram shows a peak value at 255 when starting with a white document. I overlooked this -- difficult to see against the right hand edge of the histogram.

Further experimentaion showed:

  1. Applying noise to a white canvas gives a peak at 255 only (50% of all pixels)
  2. Applying noise to a black canvas gives a peak at 0 only (50% of all pixels)
  3. Applying noise to a mid-grey or coloured canvas gives peaks at 0 and 255 (together, 50% of all pixels)

It seems that Apply Noise returns 50% pixels at low (0) and/or high (255) ends of the range, dependent on the contents of the layer. The remaining 50% pixels appear to be uniformly distributed across the remaining range (0-254, 1-254, or 1-255 depending on input).

I don't think there is any way of easily fixing this output to give what you're looking for. I think layering clipped multiple versions of (1) and (2) above could reduce the peaks, but not eliminate them entirely. Probably time to roll your own code.

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Don't you get peaks on the histogram at 0 and 255? I certainly did in my experiments. – fredley May 15 '12 at 14:06
Yes, edited answer with more findings. – e100 May 16 '12 at 8:31

A 5 second google search found this:

Aside from a PS Script I would say you'd need to use Processing, OpenFrameworks or probably the easiest choice NodeBox.

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If I'm going to have to resort to code I'll just use python/PIL to generate some large images of noise and import them. – fredley May 9 '12 at 9:08
NodeBox is built on Python – Ryan May 9 '12 at 10:38

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