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Create A Realistic Space Scene

In this tutorial, we’re going to see how we can use textures to create planets and also build an awesome space scene in Photoshop.

Final Image:


1. Create a new document (Ctrl+N) in Photoshop. We set ours to a size of 1680px x 1080px, at 72dpi.

2. Fill layer with Black. After that, Create a new layer, fill it black as well, and name it “Stars”.

3. Go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise. Set Amount to 30%, Distribution to “Gaussian”, select “Monochromatic”, and hit OK.

4. Now use the Levels (Ctrl+L) to tweak and single out the stars. We dragged our shadows input level slider to 200.

5. Duplicate “Stars” layer. Using the Marquee Tool (M), select a part of the layer and hit Free Transform (Ctrl+T). Hold down the Shift and Alt keys and enlarge it by dragging one corner of the selection to a decent size. Feel free to move and rotate the selection around to make the star placement more diverse, then tap Enter to apply transformation. Once done, change layer mode to “Screen”. This adds more stars of different sizes to  the field.

6. Now we’re going to space out the stars even more and give it a little more character. Merge both layers and use the Eraser Tool (E) to randomly remove sections of the stars. This part is pretty much experimental, so you can erase the stars in a pattern you like best.

7. With the stamp tool set to “Screen”, select parts of the starfield and clone them to make star clusters. To get a desired effect you can experient with different brush sizes.

8. Once you’re happy with the outcome, Flatten the image.


1. Create a new layer. Fill it with black and name it “Clouds”. Making sure that your foreground and background colors are black and white respectively (D), go to Filter > Render > Clouds. 

Set Layer Blending for “Clouds” to “Overlay”.

2. Create another layer above “Clouds” and apply a Gradient effect (G). Go to the Gradient editing toolbar. For colors, you can choose whichever you prefer that looks best to you. We chose Violet, Orange.

3. Apply the Gradient at your preferred angle by clicking on a starting point and dragging it to your desired end point.

Set the Layer Blending option to “Overlay”.

4. Create a new layer under “Clouds” and grab a soft rounded brush to paint around the canvas and you will see the Nebula slowly taking shape. You can vary the sizes and opacity of the brushes to get a desired effect, heavier opacity brushes making it brighter and lower opacity brushes making it more subtle.

5. If it looks good enough to you, let’s move on to the next step – Creating planets for your space scene. PLANET

Before We start with the planets, make sure you have your texture images ready. Textures are important as they define the planet you are creating, and textures of rocks usually work best. These are the images we will be using:

Image ID: 2026754 ©  Jim Mills

Image ID: 1093341 ©  PaulPaladin

Alright, let’s create some planets!

1. Open the image in photoshop (2026754 ©  Jim Mills) , and go to Edit > Define Pattern and give your pattern a name and click OK.

2. Now go back to your space scene. Create a new layer and name it “Texture”. Once you’ve decided the placement of your planet, use the Elliptical Marquee tool (M) to create a full circle by holding down the shift key as you drag along.

3. Select the Paint Bucket Tool (G). Set the properties to “Pattern” and select the pattern you saved earlier. It should be the last on the list. Now fill your selection with the pattern.

4. If the color of the texture is not the one you want for your planet, you can always hit Ctrl+U to bring up the Hue/Saturation options and adjust the sliders to get the color you prefer. Make sure “Colorize” is selected. For this tutorial, we’ll just go with the original color.

5. Go to Filter > Distort > Spherize. We will be doing this step 2 times. Set the amount to 100% and click OK. After that, hit Ctrl+F to apply it another time.

6. We will now create the atmosphere for your planet. Create a new layer above “Texture” and name it “Atmosphere”. Ctrl+Click on “Texture” to make a selection of it. Click on “Atmosphere” and fill the selection with black.

7. Double click on “Atmosphere” to bring up the “Layer Style” option. We’ll be applying Inner Shadow, Outer Glow and Inner Glow. The settings for this part are completely up to your liking, but best if it’s close to the colors of your planet. As a guide, here’s ours.

You should end up with something like this.

Set your layer to “screen”.

8. Define the textures for your planet by giving it an uneven surface. To do this, first duplicate “Texture”. Then go to Filter > Stylize > Emboss. Our settings are 45 degrees for the Angle, a height of 1 px, and amount at 500%. After applying the effect, set the layer blending to “Overlay”.

9. Next, we’re going to create shadows for your planet. Make a selection of “Texture” by clicking on it, create a new layer above “Atmosphere” and fill it with black. Name it “Shadows”. Deselect the selection, and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur with an amount of 35%. Click OK.

10. Hit Ctrl+T to bring up Free Transform. What you want to do now, while holding the Shift key, is to enlarge the shadow by dragging the corner opposing the light source. Hit Enter.

11. You will see some “Leftovers” of the shadows. Those are the parts you don’t want. To remove them, make a selection of “Texture”, and select the “Shadows” layer. Hit Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V to copy and paste only parts of the shadows that are within the selection. This automatically creates a new layer for it and will be your new shadow layer. You can delete the “Shadows” layer now.

If you find the shadows too dark and you want more details of your planet, you can always adjust the opacity for the layer. However, always be sure to justify the intensity of the light source to make it look more realistic.

12. Okay that’s done. But wait, isn’t the outer glow too strong in the shadowed area? Don’t worry, we’re gonna fix that real quick. Create a new layer under “Atmosphere”, select “Atmosphere”, and hit Ctrl+E to merge down. Set this layer to “Screen”. Rename it “Atmosphere” and make sure the layer is selected.

13. Grab the Eraser Tool (E) with a soft brush setting of about 50% opacity, and gently brush along the edges of the shadowed area of the planet, to make the glow more subtle.

14. Flatten all your planet layers and there you go, a planet is born.

15. Repeating the steps, we created another planet for the scene.


1. Now we’ll create a dust ring for your planet. Create a new document at 600px x 600px. And fill it with black, then create a new layer. With your foreground and background colors set to black and white (D) respectively, select Filter > Render > Clouds.

2. Go to Render > Distort > Twirl. Set the Angle to full by dragging the slider all the way to the right.

3. Next, grab the Eraser Tool (E) and circularly remove the sides and center of the image. You should get something that looks like this.

4. After that, hit Ctrl+T to toggle Free Transform and flatten up the ring according to your preference.

5. Just the same like creating the star field, Add some noise to the ring by selecting Filter > Render > Add Noise. Amount set to 8%, distribution to “Gaussion” and select “Monochromatic”.

6. Adjust the Levels (Ctrl+L) to make it more prominent.

7. Now drag the ring back into you star field and set its layer to “Screen” removing the black background and place it on a planet.

8. Now use Free Transform to resize and angle the rings according to your preference. Press Enter to apply transformation.

9. After deciding which portion of the ring you want “behind” the planet, Ctrl+click on the planet layer to make selection of it, select the ring layer and start erasing the part away.

10. You can re-color the ring with Hue/Saturation (Ctrl+U). Make sure “Colorize” is selected.

11. Deselect the selection and use the Eraser Tool again at 30% Opacity to gently brush over portions of the ring that’s in shadowed areas to make it look like it’s fading into darkness.

Flatten the image and now your space scene is done. Remember, the settings in this tutorial serve as a guide and are completely subjective, so always try to play around with them to get the effect that looks best and according to your requirements. Have fun!

Final Image:

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