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In this quick tip, you will learn to how to create a really simple glowing space background. We will begin by creating a gradient mesh, then some glowing stars with the symbol sprayer, then we will finish the image with a multicolored planet made from a simple radial gradient. This tutorial is great for beginners who want to learn more about blends, symbols and gradient meshes. Let's begin!
Create a new RGB document at any scale. To make the colors show up and for the glow to work, the document has to be RGB. Draw a rectangle over the artboard and fill it with black (R = 0 G = 0 B = 0)
Make a new Rectangle above the Black Rectangle you have just made then go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh. I've set my rows to 8 and my columns to 4. If you want to use lots of colors you can increase these numbers. I just want to use some nice purples and some blue so I've kept the sections to a minimum.
With the Direct Selection Tool (A) Select a few of the points and distribute them around the rectangle. I've moved the left and the right columns of gradient points to the sides.
Select a few of the points by clicking on them while holding down Shift and using the Direct Selection Tool (A). With the points selected, select a color you like from the color panel and then deselect. Repeat the same process with other points in the mesh and chose a new color. You should end up with something similar to the image below. Be sure to leave some parts black, this will make your background look more like outer space.
When you've finished coloring the gradient mesh, select it with the Selection Tool (V) and open the Appearance Panel (Window > Appearance). Go to the bottom of the Appearance Panel and click the Add New Appearance Icon (fx) then navigate to Warp and then set the warp to Fisheye. I've set the bend to 84%, you will need to look at your document to set the warp that best suits your image. You can do this by clicking Preview.
With the gradient mesh still selected go to the Opacity settings in the Appearance panel and set the Opacity to 10%.
Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle on the artboard. The size of the circle should be two times the size of the stars you want to make. Fill it with a Black to White Radial Gradient. Open the Gradient Panel (Window > Gradient) and set the gradient so that the white creates a small dot. You can see the settings on the gradient I have used in the image below. Open the Symbols Panel (Window > Symbols) and drag the circle into the symbols panel.
With the symbol selected take the Symbol Sprayer Tool (Shift + S) and spray your stars onto the artboard. I've put mine around the outside of image to make room for the planet later. The symbols will make a group, so once you've finished creating the stars, select them with the Selection Tool (V) and go to the Appearance Settings. In the Opacity Settings, change the blend mode to Color Dodge and the Opacity to 30%.
With the stars still selected, go to the bottom of the Appearance Panel and click the Add New Appearance Icon (fx) then navigate to Warp and then set the warp to Inflate. I've set the bend to 75%, you will need to look at your document to set the warp that best suits your image. You can do this by clicking Preview. Some of the stars will now be outside of the image area, scale them to fit inside the black rectangle you made in step 1.
Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a large circle in the middle of the artboard. Fill it with a White to Black Radial Gradient. Go to the Gradient Panel (Window > Gradient) and set the gradient so that the black creates a medium dot and there's an area of pure white around the outside of the circle. You can see the settings on the gradient I have used in the image below.
Go to the Opacity settings of the large circle and set the blending mode to Color Dodge.
To finish of the planet, click the Add New Appearance Icon (fx) then navigate to Stylize> Outer Glow. I've set my glow to be 100% opacity with a blur of 50 px. The blending mode is normal as the main blending mode of the circle will be applied. Click OK.
Make a copy of the stars with Command + C, then double click onto the circle of the planet. Paste the stars with Command + F (paste in front) and with the stars selected go to the bottom of the Appearance Panel and click the Add New Appearance Icon (fx) then navigate to Warp and then set the warp to Fisheye. Change the opacity of the stars to 80%
Make a copy of the planet circle (Command + C) then paste it in front of the second set of stars (Command + F). Select both the stars and the circle and make a clipping mask (Command + 7). Double click on the artboard to go back to the main illustration.
Now you will have a glowing space background. You can take this image further by adding some larger stars, putting in some more planets or drawing in some characters and objects. I hope you've enjoyed this tut.