In this tutorial, I'll show you how to create a sci-fi scene with planets, spaceships, and nebulae. You'll learn how to create a space background from scratch, make a planet in a simple way, and combine space elements using blending techniques. You'll also learn how to adjust the contrast and color, create lighting effects, and enhance the depth of field.
Follow along with us over on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:
The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial:
1. How to Create a Space Background
Make a new 3000 x 2000 px document in Photoshop.
The background color must be black.
Press Control-Shift-N to make a New Layer. Activate the Brush Tool (B) with a soft round one, and set the foreground to
#8c92ae. Paint around the middle section of the black background.
Change this layer Mode to Hard Light 100%:
Create a New Layer and use a Soft Round Brush with different colors to make spots on the canvas. You can use colors of your taste, but don't forget that we're creating a colorful background, so pick vibrant colors. Here is my choice of colors:
Remember not to fill the whole canvas with colors—we need some space for the dark shade and depth.
On a New Layer, change the foreground to
#44595b and use a soft brush to paint on the edges and corners of the canvas.
Change this layer mode to Hard Light 100%:
Create a New Layer and press D to set the foreground/background to default (black and white). Use the Lasso Tool (L) to make a selection on the canvas and set the Feather Radius to 60 px.
Go to Filter > Render > Clouds:
Change this layer Mode to Color Dodge 100%:
Use an adjustment layer and set it as Clipping Mask to make the effect more subtle. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels:
On this Layer Mask, use a Soft Round Brush with black color (soft black brush) to reveal the vibrance on some areas.
Duplicate the clouds layer and move the duplicated one above the first and the Levels adjustment layer. Go to Filter > Render > Different Clouds:
Select Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and change the Radius to 35 px:
Make a Color Balance adjustment layer set to -58 Red and 54 Blue to change the resulting color a little.
Time to make some stars. Create a New Layer and change the Foreground Color to
#72c6fd. Use a hard brush to paint random stars over the canvas, remembering to vary the brush size:
Double-click this layer, choose Outer Glow, and set the color of glow to white:
Create a Curves adjustment layer on top of the layers to change the color of the effect:
Open the nebula image. Drag this image into our main canvas using the Move Tool (V) and enlarge it using the Free Transform Tool (Control-T).
Change the Mode of this layer to Linear Dodge 100%:
Add a mask to this layer and use a Soft Black Brush to reduce the effect and make it appear subtle on the existing background:
Use a Color Balance adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) to alter the nebula effect color a bit:
Save the result as a JPG file for your future use.
2. How to Add the Space Background
Create a new 2200 x 1600 px document and set the background color to black. Open the space background created in the first stage and drag it into this new canvas using the Move Tool.
Add a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to reduce the image opacity, making the middle section more visible than the rest:
To make the middle more visible, create a New Layer and use a Soft White Brush to paint on this area. Change this layer Mode to Soft Light 100%:
3. How to Add the Planets
Open the planet texture. Create a New Layer and use the Clone Tool (S) to remove the four black lines on the image.
Press Control-Shift-Alt-E to merge the background and the clone layers into a new one. On the merged planet layer, use the Elliptical Marquee Tool to grab a circle. Go to Filter > Distort > Spherize:
Click this selection and choose Layer via Copy. We have the base of the planet on a new transparent layer (I turned off the background, clone and merged layers to help you see the result more clearly).
Drag the planet into our main document and scale it down using Control-T. Place it in the center of the image.
Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) and bring the Saturation value down to -87:
Use a Curves adjustment layer and decrease the lightness.
On this layer Mask, use a Soft Black Brush to erase the outside section of the planet to bring some light to this, and also leave the shadow in the middle.
Make a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Midtones settings:
Create a New Layer (set as Clipping Mask) and use a soft brush with the color
#b68fa4 to paint on some areas around the planet to color it (we've put it on a colorful background). Change this layer Mode to Soft Light 100%.
Make a New Layer and change the brush color to
#b6eadd. Paint on some other areas of the planet with the same purpose, and set the Mode to Soft Light.
Add two other planets to the sides of the big one, making them much smaller.
Select these small planet layers and press Control-G to make a Group for them. Change this group mode from Pass Through to Normal 100%. Make a new layer above these planet layers and use a soft black brush with the Opacity about 70–80% to paint shadow in the lower part of the planets.
Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and bring the Saturation value down to -86.
Use a Color Balance adjustment layer to change the planet's color.
4. How to Create the Basic Colors and Light
We'll be coloring the planets and adding more light to the space. Create a New Layer above the planets group and use a soft brush with the color
#b68fa4 to paint on the top center of the scene. Change this layer Mode to Soft Light 100%.
Make a new Curves adjustment layer on top of the layers, and increase the highlight.
On this layer mask, use a Soft Black Brush to reduce the brightness at the bottom of the planets and space as they're hidden from the light.
5. How to Add the Spaceships
Open the "spaceships" image. Select three spaceships which have similar poses and add them to the space. Duplicate them and rotate them towards the big planet. The nearer the foreground, the bigger the spaceship.
Make a Group for the spaceship layers and change this group Mode to Normal 100%. Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer within this group to desaturate the spaceships to -92.
Create a Color Balance adjustment layer to add some cyan/blue to the spaceships.
Use a Curves adjustment layer to darken the spaceships.
On this Layer Mask, use a Soft Black Brush to reveal the light on the top of the spaceships because they should be brighter than the bottom:
Create another Curves adjustment layer to give more light to the top of the spaceships.
Select a soft black brush and paint on the Curves layer mask to maintain the shade of their bottom.
Use a New Layer with a soft white brush to paint more highlight for some of the spaceships. Change this layer Mode to Overlay 100%.
6. How to Add the Asteroids
Open the asteroid images. Select different asteroids to put around the big planet, duplicating and transforming them if needed, and make them very much smaller than the planets. Rotate the bright parts of the asteroids towards the light.
Add some asteroids to the bottom left and right corner of the space scene, and make them bigger than the existing ones. Blur them to bring some depth to the scene by applying a Gaussian Blur of 8 px to each of these layers.
Make a Group for all the asteroids layers. Use a Color Balance adjustment layer to match the asteroids' color with the other elements:
Create a Curves adjustment layer and reduce the lightness:
On this Layer Mask, use a Soft Black Brush to reveal the luminosity on the asteroids:
Make another Curves adjustment layer to bring more light to the asteroids.
Use this Layer Mask to maintain the shade of the asteroids, especially the parts which are hidden from the light.
7. How to Add the Lights and the Light Trails
Make a New Layer and take a hard brush with the color
#eebde2. Add small dots in order to create the lights on the spaceships. The bigger the spaceship, the bigger the dots.
To make a glowing trail we often see in space art, make a new layer and use a soft colored brush (
#7b3e51) to create a spot on the canvas. Resize the brush size down and choose a lighter color (
#d69e96) to put a spot in the center of the existing one.
Convert this layer to a Smart Object and use Control-T to change its perspective and make it look like a trail. Place it at the bottom of a spaceship:
Duplicate it several times and add the trails to other spaceships.
Make a New Layer and set its Mode to Color Dodge 100%. Use a soft brush with the color
#eebde2 to paint the lightest part of the trails at the bottom of the spaceships.
8. How to Make the Final Adjustment
Make a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the whole scene, especially the top center.
Use a Soft Black Brush to erase the sides and the shade on the big planet to create a nice contrast of the final effect.
Congratulations, You're Done!
Thanks for following this tutorial, and I hope you've learned something new from it. Feel free to leave your comments in the box below—I'd love to see them. Enjoy Photoshopping!
Photoshop Brushes From Envato Elements
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If you are after a more spread-out nebula effect then this second set of space backgrounds are a dream come true. With multiple premade colors, all vibrant and detailed, they are still easy to edit to create truly infinite color options!
Looking for some out-of-this-world space clouds? Then the third set of these space backgrounds is what you want. These space backgrounds are high resolution and come in multiple different color variations.
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