Tutorial 2: Space Scene
Submitted by: Gary Hughes

The following tutorial will teach you how to create a simple, yet elegant space background. I learned how to do something similar through another tutorial years ago, and have decided to pass it along (in my own style of course). I am assuming that you know the basics of Photoshop. The most advanced feature used that is not described step by step is applying a Layer Mask. If you do not know how to do this I suggest doing a tutorial on masks before starting. The steps in Bold are steps that correspond with a screenshot just above it. This tutorial was written by myself, and if you would like to use it on your site, please contact me. Many thanks to midwestkat for her help on this tutorial.

Preview of final result (reduced in size)

Create a new document.
File -> New -> 640 pix Wide x 480 pix High. You could use any size, but this is a nice even size to start with.

01. Press D to set your default colors. (Your background color should be set to black, and foreground should be white.)

02. Pick a bright forground color for the primary gas cloud.(I used bright red.)

04. Double click (PS 6.0 requires an ALT + Dbl Click) on the Background layer and rename to Gas Cloud 1.

05. Go to Filter -> Render -> Difference Clouds

06. Press Ctrl + F (to apply the filter a second time. Notice how every other re-application of the filter makes the clouds darker

07. Repeat step 6 until desired gas cloud shapes are reached. (I repeated 4 times.)

08. Create a new layer (Ctrl + Shift + N). Name it Gas Cloud 2.

09. Now pick different bright color for the foreground. This will be the second color of our gas clouds.(I used a bright pastel purple.)

10. Repeat steps 3-7 again.

11. Press Ctrl + Shift + N (to create a new layer). Name this layer Stars.

12. Press X to switch your foreground and your background colors. (Your foreground color should now be the defaulted "Photoshop Black")

13. Press Alt + Del to fill the layer with black.

14. Go to Filter -> Noise -> Add Noise [Amount: 10 / Gaussian / Monochromatic]. It looks more like static than stars now, but we can fix that in a moment.

15. Press Ctrl + A (Select all.)

16. Go to Image -> Adjust -> Brightness & Contrast

17. Adjust until it looks more like a star filled sky. (I used Bright: -36 Contrast: +72)

18. Press Ctrl + D (to deselect)

19. Pull the stars layer to the bottom (underneath the Gas Cloud layers).

20. Set the Gas Cloud Layers blending mode (both of them) to: Screen. The screen mode makes everything that is black on the layer become transparent, and allows the colored/white areas to "shine through".

21. Now we can start to see the stars through the clouds.

22. Hide Gas Cloud 2 & select the Gas Cloud 1 layer.

23. Press Ctrl + A (select all) and go to Image -> Adjust -> Levels

24. In the channel box, select the color closest to the color you used.

25. Pulling the black arrow in towards the center will increase the black (which is now invisible due to the Screen Mode).

26. Pulling the white arrow in towards the center will increase the intensity of the color you have selected.

27. Sliding the grey arrow, will adjust the drop-off point.

28. Use your best judgement to set the levels. If you have a color besides Red, Blue, or Green, you may need to adjust more than one channel.

29. When you are happy about how it looks, press OK.

30. Repeat steps 23-29 for the Gas Cloud 2 layer.

31. Now the gas clouds are still a little overwhelming. We could tone down the opacity, but then it will look bland. Instead, let's use a layer mask.

32. Create a layer mask on the Gas Cloud 1 layer.

Now choose a large feathered brush (65?) and set the presure to 10%. This way we can make subtle changes just where we want. Paint over the areas of the layer that you would like to fade out.

33. Repeat with the Gas Cloud 2 layer. (You may need to switch back and forth between layers untill you get the right effect, just make sure that you are click on the mask, to switch layers, rather than the layer thumbnail.) Now it's starting to look better.

34. Now were going to add a few brighter stars, to lighten the whole thing up a bit. Normally I tell everyone not use Lens Flares, because they are used to often and seem to add an amature look, but this time is ok. A good example of why you should not use lensflares: http://www.gerf.org/~nixon/tut5.html (other than the general overuse of this effect).

35. Select your top-most layer and press Ctrl + Shift + N (Create a new layer) and name it Bright Star

36. Fill the layer with black (Alt + Del).

37. Go to Filter -> Render -> Lens Flare.

38. Choose 105mm Prime, and turn down the Brightness. The lower the brightness, the smaller the star ( I used 50% for the big star). Use the cross hair to move the star to where you want it located, and press OK.

39. Once again, set the layer blending mode to Screen.

40. Select all again (Ctrl + A).

41. Go to Image -> Adjust -> Hue & Saturation. Turn up the saturation, and then adjust the hue to a color you like.

42. Repeat steps 35-41 as needed (to create more bright stars).

43. Congratulations! You now have an interesting space background.


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