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Making a Planet
Written by Mike Noel   
Sunday, 09 April 2006
ImageThis PSP tutorial shows you how to make a planet as seen from space. I created this with PSP (Paint Shop Pro) Version 8 but I believe that most earlier versions will work as well. The basic idea is to first create a nice planet surface texture and then use a bit of shading to give it a spherical appearance. To create the surface texture I rely heavily on the distortion effects.

Step 1: Create a new raster image that is 400x400 at 16 million colors. This is our scratchpad image that we will create the texture on.

Step 2: Select the flood fill tool (it looks like a paint bucket) from the tool bar. The matrials palette should appear. Select the swatches tab from the palette. Click on the Animal_zebra pattern -- it looks like a zebra skin. Use the following settings for the flood fill tool:

  • Blend mode: normal
  • Opacity: 100%

Click on the image to fill it with the zebra pattern.

ImageStep 3: Now we're going to add some noise to the image so that there are more pixels to be affected by the distortion effects. Go to Adjust->Add/Remove Noise->Add Noise. Use the following settings:

  • Type = Gaussian
  • Percentage = 35%
  • Monochrome is selected

The resulting image will look like the image on the right. The next steps apply a series of distortion effects to the starting image to create a swirly planet-surface like texture.

Image Step 4: The main effect we will use is the "wind" effect. This "slides" the pixels to the right or the left as if the pixels were being blown to the side. Go to Effects->Distortion Effects->Wind and use the following settings:

  • Wind direction = "From right"
  • Stregth = 100 "100"

Click the OK button to apply this affect. Applying the effect one time does part of the work but we want this to really blur the image (horizontally) so apply the same effect two more times for a total of three times. Don't worry about the straight lines on the right side of the image. Those won't be a part of the final result. Now you're image should like like the one on the right.

ImageStep 5: The horizontal streaks created by the wind effect are a bit too clean and striated so we will mess them up a bit with the wave effect. This will add some vertical movement to the sripes and will work well with the twirl we're doing to do next. Go to Effects->Distortion Effects->Wave and use the following settings:

  • Horizontal displacement = 0
  • Vertical displacement amplitude = 4
  • Vertical displacement wavelength = 10
  • Edge mode = repeat

After applying this effect you need to apply the wind effect again just like before. Don't forget to apply it 3 times in a row. The resulting image will look like the image on the right.

ImageStep 6: Now we're just about done with the texturing. The wave pattern doesn't look very natural for a planet surface. We will add a bit of a twirl to the whole mess to get something that we might see on a weather map. Go to Effects->Distortion Effects->Twirl and use the following settings:

  • Degrees = 180

After applying this effect apply the wind effect again (3 times) to blur things up. At this point we have a decent texture to work with. In the remaining steps we will select a section of our image for the planet surface, colorize it, and then add the shading.

Step 7: Now we're going to select a part of the texture to be our planet. Use the circle selection tool to select an area of the image that looks like clouds and dust patterns on a planet. For my planet I selected a circle about 150 pixels in diameter in the upper left corner of the image. Of course you can pick any other part of the image that looks good to you.

ImageStep 8: Once you have a circle selected it's time to add some color. The colorize tool allows you to set the hue and saturation for the selected circle so you can give your planet any color you like. I like a reddish planet (kinda like Mars) so I used the following settings from Adust->Hue and Saturation->Colorize:

  • Hue = 8
  • Saturation = 200

As I mentioned already, any color can work here however, darker colors tend to work better than lighter colors when the shading is added.

ImageStep 9: The last thing to do is to add some shading to the circle to give it a 3D look. We will do this with a sunburst gradient. We will use the built-in Foreground-Background gradient. Set the foreground color to white (#FFFFFF) and the background color to black (#000000). Use the following settings for the gradient:

  • Gradient = Foreground-Background
  • Style = sunburst
  • Angle = 0
  • Horizontal center point = 31
  • Vertical center point = 31
  • Blend mode = darken
  • Opacity = 90
After setting these values click inside the selected circle (the colorized one) to apply the gradient. The result should be a nicely shaded sphere like the image on the right.

ImageStep 10: At this point you can copy the image (Edit->Copy) and then paste it into as a new image (Edit->Paste) or add it to an existing image (Edit->Paste As New Layer). In the example on the right I've pasted it as a new image. The image at the beginning article shows this same planet on a black background.

There are lots of variations you can make on this planet. You can change the color to get a full spectrum of planets. If you use a lighter color you will have to play with the opacity setting for the final flood fill in order to keep the image from washing out. Obviously you can play with the distortions to add more or less "twirliness" or add any other sort of effect.

Most of all, I hope you enjoyed the tutorial and will now have fun making lots of little planets.

Last Updated ( Monday, 10 April 2006 )