In this tutorial I’ll show you how to create a sci fi artwork with spaceship, planets and galaxy. You’ll learn how to compose and manipulate some space elements together as well as blend them correctly and effectively. You can also learn to create some different kinds of lighting, work with group, use brush, masking and more.
Preview of Final Results
- Starry sky – nighthawk101stock
- Planet – dadrian
- Spaceship – inadesign-stock
- Asteroid – mototsume
- Space brushes – redheadstock
- Nebula – sxc.hu
- Galaxy – Photoxpress
Create a new document and fill it with white. I make the width is a bit larger than the height. Make a new layer and press G to active Gradient Tool. I choose Radiant Gradient with color #000a18 and # 53657d:
Open planet stock. Hide the black background and press Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+Alt/Option+E to merge all transparent layers. We will have result:
Use Move Tool ( V key to active it) and drag planet into our document, place it at the picture bottom:
Duplicate this planet twice, resize and transform it to be smaller ( use Cmd/Ctrl+T to do it) and position them at the two edges of picture:
Call big planet as “planet 1” and smaller ones as “planet 2”, “planet 3”. On planet 2 layer, go to Filter-Blur-Gassian Blur and set radius as 2 px:
Choose planet 3 layer, press Cmd/Ctrl+F to repeat this filter ( Gassian Blur) with it:
Make group for all planet layers ( make them selected then press Cmd/Ctrl+G) as I want to edit them together. Change the mode of this group from Pass Through ( default mode group) to Normal 100%:
Now I use an adjustment layers to change color of these planets. On planet 1 layer, go to Layer-New Adjustment Layer-Color Balance:
Because the mode of group changed to Normal 100% so this Color Balance layer only affects the layers inside this group ( planet ones).
I want to increase a bit of contrast of planet 1 so I make a new layer above this one with Clipping Mask and use Linear Gradient with default color ( black and white):
Change the mode to Soft Light 100% and add layer mask for this layer. Use soft black brush to remove and reduce dark contrast on some parts we’ve just painted on. Look at the layer mask to see how I masked it:
Open nebula stock. Drag it into our canvas and place it under planet group. I only take a part of this stock:
I copy a part from nebular image and place it on the right side :
I use layer mask to clear rough edges of it:
Call these layers as “nebula 1”, “nebula 2”.
Make group for them as we did with planets and remember to change the mode of this group to Normal 100%. I add some adjustment layers to make color of nebula fit the rest of picture.
Open starry sky stock. Move it above nebula group and under planet ones, resize it to get the look below:
Change the mode to Screen 50%:
Duplicate this layer and move it to the right. Use layer mask and soft black brush to remove rough edges of this part:
Move galaxy stock into our picture, place this layer on the top and resize it to be smaller. Situate it in the center of sky :
Change the mode to Screen 100% and erase unwanted parts with layer mask:
Make a new layer and set foreground to white. Use space brushes ( galaxy one, number 1262 or for your taste) and paint on picture as shown below:
Hit Cmd/Ctrl+T to transform its direction to fit the galaxy created before:
Add layer mask for this layer and any unwanted parts with soft black brush:
Come back with nebula stock. I copy a part from this image and move it into our main picture, transform it ( use Cmd/Ctrl+T and Warp Tool – choose Edit-Transform-Warp) as shown below:
Lower opacity to 50% and use layer mask to remove rough edges:
Name this layer as “galaxy center”. Add an adjustment layer for this part with Clipping Mask to create a suitable color for the rest of galaxy ( look at step 3 if you forgot how to make a layer with Clipping Mask).
Go to Layer-New Adjustment Layer-Curves:
Extract spaceship and place it near foreground and downsize it :
Call it “spaceship 1”. Duplicate this ship three time, transform and resize them into different movements. Position them at two edges of picture and name them from “spaceship 2” to “spaceship 4”:
Make group for all spaceship ones. For spaceship 1 I add a layer with Clipping Mask and use soft black brush to paint on its bottom to darken it. Put the mode as Soft Light 100%:
Make a Color Balance layer within this group to change spaceships color:
I aim to make the main light source come from galaxy so the spaceships must get some reflected light from it. I add light for them by Inner Shadow effect. Right click each spaceship layer, choose Blending Options:
Pay attention to directions and light opacity as these spaceships have different positions and distances from the light source.
This is result we have:
Make a new layer within spaceships group. Use soft white brush to paint on the top of spaceship 2 and 3 as I think they need to be a bit brighter. Put the mode as Soft Light 50%:
As asteroid stock has a transparent background so you just need to use Move Tool to drag it into our canvas. I duplicate it three times, resize and transform them into different movements, and place at two edges of picture. To get rid of the same look I add layer mask for some asteroid layers and use hard black brush ( hardness about 90-95%) to erase some asteroids ( don’t use soft brush as it will leave a soft unatural edges):
I add Inner Shadow for each asteroid layer to create some light for them:
Make group for these asteroid layers. The asteroids still look too dark so for each asteroid layer, I add a Brightness/Contrast layer ( Clipping Mask) to reduce their contrast:
Create a Curves layer within asteroid group to change their color:
In next steps we’ll make spaceship trails. Make a new layer on the top. Use Polygonal Lasso Tool to make a selection at the bottom of spaceship 1 as shown below and set feather for it as 3:
Fill this selection with color #81cafa then use layer mask or eraser to get a similar look below:
Duplicate it three times and position them at the bottom of other spaceships, remember to change the size and direction to fit these spaceship ones.
Call these layers from “trail 1” to “trail 4”.
Make a new layer and use soft brush with same color (#81cafa ). Paint in the center of these trails and change the mode to Overlay 100%:
Continue with a new layer and use soft white brush with small size to paint like below and set the mode as Overlay 100%:
New layer again and use soft white brush with larger size to make a glowing effect at the spaceship trails. Lower opacity to 50%:
To change light focus to the middle section, I make a new layer and create a Radiant Gradient with default color ( black and white):
Change the mode to Soft Light 100%:
In final step I use a Color Balance layer to add more cyan for this pic: