Galaxies and Star Fields

So, first things first. I need to create the starfield and galaxy that I want to use in my piece in Photoshop. I searched around online and found dozens upon dozens of space tutorials for photoshop, but I decided to go with two in particular because I like their aesthetic.

The Galaxy

I used this tutorial by sascha at blog.hexagonstar.com to create my galaxy. Below is the initial base image that I created the rest from – by cutting back on this image with the Colour Range tool, and then copying those layers and changing their size and opacity, you create the galaxy.

Here’s the image after all of the Colour Ranging and layering, looking very much like a galaxy now:

Here’s a rough coloured/angled version, just to see what it looks like. I can’t use this version in my final piece, however, because of the way I coloured it – just inserted layers with different blending modes. If this version gets flattened, the rough paintjob as good as smears everywhere and ruins the image. I’m going to need to colour the image layer-by-layer instead.

Below is my final galaxy image. I based the final colour scheme loosely on the photo of Andromeda that I was looking at; outer blues and inner yellows. Of course my version isn’t as extremely detailed as an actual galaxy, but I’m pleased with the outcome. The image is going to remain flat until I get it into After Effects – if I imported an already-tilted image like above, then there’d be no way of me animating it’s rotation at all. Once I get into After Effects I’m going to need to figure out how to do that, but that’s a problem for another day.

The Starfield

The second big thing I had to make was the starfield, the background for the first paragraph. This proved more challenging; I wanted to avoid a standardised starfield render that only creates a few random specks, and instead actually create something unique. Luckily I found this tutorial by Greg Martin, a digital artist who specialises in truly breathtaking space scenes. The tutorial is based around sculpting a starscape using the clone tool to create organic arrangements of stars. So I borrowed a graphics tablet and got to work:

Initial Stars – the basic layer.

Second stage – erasing, to create deep black areas. At this stage there are both high-intensity and low-intensity stars, and erasing most of the high-intensity ones is the main goal so the scene doesn’t become too cluttered.

After that’s done, I used the clone tool to create the scene properly, slowly building up more and more stars in certain areas with samples from across the entire image. This way none of it is obviously generated. However, it does take a great deal of time to sculpt the stars.

And voila, my coloured and finished star field, ready for use:

However, I don’t want to use this image again as the background for the second section, and I creating another scene in the same stye wouldn’t fit in visually – In the second part we’re looking at a galaxy, but between galaxies there are vast expanses. You just wouldn’t see a star field like this one unless you’re within a galaxy, so I have to create a less-detailed star field for that background:

This is the sort of star field I wanted to avoid for the first section. The difference between the two in terms of time is vast – the first field took me several hours to complete, whereas this field took literally two minutes. But it’s aesthetically required, so I’m happy. Now I have all of my backgrounds and my galaxy, it’s time to start animating the text!

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