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How to Create a Planet
with Bonus Video
Photoshop Training

The other day my son was asking me how we could make a planet on the computer using Photoshop. We messed around a bit and came up with something that we both thought looked pretty cool. Of course he went on to do five more once he got it all figured out. I decided this would be a good tutorial to share. For those of you who prefer a video tutorial instead, I have created the Photoshop Create a Planet Video Tutorial.

First start a new document 600 X 400 pixels. We will create a starry background for our planet. Fill the layer with black by selecting Edit/Fill/Black. Next choose Filter/Noise/Add Noise, and use the settings shown below.

Now select Image/Adjustments/Levels. Adjust the slider shown below to the right until you get the star effect that you like.

I prefer a sublte star background, but you may prefer something a bit brighter. Here is the star effect I ended up with.

Now we need to create the planet. Create a new layer by selecting Layer/New/Layer. Name this layer "planet". Now grab the Elliptical Marquee Tool.

While holding the shift key, drag out a circle as large as will fit in this document. We will reduce the size of it later. Since we are going to fill in our planet with a pattern, doing it this way will give the planet a more natural look, as all the details of the pattern will be reduced and blend together better. Holding the shift key down will constrain the tool to create a perfect circle as opposed to an oval.

You should now have a circle made up of a bunch of "dancing ants" as it is commonly refered to. Now select Edit/Fill/Pattern. I am going to use a pattern called "Rock Wall" it is one of many preloaded patterns in Photoshop. If you don't see it, use the drop down arrow to the right and load the pattern set named "Rock Patterns". Make sure after the tutorial is complete to go back and create planets using some of the other patterns. You can come up with some pretty interesting looking things!

Click OK, and your circle selection should fill with the selected pattern.

Whild the circle is filled and still selected (dancing ants), choose Filter/Distort/Sherize. Make sure the amount is 100% and the mode is normal. This will give us a good start on giving the circle a 3D planet effect. Hit Ctrl+D to deselect the planet. This should remove the dancing ants.

Now we need to reduce the size of the planet to fit better into our document. Select Edit/Transform/Scale. While holding the shift key, click and drag one of the corner handles toward the center until the planet is the size that you like, then hit enter. Once again, holding the shift key constrains the circle to remain a circle as you resize it.

Now move the planet wherever you would like it. Pressing "V" will bring up the move tool. Here is how I resized mine.

Making sure that the planet layer is highlighted, select Layer/Duplicate Layer. You now should have a bottom layer for your stars, and 2 layers with the planet on them. Highlight the layer named "planet" in the middle.

Select Layer/Layer Style/Blending Options. This will bring up the Blending Options dialogue window. We are going to add a little outer glow to the planet on this layer. Use the settings shown below.

Your planet should now look something like this.

Let's create the shadow for our planet. Create a new layer, Layer/New/Layer. Name this layer "shadow" and make sure that it is on the top of the stack. We are going to use the Pen Tool to for this job.

You will need to make a crescent around the planet. It will need to start outside of the edge of the planet.

On your next click, make sure that you are less than 90 degrees of the circle. The Pen Tool will not create an even radius greater than this. After you have made your arc, alt click on the new anchor point to continue on.

Don't worry if you do not make a perfect arc all the way around. It is not critical as we will be blurring it out anyway. Keep clicking around the planet until you get something like this:

Now we will need to change this into a selection so that we can fill it with black. On the layers palette, click on the Paths tab and clck the "Load Path as Selection" button. This should turn the crescent shape into our famous dancing ants.

Now fill the shape with black, Edit/Fill/Black. Hit Ctrl+D to deselect it.

Next select Filter/Blur/Gaussian Blur. You will need to adjust the slider while watching the picture. I ended up with a radius of 21.1 pixels. You will probably need to move the shadow a bit towards the darker side of the planet. Just enough to cover some of the outer glow on that side. Here is the final product.