M45: A blue cloud and stars; sometimes the simple can be amazing. Perhaps the most interesting feature is the halo effect that dominates the brightest stars in the nebula. Without, the image would be little more than a puff of color.
Star fields and nebula have been the subject of other articles, so I’ll address the halos, which is the main feature of this image. I’m sure there are numerous ways to create facsimiles, and I have tried several. In this instance I opened a separate canvas and filled it with black. I usually make it several times larger than what I need, because downsizing is preferable to upsizing non-vector elements.
First I used my paintbrush set at about 95% hardness and about 1000 pixels and made a white dot. I then used my eraser at about 95% harness and about 950 pixels and erased the center. I then filled the center with blue at about 50% opacity and erased a 400 pixel inner circle and created a second white halo.
Next create a new layer and add a bright white dot to the center of the halo. Use the smudge tool to make the rays. I used a 5 pixel hard brush set at about 97%. Click in the center and then go straight up an equal distance outside the halo and hold down the shift key and click. Repeat the process at 90 degrees until you have 4 long rays. Now add short rays of various lengths inside the inner halo.
To maintain control of opacity, you will want to save this as 2 layers as a PSD file. This will allow you to adjust the opacity of the halo and leave the star bright. You could also overlay a star, but that would be an extra step.
My reproduction is not an exact copy as the Hubble image at the top of the page. Please see my notes on creating a pattern from my article on the Crab Nebula. With M45, I simply eyeballed the Hubble image to choose the placement of the various elements.