Space Art that rivals the Hubble Telescope

Space doesn’t always look exactly like the images taken by telescopes. Astronomers know that enhancing their images is just as important for their profession as it is for any other. Few images come straight from the camera and go undoctored. However, it is hard not to be amazed by what exists in the Cosmos, doctored or undoctored.

Because few people have access to the images produced by Hubble, and because those images are of unmatched quality, if you want to create your own renditions, the easiest way is with Photoshop. With good practices, it is almost impossible to distinguish the real from the fake.

Creating space art is not as difficult as one might imagine. The process I employ is to build a library of the various elements: star fields, super nova, red giants, white dwarfs, nebula, planets, moons, and so on. Big H Nebula consists of 35 layers, with some of those layers containing several merged layers. Space is comprised of millions of dots, and pixels are a great way to replicate or exaggerate what is there.

Star fields are mostly white dots of varying size and intensity. I generate my star fields one dot at a time, but employ several processes that quickly multiply the numbers. Duplicating layers, or using the rubber stamp both work extremely fast to add stars to your canvas.

Nebulae are mostly gaseous, and are merely splashes of color. After applying color with the paintbrush, I generally create texture by using both the smudge tool and eraser and varying sizes of splatter brushes. To create a vortex, go to filters and choose distort>twirl.

Other elements are halos and rays. Rays are easy to create using the smudge tool set on about 95% and clicking in the center of a white dot with a 6 to 10 pixel hard brush, then hold the shit key and click 50% further away than you want the ray to stretch. This will create long feathered streaks that come to a point.

Halos can be created by stroking the elliptical marquee tool with a feathered stroke. To create a true circle, just hold down the shift key. More to follow.


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