Pretty Planet

I’m coloring a strip, and it needed a long view of a “pastoral world.” I hadn’t bothered to pencil or ink anything except to note the approximate location and size, which meant I needed to create the whole planet in Photoshop.

So I did.

I’m pretty pleased with the way it turned out, especially since I “invented” the process I used for Photoshop World Creation, rather than digging up a tutorial somewhere. It’ll end up getting refined over time, I’m sure. Here’s the quick-and-dirty version:

1) Create a new group, and create some blank layers in it. You’ll need about six. From the top down they’ll be Atmosphere, Clouds, Continental Details, Continents, Ocean Details, Ocean.
2) Select a spherical area in the Ocean layer and fill it with pale blue. Save the selection so you can come back to it later.
3) With that area still selected, go two layers up to Continents and paint some flat green where your continents will be.
4) Wand the continents, and save THAT selection, too.
5) With the continents selected, go one layer up (“Continental Details”) and start painting beaches, mountains, rainforests, whatever. Mostly this means going pale at the coastlines, pale in the middle, and with splotchy dark-green bits. This is where your imagination really has to come into play. Use a mixture of brush sizes and edges.
6) With the Ocean path selected (the sphere) go to the Ocean Details. Paint pale shallows, dark depths, and a variety of shades.
7) With the Ocean path still selected, go to the Clouds layer and airbrush some white, fluffy bits. I used soft edged, skinny brush at 33% transparency.
8)With the Ocean path still selected, go to the Atmosphere layer and create a radial gradient, white at the edges and transparent in the middle.
9) Resize this layer to be a little bigger than your original sphere. Nudge it so that it’s centered over your planet, fuzzing the edges with atmospheric distortion. Adjust the transparency so you can see your starfield through it.

And that’s it. Lighting and shading your planet can now be done the same way you light or shade anything else. For this picture I used a little red light in my global “highlights” layer (blending mode set to “Linear Burn”) and painted just a little bit of red highlight in line with that distant red giant in my starfield. The lens-flare effects you see crossing the dark side of the planet (which was shaded in my “Linear Dodge” layer with a 22% opacity soft-edged black brush) are from the “day star” off panel to the right.


14 thoughts on “Pretty Planet”

  1. World building is always fun. Being the oddball I am I’d have probably thrown it together with POVray rather than Photoshop, but your method might be a bit easier. 🙂

    1. ppmforge
      Source code

      Windows binaries has ppmforge and a billion other graphics programs. All these are command line NOT graphical.

      Does fantastic planets and clouds. I’ve done animations with it by making seperate frames and using another program to glue’em together. It shows the world freezing over.

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