3D Planetarium in Photoshop

When most people think of Photoshop, they probably don’t even remember its 3D capabilities. However, Photoshop CS5 Extended includes several powerful tools that will help you make 3D objects.

In this tutorial we will show how to create mini planets using 3D functions. Let’s start!


  1. Sky
  2. Stars
  3. Texture of the planet 1
  4. Illumination of the 3D scene
  5. Water texture
  6. Texture of planet 2

Step 1

Create a new document, the size of 1400 x 1400 pixels., Resolution – 96 dpi.
Fill the background layer Radial gradient (Radial gradient) or apply effect Gradient overlay (Gradient Overlay) (unlocking the pre-background layer).

Step 2

Add to the working document image of the sky. Then go to Editing> Transform> 180 ° rotation (Edit> Transform> Rotate 180 °). We continue to change the image with the clouds: Editing> Transform> Warp (Edit> Transform> Warp); type of deformation – Archway (Arch).

Pay attention to the example picture, where the settings for Warp are shown and how the sky has changed. Next, activate Transform> Distort (Transform> Distort) and drag the corners of the picture with the clouds in the direction of the red arrows, as shown in the image below.

Step 3

Add a layer mask to the layer with the transformed sky (click on the mask icon at the bottom of the layers palette). Activate the tool Gradient (Gradient), Gradient type choose Mirror (Reflected Gradient), colors – from black to white. Drag the gradient line on the layer mask.

Translator’s Note: check the box next to the “Invert” function, drag the gradient line from the center of the image to the bottom right corner.

Additionally, paint over the top right corner of the layer mask with a black soft round brush (brush tool).

Set the blending mode of the sky layer to Screen (Screen), lower the opacity to 80%.
Click on the “Create a new adjustment layer” icon at the bottom of the layers panel. Add two adjustment layers from the list – Black and white (Black White) and Levels (Levels).

Apply these layers as a clipping (clipping mask) to the cloud layer. To do this, right-click on the adjustment layer and in the submenu click on the item “Create clipping mask“(Create Clipping Mask).

Settings for adjustment layers are shown below:

Step 4

Group all layers related to the sky. Make a copy of this group. Name the duplicate group “Sky_top”. Move this group slightly higher than the original group (“Sky_bottom”).
Next, go to: Editing> Transform> Rotate 180 ° (Edit> Transform> Rotate 180 °). After you have turned over the group of layers “Sky_top”, once again use the transformation functions and select from the list “Scaling“(Scale), reduce the group.

At this stage, the layer map looks like this:

Step 5

Add a starry sky image to your work document. Activate the tool Patch (Patch tool). Using this tool, we will correct the upper right corner of the image. Select the area where you want to reduce the number of stars and drag the selection to the most “clean” area of ​​the sky (as in the image below). When you release the mouse button, the selected area will be replaced with the sample pixels.

Step 6

Using Transform (Transform) expand the image with the stars on 90 ° (Rotate it on 90 °). Just as in the previous step with the sky, apply Arch deformation (Warp Arch transformation).

Then drag the transformed image and expand it again, as shown in the example:

Step 7

Duplicate the star layer. Rotate it 180 °. Move the image below to the left corner of the working document.

Step 8

Select both layers with a starry sky and merge them into one. Blending Mode for the merged layer set Screen (Screen). Also, the correction is applied to this layer. Levels (Levels) to remove excess white areas. To do this, go to Picture > Correction > Levels (Image> Adjustments> Levels) and slightly move the left black slider towards the gray slider.

Step 9

It’s time to prepare the snow for the first 3D form.
Create a new document – 1200 x 1200 pixels, 96 dpi. Unlock the background layer and convert it into a smart object: Layer> Smart Object> Convert To Smart Object (Layer> Object Layer> Smart Objects> Convert to Smart Object). Then apply the style to the background layer.Color overlay“(Color Overlay).

Step 10

Apply two filters:
one) Filter> Noise> Add Noise (Filter> Noise> Add Noise);
2) Filter> Imitation (Art)> Sponge (Filter> Artistic> Sponge).
Use the settings as in the screenshots below.

Step 11

Create a new layer on top of the background and fill it with black. Press “D“to set the default colors (black and white). Go to Filter> Rendering> Overlay Clouds (Filter> Render> Different Clouds). Repeat the filter command again by clicking Ctrl + F. After re-applying the filter, you should have a similar result:

Apply a blend mode to the black and white layer. Screen (Screen). Next, save the resulting texture as a regular JPG file.

Step 12

In order to get a 3D ball with a mountain landscape, first of all you need to create a blank texture of gray color.
Create a new document 1200 x 1200 pixels, 96 dpi. Fill the background layer with gray # 9f9f9f.

Step 13

Create a new layer on top of the gray background. Set the foreground and background color to black and white. Switch to Filter> Rendering> Clouds (Filter> Render> Clouds). Blend mode of this layer change to Screen (Screen).

Step 14

To the last layer add a layer mask (layer mask). Activate the tool Gradient (Gradient); gradient type – Radial (Radial); color – from black to white.

Standing on the layer mask, drag the gradient line from the center to the edge. Then make several copies of the created layer. Rotate and scale received duplicates; lower parameter “Opacity“(Opacity) to 40-60% for each of the layer copy.

Group the layers with a cloud texture. Lower the group opacity to 75%. Save the texture as a jpg file.

If you have any problems creating this texture, then for further steps you can use the resource from the source materials “Texture of the planet 1”.

Step 15

Transfer the created gray texture to the main working document and place it above the layers with the sky and the stars. Convert the texture into a smart object. Scale the image with the texture so that it covers the entire working canvas.

Double-click on the “Smart Object” thumbnail. After that, your texture will open in a new working paper where you can do 3D conversions.

Go to menu 3D, which you can find through Window> 3D (Window> 3D). Next, select the tab New Grayscale Grid> Sphere (3D Mesh from Grayscale> Sphere). After editing the content, select File> Save (File> Save) to accept the changes. These changes will be reflected after returning to the main working paper window.

Step 16

The following shows the camera settings for the 3D scene.

Step 17

Use these tools to rotate, move, and scale the 3D shape:

Step 18

Download and unzip the resource “Illumination 3D scenes.”
Let’s go to the settings of the 3D scene. Make sure you are in the tab “Filter by: whole scene“. Click on the arrow symbol in the upper right corner and select the item in the submenu.”Replace light sets“(Replace Lights Presets). As a new pattern, apply the” lights_mountains “from the kit that you previously installed.
Also, change the settings for the “Quality“(Quality) by setting”Final ray tracing“(Ray Traced Final) instead of” Interactive “(Painting).

In the 3D menu window, go to your texture. Edit the parametersRelief“(Bump) and”Scattering“(Diffuse), setting for them as a texture, a previously prepared image of snow (step number 9 – № 11).

Translator’s Note: if, after adding a texture, your planet has become translucent, then pay attention to the folder icon next to the “Opacity” parameter. Add a snowy texture through this “folder”.

Step 19

Applying the 3D settings, we return to the main working document and add a layer style. Inner shadow (Inner shadow) to our planet.

Step 20

To create the texture of water, create a new large document 2400 x 2400 px, 96 dpi. Apply a blue gradient to the background layer.

Translator’s note: add a gradient through: Layer style – Gradient overlay – the type of the gradient is “Mirror”.

Step 21

Create a new layer on top of the blue background. Set the colors as shown in the image below:

Switch to Filter> Rendering> Clouds (Filter> Render> Clouds). Then to Filter> Imitation (Art) > Cellophane packaging (Filter> Artistic> Plastic Wrap).

Step 22

Double duplicate the water texture layer. To “Copy 1” (bottom layer), apply the blend mode (in the closing mode) Soft light (Soft Light), and to “Copy 2” (top layer) – blending mode Screen (Screen).

Step 23

Add two adjustment layers to the top copy (like clipping masks) – “Black and white“(BlackWhite) and”Levels“(Levels).

Translator’s Note: The author did not specify the settings for the “Levels” adjustment layer. You can pick them up to your own taste, or use mine:

Save the resulting texture as a jpg file.
If you have problems creating this texture, you can further use the Water Texture resource proposed in the source materials.

Step 24

We return to the main working file. Add a new layer under the 3D planet. On it, create a square selection with a size of 1200 x 1200 pixels, and fill it with color9f9f9f.

Right-click on the gray layer icon and select “in the sub-menu that appears.Convert to smart object“(Create the Smart Object from this layer). Double-click on the layer thumbnail to open the smart object in a separate window. Then go to 3D> New grid of grayscale> Sphere. To the resulting shape, apply the same placement settings (size, camera position, set of light) as to the previous 3D sphere.

Step 25

Next, go to the settings of the 3D scene for the new sphere. Be guided by the images below and the previous steps №15-№18. You can also make your own adjustments and experiment with the settings.

Step 26

Add a layer mask to the first 3D shape with white mountains. Fill the mask with a linear black and white gradient as shown in the example:

Next, activate the tool Brush (Brush Tool). Set in the settings a black round hard brush of small size and edit the layer mask, adding sharp and round transitions of mountains in the water.

Step 27

By this step, we have already worked a lot and we managed to create a background and two smart 3D objects.

Stand on a layer with a sphere-ocean. Holding the key CtrlClick on the mountain layer icon. You will get a selection. Copy this selection to a new layer and place it above the sphere with the mountains. Set the blending mode, for the layer with the duplicated ocean particle, to Soft light (Soft Light). Add a vector mask to this layer (layer mask) and fill it with a linear gradient, as in the screenshot:

Step 28

We will again create a new texture in the new document. Open a new document with a size of 1200 x 1200 pixels, 96 dpi. Fill the background layer with color # 808080.

Create a new layer on top of the background and fill it with black (or white) color. Set the foreground and background color to default (black and white). Switch to Filter > Rendering > Cloudswith overlay (Filter> Render> Different clouds). Repeat the last command (Ctrl + F) several times to get a similar effect.

Step 29

Add an adjustment layer to the cloud texture layer Levels (Levels) (like clipping mask).

Merge the cloud texture layer and the Levels adjustment layer. Press combination Ctrl + I (in order to invert the image). Blending Mode for the resulting layer set Screen (Screen).

Step 30

It is necessary to reduce the opacity of the layer to 55%. Also add a vector mask to the layer. Fill it with a radial black and white gradient from center to edge.

Step 31

Draw a small circle on a new layer, apply an effect. Gradient Overlay (Gradient Overlay) to this form.

Step 32

Duplicate the created circle several times, apply a scale conversion for the copies. Subsequently, craters of different diameters will be formed from these circles. Change the same value opacity (opacity) – this will help achieve different heights for future volcanoes. Group the layers with circles. Group opacity lower to thirty%

Step 33

Now you can combine all the layers of the new texture into one. Then apply Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur> 2 pix. (Gaussian Blur filter), and transfer the resulting image to the document with the planet. Convert the texture into a smtp object, double-click the smart object thumbnail to open its content in a separate window. Then convert the texture into a 3D sphere (as we did earlier).

Step 34

Go to the 3D control panel and move, scale, rotate the 3D sphere to find the best position. Focus on the second image under this step.

For parameters Scattering (Diffuse) and Relief (Bump) apply as a snow texture material.

Pay attention to the new light source – blue reflection from the sphere with the ocean.
Translator’s note: you can use the set of light proposed in the source code – “lights_planet2.p3l”

Step 35

Apply a layer style to a layer with a small planet. Gradient overlay (Gradient Overlay).

Translator’s Note: The author did not specify the gradient palette, but you can choose it yourself or use mine:
From left to right: # cdfffd ; # c3aed7 ; # fcb9dd ; # fed1a1 ; # fcf9d4

Step 36

Add some more planets. To do this, create three (four) duplicate layers with a small planet. Then you need to work with each copy individually. You click on the thumbnail of the smart object, open the image with the planet in a new window. Navigate to the 3D control panel, and then use the rotation, zoom, and pan tools to change the size and position of the planet.

Do not forget about the parameter Opacity (Opacity). For layers with planets that are farther away – the opacity will be less (95% – 83%).

Step 37

We are almost done. Once again, go through all the 3D-figures and make sure that the quality is selected “ Final ray tracing“(Ray Traced Final). Then create a combined copy of all layers. To do this, go to Allotment >Everything (Select> Select All) and then to Editing> Copy merged data (Edit> Copy Merged).

Create a new layer, on top of the rest. and press the key combination Ctrl + V, to paste a copy into a new layer. Click on the icon “Quick mask“(Quick Mask).

Step 38

Activate the tool Gradient (Gradient Tool), gradient type “Mirror“(Reflected), color from black to white. Drag the gradient line so that the mask snaps into the upper left and lower right corner of the image.

Find the image of a small planet, hold down the key Ctrl and click on the layer thumbnail to get the selection. Activate round black Brush (Brush Tool) and go over the image of the planet (make sure that the Quick Mask mode is still on). Then set the brush color to white and adjust the bottom of the planet mask. After completing work with the planet mask, deselect (Highlight Undo> Highlight (Select> Deselect)).

Step 39

Create a selection of a large planet. To do this, find the layer with the ocean sphere and hold the key Ctrl Click on the layer icon. Next, find the image of the mountains and holding the combination Ctrl + Shift – Click on the icon for this layer. Activate the tool Brush (Brush Tool), brush color – white. Edit the mask of a large planet so that it (mask) covers only the tops of the mountains and the South Pole. Deselect.

Guided by the previous points, edit the small planet on the right side of the image.

Step 40

Deactivate any selections, if you forget to do this earlier, and then turn off “Quick mask (Quick Mask).

Switch to Filter > Blur > Blur at shallow depth of field (Filter> Blur> Lens Blur).

Step 41

After correcting the lens, create a copy of the merged layer. Switch to Picture> Correction > Black and White (Adjustments> Black and White (default)). Blend mode of this layer set – Soft light (Soft Light), opacity (opacity) – 20%

We can enjoy the result!

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