Monday, 12 March 2012

Making Solar

Okay, so after some interest, this is a brief guide on how I do my space pieces - referencing one in particular: Solar.

I start with a 1600x1200 pixel canvas for most of these, and import a 4000x4000 pixel 'star' canvas I made for such purposes - find a section I like and flatten the canvas.

Click to view a larger version on DevianArt
The star canvas itself was made utilising the 'add noise' filter in photoshop.

  • Basically, make a black canvas.
  • Goto filters/noise/addnoise. I set mine around 7%, but you can experiment as you wish.
  • Duplicate the layer and add a 'soft light' blending mode.
  • Flatten the Image.
  • Duplicate again and get Godlike blotting out stars as you see fit - this should add a feeling of randomness / depth, though there are many other ways to achieve this.
  • Once I'm satisfied, I usually play around by duplicating the layer again and having another go with the brush / blending modes to be sure. Shouldn't take you more than a couple of minutes.
Now you've got that down, add a new group with a new layer inside - as you'll likely be using a lot of layers in this, it's very handy to add a new group for each new element you add to the piece.
  • Open the brush pallette and open any kind of brush you fancy.
  • Set your brush mode  to screen, and set the opacity low  (up in the toolbar area). Choose a very dark shade of any colour you fancy and go at it - some heavy strokes, some light strokes, maybe some gaussian blurring if it looks too hard when you're done (filters/blur/gaussian blur - i go from 5 pixels to 50 on layers like this).
  • Now you'll need some kind of cloud brushes - I personally recommend these for beginners and advanced alike as they've a good range of uses: LINK. Use these with the eraser (at around 40% opacity). to cut away from the mess you just had fun making. Eventually you'll get something that looks like steam.
  • Add a new layer using screen or linear dodge blending modes and repeat with the brush and eraser technique. Change colours if you want. Experiment with blurring or a little use of the smudge tool if you want, and keep going until you've got something that's beginning to look like it has some body to it. This is what you could call the happy accident stage.
You can see around the third step in the image provided, a rather salmon coloured smear. This was my happy accident as I decided I should make that area my focal point in this piece.
  • I added a sphere of orange (via custom shapes tool) and set it to screen, rasterized it and blurred until its was softened. You might want to repeat this step and also repeat the technique with the cloud brushes mentioned earlier to give this developing sun some 'heat' texture.
By this point I've got my theme for the piece running, and add new layers on soft light blending modes highlighting  and shading areas of the canvas (using just black and white) as I see fit. You can use any brush, but either make its a soft looking one, or blur the layer a bit after so it isnt too harsh. Also ensure when doing this step to uncheck the screen mode for the brushes as black will often not show and white will often be too opaque! - and reapply the mode afterwards.
  • I add another circular shape, and blur only slightly to take away the hard edge, and detail with a few overlay blend layers to give it a textured feel - suggesting sunspot / surface activity. I've also unchecked all brush settings and added one or two small highlighted stars in the background with a plain brush at 50% hardness. I use several sizes to heighten the depth.
Its at this point I realise theres been another pleasant happening - I can see the beginning of what looks like a solar flare, and begin work detailing it, and adding new layers of 'nebula' to the foreground and background.

  • I just use the exact same techniques used so far - albeit on a smaller scale for details like the flare. 
  • Try lots of different brushes to add shapes and textures - maybe even import elements of another image and use the same techniques again to get that edge you want to the piece.
At this point you can pretty much run with it yourself - though I do suggest  saving a PSD before exporting as JPEG - then you can come back to it later on and maybe utilise elements again, or fix that one little thing that might bug you in two days time.
Also, try opening the JPEG file, duplicating the layer a few times and on each, goto image/adjustments and use the auto-colour/contrast/levels and yet again repeat playing about with opacity and blending modes to produce a variant piece. Often you will find this produces variant hues and shade that you were not aware may fit in your image.

A larger version of the 'steps' image from this post is available on DevianArt - simply click the image or go HERE!

Have fun and stay experimental!

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