Interstellar Scenes, Part 1: Create A Nebula in Photoshop


  1. Start by creating a new layer and naming it StarBG. Fill the layer with black by using the Paint bucket tool (G). Then convert the filled layer to a Smart Object by right-clicking on the layer and choosing "Convert to Smart Object" from the menu.

  2. Why do we use Smart Layers? The reason for using Smart Objects for our layers is that when we apply filters, they’re applied in a non-destructive manner, which allows us to adjust as we need to without destroying the underlying image.

  3. Now create a starfield by filling the Smart Layer with noise. Go to Filters > Noise > Add Noise… and use these settings:

    Amount: 200%

    Distribution: Guassian

    Monochromatic: Checked

  4. While still on the StarBG layer, goto Filters > Blur > Guassian Blur. Set Radius to 2px.

  5. Next, go to Image > Adjustments > Levels and enter: 146, 1.0, 154

You have now created your starfield. You can adjust the appearance of your stars by adjusting the Guassian Blur or Levels layers.


  1. Create a new layer, and go to Filters > Render > Clouds.

  2. Select the Magic Wand tool (W), then change the tool settings to:

    Sample Size: 3 by 3 Average

    Tolerance: 64

    Anti-alias: Checked

    Contiguous: Checked

    Sample All Layers: Leave unchecked

  3. Use the Magic Wand tool to select an area of the clouds layer. Up to you, whatever you would think looks nice.

  4. Right-click on the selection area, and change Feather to 20 pixels.

  5. Right-click and select Layer via Copy. Now convert this new layer to Smart Object. Hide the original cloud layer.

  6. Once again, go to Image > Adjustments > Levels. Adjust the levels so that you have more contrast between light and dark areas.

  7. Create a new layer above your Smart Object layer. Now, select the Brush tool (B). Open up the Brush Settings tab, and go to the Brush Tip Shape tab. Change hardness and spacing to 50%. Select a brush-size that works for your purpose. Here, I’ve used a brush-size of 102px. Next, select Color Dynamics. Inside the Color Dynamics tab, make sure that "Apply per tip" is selected, and then change the settings on Hue, Saturation, and Brightness Jitter to 25%.

  8. Now that you have your brush set up, trace over the cloud area on the new layer. Once you’re done, go to Filters > Blur > Guassian Blur, and set the blur to 20px and click . Set the layer’s blending-mode to Multiply or Color.

  9. Copy your cloud layer, and move it above the color layer. Set its blending mode to Screen, or Color Dodge, or Linear Dodge. Play around with the blending modes for this layer until you have the look you want.

And there you go.

Next week in the Interstellar Scenes Series—Part 2: How to Create Planets in Photoshop

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