How to Create Space Art
Regardless of your artistic level or what medium you choose to use, creating art that features outer space can be a bit difficult. Many of the things in space have never been seen without a telescope, so using reference images pulled from science books or internet searches is very helpful for many people. However, your space art doesn’t always have to look realistic like a photograph! There are definitely ways to simplify the process for small children, and it can also be tackled with more advanced tools like Photoshop and acrylic paints.
Creating an Easy Space Scene for Kids
Gather your supplies.You will need at least one sheet of watercolor paper, a set of watercolor paints with basic colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and black), a paintbrush, a black Sharpie and a white crayon. This is an easy and fun drawing of outer space that a young child will enjoy.
Draw the bottom half of a large planet in the top left corner.Put your pencil on the left edge of the paper, then draw a semi-circle that ends at the top left edge of the paper. It will look like a very large planet that is only partly visible in the top left corner of paper.
- This is much easier for kids to draw than a perfect circle.
- Make sure the entire planet isn’t visible! Only the bottom part of the planet should be visible in the top corner.
Draw a rocket and a few tiny planets on the page.These don’t have to be perfect, so use your imagination! Put the rocket approximately in the center of the page. To create it, draw a skinny rectangle and then add a triangle on top. Then draw flames coming from the bottom of it. Next, create 3 planets of various sizes by drawing a medium circle and 2 smaller circles. They don't have to be perfect circles!
- Spread the objects out over the page so that it looks full.
- Add craters and rings to the planets to make them a little more interesting.
Trace the lines of the drawing with a Sharpie.After all of the objects have been created, use a black Sharpie to trace over all of the lines of the drawing. Be sure to use a permanent marker, since regular water-based markers will bleed when the watercolor painting begins.
Add stars with a white crayon.Fill the background up with plenty of stars by drawing lots of tiny X’s all over the paper with a white crayon. You must press down very hard with the crayon if you want the stars to be visible after the background is painted black with watercolor paint.
Paint the rocket and planets first.Choose whatever colors you want for the objects, just make sure you reserve the black paint for the background only. You could paint the large planet orange, the rocket blue, and the tiny planets red, green and purple. Any other variation works great too! Allow the paint to dry before filling in the background with black paint.
- If you don’t wait for the paint to dry first, the black paint will bleed into the colored objects and vice versa.
- It should only take about 10 minutes to dry enough to proceed.
Fill the background in with black paint.Once the paint for the planets and rocket has dried, fill the background in using plenty of black watercolor paint. The white stars drawn all over the background with crayon will show through the watercolor paint. Once complete, give the painting about 10 minutes to dry fully.
Using Photoshop to Create Star Fields and Planets
Create a new document and make the background color black.Launch Photoshop and set up your document. The size is your choice, although the bigger it is, the more room you have to work with. 3000 x 2000 is a comfortable size.
- Set the background color to black.
- This will give you the backdrop you need to begin building your space scene.
Add stars with a small soft brush tool.Select this tool and begin adding white stars to the background. The stars should vary in size, so change up your brush size as you’re creating. Make stars that range in size from 1 pixel to 4 pixels. The amount of stars is up to you.
- Scatter the stars in a few choice places if you’re planning to add a lot of additional elements to the scene.
- After you’ve got your white stars in place, feel free to add a few that are blue, red and yellow. They should be mostly white, though.
Create a new layer and add colorful space clouds.Be sure your foreground is set to black and your background is set to white. Go to Filter > Render > Clouds. This is your new cloud layer. Go to the layer styles dialogue box and select Gradient Overlay. Choose a colorful gradient that appeals to you and include colors like blue, pink, yellow and green.
- After you’ve completed this, set the blending mode to Overlay.This will darken the image, so that the colors look are slightly muted.
- Your image should now have textured, colored clouds with a gradient.
Use the Noise filter to create space dust.Start a new layer and make it entirely black. Select Filter > Noise > Add Noise. Once you’re in the Add Noise Dialogue Box, choose a noise level that’s between 12% and 17%. Set the distribution to Gaussian. Select Monochromatic. Then set the Blending Mode to Color Dodge.
- You can adjust the appearance f the space dust by pulling up the Level Adjustment Dialogue Box.
- From there you can play with the settings, increasing or decreasing the amount of "dust" until it looks the way you want it to.
Create a planet by opening planet texture.Make a new layer and use the Clone Tool to get rid of the four black lines on the image. Press Control-Shift-Alt-E. This will merge the background and the clone layers into a new layer. Use the Elliptical Marquee Tool to grab a circle on the merged planet layer. Go to Filter > Distort > Spherize.
- Drag the planet that you just created into your main document.
- Use Ctrl-T to scale it down to your preferred size.
Add color to your planet.Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. Bring the Saturation value down to -87 and then use a Curves adjustment layer to decrease the lightness. Then create a Color Balance adjustment layer and choose your planet color by changing the Midtones settings.
- Add additional colors or shadows by creating new layers and brushing them on.
Painting a Space Scene
Brainstorm and sketch out your idea.Think about what type of scene you want to make. Will it have planets, stars, nebulae, asteroids, or galaxies? Look through pictures in science books for ideas. Do a quick, preliminary sketch of the space scene you’re envisioning. The sketch doesn’t have to be perfect! Its purpose is to help you decide where you want everything to go before you start painting.
- Be sure to include a light source, whether it's a sun or a self-lit object, like a galaxy.
- Draw arrows showing which way the light is traveling. Remember that light travels in straight lines out from the source.
- If you are having trouble visualizing your scene, use a light bulb and a ball to help you see the shadows and light.
Begin by painting the background black.Fill in your background with black paint, then add tiny white stars all over the black background. Be sure to make your stars different sizes. There should be small ones and large ones. Use white initially and then tint a few of them blue, red, and yellow.
- Create space dust by loading your paintbrush with white paint and flicking it onto your painting.
- If you are using water-based paints like tempera or watercolors, white areas are a bit more difficult. Plan out what will need to be white ahead of time, and don't paint anything over those parts.
Create nebulae with green paint.Space art always includes funky colored nebulae, so pick a vibrant color like green to work with. Paint wisps of green around the stars, working in a diagonal direction across your canvas/paper. Then paint wispy black strokes through and around the green wisps, which will add depth. It's perfectly fine to cover some of the stars with this.
- Covering up some of the stars will make them appear to recede, creating the illusion that the nebulae is in the foreground. This adds additional depth to the image.
- Choose a few other shades of green, such as lime green and greenish yellow, and add a few strokes of these colors here and there in your nebulae.
Paint a large orange circle on one side of the canvas/paper.This will be a giant gas planet. Just make it a simple color, like orange, for now. Paint some wisps in shades of gray, red, and brown around the planet. You’ll go back to the planet to add details a little later, but leave it like this for now.
Paint a small white circle on the opposite side of the canvas/paper.This will be the sun lighting the planet. Place it diagonally across from the planet – about 1/3 distance from the side and up a little from the center. Don't worry about drawing rays coming out of the sun. A simple white ball will do.
- By making the white circle smaller than your planet, you are creating the illusion that the planet is in the foreground.
- This means the planet is "closer" than the sun in the image.
Darken the side of the planet that is away from the sun.You want your light source – the sun – to appear accurately in the image. By darkening one side of the planet, you are creating the shadow that the sun’s light would cause. Make the outer edge really black and go lighter and lighter until you have a good shadow on the dark side of the planet.
- Add a small white crescent on the lit side of the planet.
- Make the thickest part of the crescent in line with the sun, so that it looks like the sun is lighting the planet.
Video: Elements of Art: Space | KQED Arts
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