The Internet is full of tutorials for Photoshop. Most are so complex that it takes a glutton to wade through them. In my experience, a fair share aren’t worth the effort.
My approach to creating space art begins with the creation of a library full of components, starting with a star field. For more, please visit Photo Innovations blog. I am not into taking screenshots and going into a step by step explanation. If you are beginner in Photoshop, you would probably find it frustrating. Instead, I try and explain my approach which I hope will help the more adept Photoshop users and give some insight into how really simple, although sometimes laborious creating space art can be. Mostly it depends upon the complexity of the scene. I sometimes end up with a hundred layers, and some of those imported layers are made up of dozens of layers, so it can seem daunting. As complex as it may sound, once you have a library built, new scenes can be put together in a matter of minutes, although most of what I create takes several hours.
The real trick is to build everything with a transparent background, and leave all the components as PSD files. Never flatten. If you want to combine elements, save as a PNG, never JPEG. Only save as a JPEG when you want a finished copy of your project. Remember, any element you create can be used again, and in space, most of the elements are the same, just arranged in a multitude of configurations. Your library will soon become as infinite as space itself.
Some elements, such a spacecraft become a little more complex, and detailed surfaces of planets become a bit more of a challenge. Remember, most creators of space art don’t have million dollar budgets like James Cameron in Avatar as pictured above. Note my much more simplistic craft above.
Even with the limitations of Photoshop, with the right elements, stunning sets can be built. Above is a shot from the Bisti Badlands in New Mexico. The scale is out of proportion, but with the placement of a person and shadow, you would never guess that the person should be almost as tall as the bluffs. Add a sky and a ringed planet, and ta-dah, you have an alien landscape. Below is more of the Bisti.