FanExtra Network


Members Area Tutorial: Photo Manipulate a Complex Space Station Scene

In this tutorial I’ll show you how to create a sci-fi artwork featuring a space station. You will learn advanced blending techniques, but also some fantastic drawing, lighting and detailing techniques.

Final Image

As always, this is the final image that we’ll be creating:

Step 1

Create a new document and fill it with any colors you like. I get used with white canvas. You can start with the size you want but set the width larger than the height (mine is 1300×1000 px).

Hit Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+N to make a new layer. Press G to active Gradient Tool. I choose Radiant Gradient with two colors of blue as they are very easy to be edited.

Drag a line from the top left to bottom right :

We have a background with the bright part at the top left as I want it to be main light source for this picture (fit the light direction on another elements used in next steps).

Step 2

Open starry sky stock. Drag it into our main document, resize and choose a part to be shown on main layer. You can choose the part you like but better not choose the brightest part at its bottom:

Name this layer “star background”.

Click the second button at the bottom of Layer Pallete to add layer mask for this star background. Now use soft black brush with different opacities to mask off unwanted parts (I clear stars on the bright part at the top left where the main light source will be set and blur another parts). You can see how I applied this brush in the screenshot shown the layer mask below:

This is result we have:

Change the mode of this layer to Lighten 100%:

You can see that most of stars disapreared or much blurrier.

Step 3

Now I want to make remained stars on background more promiment and sparkle. On this star background, go to Layer-New Adjustment Layer-Levels and choose Clipping Mask option for this layer:

Step 4

Open nebula stock pack. I choose this one to work with but the choice is yours. Place it on the top of layers with the part shown below:

Hit Cmd/Ctr+T to transform it until the brightest part of it set on the top left:

Use layer mask to blur some parts:

Change the mode to Soft Light 100%:

Call this layer “nebula 1″.

After changing mode to Soft Light this picture becomes bit darker. To fix it, I use a Levels layer with Clipping Mask:

Step 5

Create a new layer and I use star brush, number 1148 with color #e0f5fc (light cyan) to spot on some parts over the background avoiding the top left (no need to paint much). Before painting press F5 to make settings for this brush as the image below shows:

Remember to vary brush size to get more natural result:

Step 6

In this step we will add more details for the light source. Come back to nebula stock. Use Lasso Tool to make selection for this part and move into our main background, at the top left then transform it (Cmd/Ctrl+T):

Change the mode to Screen 70% then use layer mask to remove rough edges:

Name this layer “nebula 2″.

Step 7

Copy another part from nebula image and place it at the top left again. You can see I always choose the section with stream of light ( as we’re creating main light source):

Press Cmd/Ctr+Shift+U to turn this part into black and white:

Then go to Edit-Transform-Flip Horizontal:

Edit-Transform-Warp and tweak the edges of this part as shown below:

Use layer mask to remove selected parts:

Change the mode to Soft Light 100% and rename this layer “nebula 3″:

Step 8

Make a new layer on the top then fill it with black.

Go to Filter-Render-Lens Flare:

Change the mode to Screen 70%:

Now use transform tool (Cmd/Ctrl+T) to turn the light circle upward as the image below shows:

Use layer mask to remove another circles and rough edges:

Call this layer “light on the top” or whatever you feel easy to remember.

Step 9

I use an adjustment layer to change color of picture a bit. Go to Layer-New Adjustment Layer-Photo Filter:

Step 10

Open space stuff 1. As it has transparent background you just need to make selection around this structure and use Move Tool (M) to place it at the middle section of our main picture and scale it down to get suitable size:

Name it as “station”.

We’ve set the main light source on the top left and it fits the reflected light and shadow direction of the station but when you look at shadow intesity of elements on this structure you can see it’s very solid so I think the light on it must be brighter. Also we need to change the color of it to fit the rest. On station layer, go to Layer-New Adjustment Layer-Color Balance (Clipping Mask):


Step 11

Open pipe stock. Copy a pipe and place it under station bottom, also set this layer under station one:

Choose Edit-Transform-Flip Horizontal to make the light and shadow of this pipe fit background:

Use Cmd/Ctrl+T to make the top of this pipe narrower:

Step 12

Duplicate this pipe many times (I did it nine times), scale them into different sizes and place around the station bottom:

To edit all the pipe layers together, I group them. Make all pipe layers selected then hit Cmd/Ctrl+G to create a group. To show all layers inside this group, click the small triangle beside group button. Then change the mode of this group from Pass Through (default mode group) to Normal 100%. I rename this group as “bottom”:

Step 13

I use an adjustment layer to change color and brightness of these pipes. On the top of “pipe 10″ layer, go to Layer-New Adjustment Layer-Curves:

Because the mode of this group changed to Normal 100% (no Pass Through) so this Curves layer only affects the pipe layers inside this group.

Step 14

I think the pipe parts which catch the light from background should be a bit brighter. Make a new layer above Curves one (within this group). Hold down the Cmd/Ctrl key while clicking pipe 10 layer thumbnail to load its selection. Then use your another finger to hold the Shift key while clicking all another thumbnails of pipe ones to load their selections at the same time:

Use soft white brush to paint on the left side of these pipes then change the mode of this layer to Soft Light 50%:

Step 15

Open space stuff 2. I choose this one to make the top of station:

I use layer mask to remove side parts of this top with hard black brush (don’t use soft brush as it will leave unatural look):

Step 16

In this step we will make shadow for this top part. As you’ve known already, the main light comes from the top left and it creates a shadow on the right for this top.

Create a new layer under this layer. Load selection of it as done with the pipes in previous step then fill with black:

Use transform tool to turn it downward and into the right:

Use layer mask and hard black brush to remove unecessary parts (sides):

I keep the opacity of this shadow layer as 100% to fit the hard shadow of another elements on this station.

Step 17

To change color of this part, I use some adjustment layers (Clipping Mask).


Hue/Saturation (to reduce red and cyan tone of some small parts):

Step 18

I notice some unwanted black parts on the top and unwanted highlights on the left and want to fix it. There are several ways to remove it but I use Clone Tool.

Make a new layer above adjustment layers in previous step (Clipping Mask). Use Clone Tool to paint over indicated parts after choosing the source with approriate light (hold down Alt key to choose source). Here is my result:

Step 19

In this step I use some layers (Clipping Mask) to fix the light and shadow on this top part. On the first one I use soft black brush with opacity and flow about 50% to paint on the right side and put the mode as Soft Light 100%:

On the second I use soft white brush with opacity about 40% and 20% to paint on some parts on the left to brighten them a bit also create some soft highlights. I set the mode as Overlay 100%:

Step 20

To create more sci-fi look for the top, make a new layer above all anothers. Use Pen Tool to create a path along a black part as shown below:

Set foreground color to #e0f5fc (light cyan) then press F5 to make settings for brush:

Click P to choose Pen Tool again, then right click the path on the picture, choose Stroke Path:

Add layer mask for this layer (I name it “light spots 1″) and use hard black brush with very small size to remove random spots as the screenshot below shows:

Duplicate this layer and name it “light spots 2″:

Step 21

Do the same with under black part and name these layers “light spots 3″, “light spots 4″:

Step 22

Come back to space stuff 2 again. Choose this ball and place it above station part (not top) then apply Flip Horizontal for it:

Duplicate it three times and place around the station:

I call them from “ball 1″ to “ball 4″.

Make shadow for ball 2,3,4 as we did with top part:

Ball 1 will be turned into different shape and added shadow later.

Step 23

In next step I aim to make a ball that’s split into two and spaceships will fly away from it. Duplicate ball 1 and hide one of them (so you can come back and edit later if making any mistakes). On the another, use Pen Tool to trace a half ball (you don’t need to be so precise but make sure that the traced part not smaller than this half ball at least):

Press Cmd/Ctrl+Enter to turn the path into selection:

Right click this layer, choose Layer via Cut then move it away from the another half:

Rename these layers as “ball 1 part 1″ and “ball 1 part 2″. Use transform tool to turn these parts into left and right:

Step 24

Make a new layer above ball 1 ones. Make selection on the right edge of ball 1 then fill it with black:

Duplicate it and move to the left after flipping it horizontally:

Name them “edge 1″, “edge 2″.

On any layer of ball 1 parts (I choose part 2), make a selection as shown below then press Cmd/Ctrl+C to copy this selection:

Make a new layer above ball 1 ones. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+V to paste copied part into this new layer. Move it a bit to the right:

Name this layer “inside edge 2″ (as we’re working on edge 2).

Load selection of edge 2 (which on the left) then click Add layer mask button then lower opacity to 30%:

Do the same with edge 1 and call this layer “inside edge 1″:

Step 25

Create a new layers under ball ones. Make shadow for ball 1 as done with another balls:

Call it “ball 1 shadow 1″.

On another new layer, use hard black brush with opacity and flow 30% to paint carefully under ball 1 to make its cast shadow. Blur the top:

Step 26

Make group for all ball layers and their shadows as done in step 12 (remember to change the mode to Normal 100%). Then add a Curves layer to change color and brighten these balls:

Step 27

As you may see, the light and shadow on the balls does not fit the light direction from background. I use a new layer with Overlay mode 60% and take soft white brush painting on the left side of them:

On another layer (above this one), use soft black brush to darken the right side of the balls. Put the mode as Soft Light 100%:

Step 28

In this step we will retouch the parts inside the edges of ball 1 to make it look more realistic. Make a new layer above ball group, set to Overlay 100% and fill with 50% gray:

Take Dodge Tool with Midtones Range and Exposure about 50% to paint on some part inside and outside of the edges. You can see how I used this tool with Normal mode:

Overlay mode:

Step 29

Make a new layer on the top. I use brush with color #f48a60 and paint on the green lights on the balls and some another parts. Set the mode as Hard Light 100%:

Step 30

Open spaceship stock. You can choose the ones you like but better the ones in the same series (you can take spaceships from space stuff 1 but I found them harder to adjust color and the movement).

I duplicate selected ships once or twice, resize to be much smaller (look at the size of the ball) and place around the background and foreground and transform them into different movements. Remember to make the ones on foreground a bit bigger:

Name them from “ship 1″ to “ship 8″.

Make group for the ships and use an adjustment layer to change their color. On the top of ship 8 layer, go to Layer-New Adjustment Layer-Color Balance:

Step 31

The ships look pretty dark so I use similar method as done with pipes and balls to brighten it. Create a new layer above Color Balance one (within this group). Use soft white brush to paint outside edges of these ships and set the mode as Overlay 100%:

Step 32

We’ll make spaceship trail in this step. Create a new layer on the top (out of ship group). Use soft brush with color #f48a60, about 60 px to spot on background:

Make a new layer and use smaller brush (35 px) with color #f8eabb to paint on the bottom of this orange spot:

Merge two these layers. Use Cmd/Ctrl+T to transform it as shown below:

Make a new layer again, use brush with color #f8eabb to paint at the bottom of this trail. I change the mode to Overlay 100%:

Make it longer and narrower with Cmd/Ctrl+T:

Step 33

Name these layers “trail part 1″, “trail part 2″. Make group for them (don’t need to change the mode of this group). Right click this group, choose Duplicate Group. Hide trail group (unmerged one) then right click duplicated group, choose Merge Group. Now it becomes a normal layer and now we duplicate it seven times (as we have 8 spaceships). Transform them to fit the positions of the ship bottoms and use layer mask to remove any unwanted parts. Rename them from “trail 1″ to “trail 8″:

Step 34

We’ll add more fire for the trails. Open fire stock. Copy this fire part and place into our main picture and change the mode to Screen 100% to remove black part then downsize it:

Transform it to get the look below:

Duplicate it seven times and place them above the ship trails. Name them from “fire 1″ to “fire 8″:

Step 35

Now we’ll take care of this part. I don’t know how to call it exactly but I want to add a digital touch to it.

First make a new layer on the top. Use Clone Tool to remove this line as I find it unecessary:

Step 36

Create a new layer and hit T to active Text Tool. Set foreground to #e0f5fc then choose Arial font (you can use the font of your taste) with 15 pt and type a line of text with number of 1 and 0 then duplicate it 19 times, arrange them as shown below:

Make all text layers selected, then right click, choose Rasterize Type. Merge all these layers and we have a normal layer.

Use Cmd/Ctrl+T to transform it and place inside the part indicated in previous step:

Add layer mask to remove the parts outside:

Name it as “digits”.

Step 37

Make a new layer on the top. Use brush with color #f8ad56 and size 6 px. Spot three times on the part shown below:

Name it “orange spots”.

I use three layers and brush with color #f8ad56 painting above these spots. I set the mode of first layer as Overlay 100%, the second as Hard Light 50% and the third as Screen 100%:

Name these layers from “light 1″ to “light 3″.

Step 38

Continue with a new layer, use Retangular Marquee Tool to draw a selection with feather =5 then fill with color #f8ad56:

Transform it:

Go to Filter-Blur-Gassian Blur and set radius as 4 px:

Duplicate this layer and change the mode to Overlay 50%. Call these layers “light 4″, “light 5″:

Step 39

In this step we will add some tiny orange light spot for the station parts. Make a new layer on the top. I use hard brush with color #f8ad56 and size from 1 to 3 px. Spot randomly over the parts of station:

Step 40

Make some adjustment layers on the top:

Gradient Map:

Set this Gradient Map layer to Soft Light 80%.

Color Balance:

Selective Color:

And We’re Done!

You can view the final outcome below. I hope that you enjoyed this tutorial and would love to hear your feedback on the techniques and outcome.

Member File Download

Download the original .psd file for this tutorial here:


Leave a comment


No comments have been posted yet. Be the first!

Leave a Comment:

Related Posts