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Advancedish Planet (Image Heavy)


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This tutorial is available as a PDF. Click here to view or download it

Plugins required:
Random Lines (Optional)
Anti-Alias (Optional)
Outline Object (Optional)

Part 1 - The Continents

First, create a new canvas, preferably with your monitor's resolution. In this case, 1280x800.
You may also wish to make a perfectly square canvas, using the smaller number of your resolution. Meaning, if you have 1280x800 resolution, you should make the canvas 800x800.

Next, keeping the default black and white, Render some clouds. (Effects>Render>Clouds) Keep the roughness at default, but make the scale a pretty large number. I'll do 575.

Now, Posterize it. (Adjustments>Posterize) Set all three settings to 2. These will be your main continents.

Next, create a new layer, and render some clouds again. But this time, lower the scale to something much smaller, say, 315. Posterize once again.

Now change the top layer's settings to either multiply or additive. Either way works. If you want black to be your oceans, and white land, set to multiply. If you want white to be the oceans, and black the land, set to additive. Now, merge those two layers together.

Now select the magic wand. Set the tolerance to 0%, and change it from Contiguous to Global, then click your ocean. In my case, since I chose multiply, click the black. If you chose additive, click on the white. Now that all the water is selected, hit the delete button.

Part 2 - The Ocean

Next we'll be creating the water for your ocean. Select a nice, dark Navy Blue. I'll be using #00093F. Add a new layer, drop it down under your land, and use the paint bucket to fill the entire thing.

Now you can get more creative. This part you can pretty much do whatever you like. Select the normal blue, and swap to your paintbrush, setting the size to about 50. Now, on a new layer, paint around the edges of your land.
Or you could use the Outline Object tool, makes it a lot easier.

This part's not completely necessary, but you might want to hide the continent layer and use the paint bucket to fill in anything you missed underneath the continents. Ignore the little lines it might leave; you won't see them later.

Once again, add a new layer. Set your paintbrush to a smaller size, and again paint around the edges of your continents. This time, pay more attention to detail.

Again, this isn't necessary, but hide the continent layer and use the fill tool to again fill in the places you missed underneath the continents.

Now merge all three of those water layers together, and blur them. (Effects>Blur>Gaussian Blur) I use Gaussian Blur Plus, but I suppose normal Gaussian Blur would work fine.

Blur it all together at a fairly large setting of 135.

Now, Dent it. (Effects>Distort>Dents) Use these settings, or similar:

Scale: 107.16
Refraction: 21.57
Roughness: 33.33
Tension: 10 (default)
Quality: 2 (default)

I didn't in the example I'm using for this tutorial, but you'll really want to raise the roughness to about 45-60; the end result is much, much better. Now your ocean is pretty much done, and your planet is beginning to take shape.

Part 3 - Land!

I've found a somewhat better way of doing the first steps of the land. Instead of doing rough clouds, just draw all over like crazy with some Earthly browns and greens with a 40-60 paintbrush. Gaussian blur of about 100, and then the dents part.

For an added 3D-ish effect, duplicate this layer, and on the new layer, Stylize>Relief at a 0.00 angle. Set that to overlay or glow, your choice.

Alright, now we begin creating the land. First up, select any two Earthly colors you like, preferably two brownish colors. Create a new layer and Render some clouds again, with the Scale staying at 315, and the roughness at about 0.65.

Now add yet another layer, and choose a green color as your primary. Set your secondary color to completely transparent. Render some more clouds. Leave the roughness same as last time, but set the Scale to as high as it can go. (1000)
Now, you can stop with that, or you can use any other technique you can think of to add more earthly colors to your land. I added a few more greens.

Next, more dents! Lower the refraction to your liking (I went down to 3.77) and raise the roughness to about 58.

Now, temporarily hide your earthly-colored layer so you can see your bland white continents. Use your magic wand with 0% tolerance and global again to select your ocean. Then, go back to your ground color layer and hit delete. Now you can see those pretty blues again!

Alright, now we'll add some beaches. Because yes, you can totally see the sand in beaches from orbit IRL. Trust me. I'm a doctor. Use the magic wand to select the ocean back on your land layer. Add a new layer, and select/create a sandy color. I'll be using #D8C255. Use the fill tool to paint in your oceans on this new layer.

Hit Ctrl+I to invert your selection. Then go back to Gaussian Blur, and set it to about 14. Hit Ctrl+I once more, delete, and now you've got some sandy beaches!

Duplicate the Sandy layer. Swap to your white continents and use the magic wand to select all the land at once. Then swap back to your duplicated sandy layer, and add some dents.

Keep the same settings as last time, but change the refraction to 22. Additionally, you may wish to set that layer's opacity to about 100. This adds a nice little effect, especially to the smaller islands.

(At about this point, I realized I somehow got a ton of land added where there should have been water. Ignore how the two largest continents suddenly become much smaller)

Now, on the white continent layer, once again select your land using the magic wand. Add a new layer underneath your colored continent layer. Change your primary color to Cyan (Aqua blue) and fill where the land is. Ctrl+I to invert your selection, and Gaussian blur at around 14 again. Ctrl+I once more, and hit delete.

Now, much like what we did to the sand, duplicate the layer, and add some dents. Change the opacity to 100.

Alright, now you're done with your land and ocean! On to the clouds! (At this point, you may wish to save it as a PDN, and then flatten all the layers)

Part 4 - Clouds

Alright, so now we start making the clouds. First up, add a new layer. Change your primary color over to white. Now, if you have the random lines plugin, great. If not, you're gonna be drawing lots of lines with the line tool.

(Random Lines Plugin) Alright, good for you, you have the random lines plugin. Now let's use it. Effects>Render>Random Lines. You'll only be changing two settings. First, quantity of lines. Set that to something around 75-85. I'll go with 79. Then set the thickness (max) to 18. Make sure the thickness (min) is at 0. Now hit Ok.

(No Random Lines Plugin) Sucks to be you. Select the line tool, and set the thickness to 18. Draw lots and lots of lines with no order. Make it completely random. And I mean LOTS. About 75-85. I'll go get a snack while you do that.

Alright, now you have your random lines. Now, select your eraser, set it's size to about 60, and go crazy with it. Erase huge chunks, leaving little bits and bunches of lines together. These will be your clouds.

Next up, another Gaussian blur. 14, again.

Now, dents again. Now you have nice, fluffy, rather realistic-looking clouds. Prett cool, eh?

You'll probably want to make that layer a tiny bit transparent, about 210 opacity. Save as a PDN (Under a different name then last time) if you want, and then flatten. Now it's time to turn this 2D map into a 3D Planet!

As pointed out in the replies, you can use the twist effect to make hurricanes and such.

Part 5 - Space: The Final Frontier.

This part's pretty simple. Load up Shape3D (Effects>Render>Shape3D) We're only gonna change two settings. Set the anti-aliasing to 3, and turn the specular highlight off. Hit Ok.
If you have a square canvas (800x800) then change the texture map from 'Full Sphere Map' to 'Half Sphere Map'. The result is generally way better.

Now, add a new layer and move it down behind your planet. Select your fill tool and paint it black. Then add some noise (Effects>noise>Add noise) with approximately these settings: Intensity: 100, Color: 0, Coverage: 1. Now you've got some stars!

Now to give your planet some atmosphere. Use the magic wand to select outside the planet, and add a new layer above it. Select an atmosphere color, like a light sky blue, and fill in the space around your planet. Then, add another layer under the planet, hit Ctrl+I to invert your selection, and paint underneath the planet.

Keeping the planet selected, go back to the top layer with the blue space and do another Gaussian blur, this time at a setting of about 40. Hit Ctrl+I once again, and then delete.

Now swap to the blue layer underneath the planet, and hit Ctrl+F to blur again. (you may wish to use whatever method you prefer to anti-alias the top atmosphere layer) And at long last, you are done! Ta-da, a neat looking planet!

Here's one that turned out better, using rougher ocean dents than the example.
Post your own results! :)


Edited by Woodsy
Rehosted to Postimage.
  • Upvote 2

"Sir, we're surrounded!" "Excellent, we can attack from any direction."

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Wonderful !

I would just suggest to improve the realism of the clouds by adding a few Distort/Twist effects.

In the following example I have used four twist effects with Amount between 20 and 10 and Size between 0,5 and 1.

I am also trying to add a few mountains, but I am not happy about the result.



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Here is a mountainous planet (usually you can’t see the mountains from space, but I wanted to do it anyhow).

My solution is :

  • Add a new layer under the clouds
  • Select the continents
  • On the new layer, create clouds with Scale 250 and roughness 1
  • Use Dents with Scale 200, Refraction 80, Roughness 10, Tension 10
  • Unselect all
  • Use the Bucket with the “Global” flood mode to fill the empty areas with a neutral grey (code 808080)
  • Emboss
  • Set the layer blending mode to Overlay


Edited by Romur


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I ended up getting lost because I did the water/land thing backward, but as usual, I cheated my way with my digital art and ended up doing it my way. I don't think it came out so bad. I also did something nifty with the clouds by using less of a rough edge and refraction. I also did a two-colored atmosphere based on the color scheme, which probably isn't scientifically possible, but oh well.

Hopefully you like.


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  • 2 weeks later...

Great tutorial.

I tried to make it into the shape of the planet from Halo: Combat Evolved, but I failed miserably. Maybe I'll try again later... boltbait.hmm.png

Yes, you did, didn't you. Maybe try the inside out plugin from somewhere.


I changed my signature. HAPPY??!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thanks for the tutorial! I found it very interesting and helpful.

For the sake of time, particularly on larger planets, it may be easier to create the ocean by duplicating the continent layer and then using the Outline Object plug-in instead of tracing the entire coast by hand.

I made the edges of a small map match so that I could animate the planet.


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The clouds could use some work but the land and water is Suuuuuu@%*ingperb!!! I've been turning clouds into continental shapes for a while but never went this far!! WOWWWWW!!!!!! :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

I'm gonna try animating this. It's been a while since I've done some hardcore PDN'ing; I think you have revived my hobby!!

Space...The Final Frontier. -James Tiberius Kirk; circa 2260s


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The atmosphere would be more realistic if it matched the lighting of the planet. Make sure the atmosphere is flattened to one layer, then use a black and white gradient in transparency mode to make the atmosphere fade with the lighting.

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Here's my first try at it:


I'm workin' on the gif but it shows the mesh between the sides of the map when it turns. :/

As for my latest project I'm making...Earth. I'm using this as a base, and here's a WIP:


There's more layers with other greens and even deserts and beaches, but for now I'm just working on studying maps and using transparency gradients to bring them out. :)

Space...The Final Frontier. -James Tiberius Kirk; circa 2260s


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  • 1 month later...

Thanks for the replies :3

I especially love that animated spinning one, IOException, how the heck did you do that? I tried to do something like that, but I failed miserably. xD

Sorry for not responding sooner - it's been a while since I've gone on the forums.

It wasn't that technical, but it took a long time to do. The hardest part was making the edges of the continents, oceans, and clouds blend together, but I made this a little bit easier by translating the map so that the seam was in the middle and later making some clouds cover up anything that still looked awkward. Because redrawing the edges of the continents takes so long to do well, I did this on a small map, but there is probably some way to make it be practical for a large map.

I saved the completed map, used Shape3D, made the background and atmosphere, and then flattened and saved the image. Next, I unflattened the picture, replaced the globe with the map, used Shape3D with an increased y-axis rotation (by default, axis 2), and flattened and saved that image. After repeating this a lot, I had images for each part of the 360° rotation, which I animated using the Animated Image plug-in.

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  • 1 month later...

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