Space Photo Art

A few days ago, my friends and I were pitching an artist friend ideas for what to paint. One of them said “Do something space related!” which didn’t spark her interest. It did, however, spark mine, and I declared I’d make some space-themed photo art in 5 minutes. However, once I got started, I liked what I was doing enough to switch it from a timed exercise to an exercise in discovery and practice. I’m fairly satisfied with my final result, although I fully admit it’s more of an experiment than a finished piece. Here you go!

The space piece.

I did the whole thing with gradients, other than the blue and purple stars, which I did with the default Supernova tool. Oh, I used GIMP, by the way. Let me share with you some of my favorite elements:

The white nebula-looking thing in the top left is a Flame initially created with a Neon Red gradient of my own design. However, I didn’t like how the red interacted with the rest of the photo, so I experimented. Eventually, I found increasing the brightness and contrast, which I thought at first somehow made it pure white in a manner I quite liked, and chose without additional thought or consideration. However, when I revisited it later, I realized it had specks of red which I had not intended. I was about to reverse the effect by desaturating the layer when I remembered how Hubble space photos are actually created by coloring pixels in correlation with the concentrations of oxygen, hydrogen, etc. found there – blue for oxygen (if my memory serves me correctly), and so on. I realized that the red could be interpreted as a potential result of this effect, so I decided to leave it, especially since I liked the speckled red anyway.

My favorite planet is the swirly looking one above the red star. I wanted to make a machine-style planet, but I couldn’t find a satisfactory way to get it done with the texture I had in mind, called Metallic Something. So, I created a new image, and had GIMP generate a maze inside it. Then, I selected all the white inside the maze, and filled it in with Metallic Something, repeated bi-linearly. Now I had a techy-looking texture. After that, I brought up the Map Object tool, and had GIMP wrap the texture around a sphere. As a result, I had a planet made out of my texture, which I took out of the separate image and dropped on my main canvas.

The asteroids in the lower right aren’t particularly good-looking, but I’m proud of them regardless, mainly because of the method I used to create them. Not satisfied with the results of GIMP’s perfect circles and ellipses, I tried drawing roughly asteroid-looking regions using the Free Select Tool. It produced excellent, natural-looking shapes. After that, I selected the Browns gradient, and the Gradient Tool, configured to fill in the selection. I tried just filling in the selection and leaving it at that, but it looked too perfect, too bright. So, I then selected the gradient fading from the foreground to transparency, and put black in the foreground. I made sure filling the selection would result in the black being around the edge, started the process, and it worked. The asteroid had a 3D feel, because the black gave the feeling of shadows. I made three more, making sure they felt different beyond shape by reversing the gradient on two of the others, and changing the manner in which the selection was filled from spherical to angular on one of those two, as well as the otherwise untouched one. The result was four natural, if sedimentary-looking, asteroids.

Well, that’s all I’ve got. Feel free to contact me for the file, but you can always just save it yourself!

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