AttentionThis post is an archived post. This means it is old or has been archived for rewriting in the near future. Please be aware that the contents of this article or page may be out of date. If you need assistance be sure to leave comments and our community can help you.
This tutorial will show you how to create a stunning burning meteor effect that can be used on any space scape, be it as the main centre piece or just a background detail. The effect can be used over and over again by swapping the original background image, so we'll show you how to set planets on fire and make suns appear that extra more realistic.
Create a new document 700 x 700 pixels with a black background colour. We're going to first make our meteor. We can do this one of two ways; either by using a stock photo or by creating it from scratch. Given the difficulty of photographing meteors, we're going to create ours from scratch in this tutorial. If you've got one, though, by all means use it and skip ahead to the next segment, Set Your Meteor and Rocks Alight with Fire
Creating the Meteor
We're going to create our meteor shape so that we have the base meteor to work with. Create a new layer and select the elliptical marquee tool. Holding down the Left Shift button, create a circle that fills the majority of your canvas but leaves the top clear. Keep playing around until your selection looks like this:
Fill this layer with any colour you like; it will not be visible when we're done formatting it.
Choosing your Rock Texture
This is the most important part of this tutorial in the sense that a meteor will look exceptionally bad if an inappropriate base texture is used. Remember that meteors are essentially gigantic rock clusters; they are not one smooth rock. When choosing a texture, be sure to choose a rocky one with plenty of detail. The more detailed our texture is, the more detailed our final meteor will look.
We can either download a stock photo of meteors, or use a photograph of an existing meteor. I'm going to be using an old Photograph lying around on my computer; Click Here to download this Rock Texture
. You don't have to use this photo, of course. Just make sure your image looks like a rock and doesn't have any visible edges or background detail, like flowers, fences or trees.
Paste your rock texture into your canvas so that it's the layer above the shape we filled in on the first layer. Your entire canvas should fill with your rock texture. We're going to remove the excess, but before we do, we're going to spherize is to make sure it maintains smooth edges. We only want to spherize the area our original selection is, though. To do this, CTRL and left click on the layer with our original shape on. This should make a circular selection.
Go to Filter -> Distort -> Spherize
in the menu. Because we're creating a cube essentially, we need to make our image as round as possible for maximum realisticness. Enter 100% into the amount and make sure Normal is chosen in the drop down menu. Click Ok, and your rock texture should spherize where our selection is. This will make your image look something like this:
Now we want to remove the excess texture from our meteor. To do this, CTRL and left click on your original shape again to get the selection. Once you have the selection, hold down Left Shift, Left CTRL and press I. This will inverse our selection (Or just browse the select menu and choose inverse from there). Press delete and it will remove all the excess texture from our meteor. Your image should now look like this:
Now we're going to tidy the edges up a little. Hold down left CTRL and click on our original shape again. This time, go to Select -> Modify -> Contract
. Enter 1 and hit Ok. Inverse your selection again like we did before (Left Shift, Left CTRL and I). We're going to blur the edges ever so slightly and feather them to make them smoother, and to make the edge of our sphere less obvious. To do this, go to Select -> Feather
and enter 1. Click Ok, and then press Delete. This will delete the feathered selection around our meteor, smoothing the edges out and making sure we don't have any of our flat texture from outside the sphere showing up.
You should notice that your shape is now showing through behind your meteor. No problem; just press the little eye on the left of its layer to hide it from view. You will notice that your meteor shape now looks a lot smoother. Problem is, it looks too smooth. Now comes the fun part where we hack and burn at our meteor to roughen its edges up to a realistic manner.
We're about to heavily modify some hard work. Always make a backup by duplicating and hiding the duplicated layer! This way if we make any mistakes or ruin our image unintentionally, we've got a backup we can use. To do this, select our meteor layer and press CTRL and J. This will duplicate the layer. Then press the little eye icon on the duplicated layer (It will say "Layer # Copy") and there's our backup.
This is a good habit to get into if you're not already.
First of all we're going to cutaway tiny little slits all around the edge of the meteor. They won't be very visible at the end, but it will help to ensure that our finished product doesn't look like one giant sphere. This is a simple process. Create a new layer anywhere in your document (it doesn't matter where it is in the layers pallete, this layer will not be visible, nor will it be staying). Ctrl and left click our original shape layer (the plain circle) to get its selection again. Press ALT and DEL to fill the selection with our foreground colour. Again, it does not matter what colour it fills it with as we will not be saving this layer.
Press CTRL and D to deslect our selection. We're going to add a ripple to this new layer to roughen its edges up. Go to Filter -> Distort -> Ripple
. Enter 700% for the amount and make sure the drop down menu is on Small. This should produce the following effect:
If yours doesn't look like that, then it means your new, rippled layer is below your meteor in the layers pallete. No problem, just hide your meteor layer briefly to make sure yours looks similar.
CTRL and Left Click on your new ripple layer to obtain this as a selection. We're going to feather it ever so slightly to make sure we have no hard edges. Go to Select -> Feather
and enter 0.5 as the value. Inverse the selection again like we showed you earlier (Left Shift, Left CTRL and I) and press delete on your meteor layer
Now you'll notice the edge of our meteor has dozens of tiny indents. It doesn't look realistic yet, but I guarantee this is a necessary step. Now we're going to cut some little indents out ourselves. Unfortunately there is no step by step guide for this stage; you have to do this on your own. The best way of cutting out realistic little dents is either with the lassoo tool or with a small, feathered eraser brush. I'm going to use the polygonal lassoo tool to do mine, though.
Try not to take too big chunks at a time. We want to keep this meteor looking realistic and dozens of chunky, big holes scattered around the edge won't look realistic. Remember what we said before; make a copy of your layer before you play around with it.
Try very sparingly to use long strokes. The longer the dents are, the less realistic they'll look when we're finished.
When you're finished, it should look a little something like this:
The last stage of making our meteor is raising and lowering the shade randomly of the texture. As it currently stands, our whole meteor is lit up. The next step of the tutorial, where we set our meteor on fire, will help with this, but let's make it even more realistic by applying a few filters now.
I experimented for awhile with this step and found the best result to be the simplist. We're going to go nuts with a brush and paint some black on. Select a 45 pixel big feathered brush from the brush menu. Set the opacity to 50% and the flow to 80%. Create a new layer above your meteor layer. Left Click on the original shape layer again to get its selection. Using the brush, we want to paint rough patches over our meteor. Make sure your colour is set to black and press multiple times occasionally for a darker effect. Try to keep the cover as even as possible, though; make sure there's no blotches or blobs of dark that're distinguishable from the rest of the black.
For a realistic effect, paint the bottom lower half more heavily than the rest. Once you've done this, your image should look a little like this:
It looks too much now, though! So we're going to lower the opacity of this layer a little. Move the slider down until it looks just right. Mine is set to 71%. For further realism, we're going to blur it as well. Go to Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur
. Blur it by 3-4 pixels.
Lastly, we want to lower the overall tone of our meteor texture. To do this, once again left click on the original shape layer. With this selection, create a new layer just above your meteor. Fill our selection and this new layer with black. Lower the layer's opacity to about 20-30%, depending on the brightness of your original texture.
We're about done with making our meteor base, so we're ready to get onto the fun part and set it on fire. Below is my result: