A good starry background is the key to any space skybox, thumbnail, or just about anything relating to space. Today, we’re going to be creating a beautiful starry background in Photoshop in just a few simple steps. In this tutorial, I’m going to be using Adobe Photoshop CC 2018, but CS5, CS6, or an earlier version of CC will do just fine. Let’s get started!
First, you’re going to want to create a new document by pressing Ctrl + N on your keyboard or by navigating to “File > New”. You should be presented with a standard new document prompt that looks like this (in earlier versions of Photoshop this prompt will look a little bit different):
You can make your canvas size whatever you’d like, but for this tutorial I’m going to be making it 1024x1024 pixels. When you’re all good and ready, hit “Create.”
You should now have a blank canvas. This is where we’re going to make our star background. First, navigate to the color palette in the top-right and select black as your foreground color.
(If the color palette isn’t there, go to “Window > Workspace > Reset Essentials”)
Now we’re going to select the paint bucket on the left (or press “G” on your keyboard) and turn our canvas black by clicking it. Now that we’ve got a nice black background, it’s time for the real fun to begin! Navigate to the “Filter” menu, and then to “Filter > Noise > Add Noise” like shown below.
Adding the Noise
Upon clicking “Add Noise” you should be prompted with a window that looks like this:
Add Noise Window
Now we’re going to change the amount to 400%, set the distribution to “Gaussian”, and then click OK. The canvas should now look like an old TV with no signal, like this:
Ye Olde TV Static
Now we’re going to blur the noise ever so slightly so that the stars won’t look too sharp. Go to “Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur”. A window should pop up that looks like this:
Set the Blur Radius to about 0.5 and then click “OK”.
Next we’re going to make it actually look like stars! Go to “Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels” and click “OK” when the window pops up. After clicking OK, the new layer should be automatically selected and a properties window should appear. We’re going to be adjusting the midtone input level to achieve the starry effect. The midtone input level is controlled by the middle slider and the box right below it which should have 1.00 as the current input. We’re going to change it to a range of 0.05 to 0.1. If you want it to be darker, set the midtone level to a number closer to zero.
(I have the midtone input level box selected in the screenshot in case you need help finding it!)
Once you’re happy with the brightness, we’re going to desaturate the stars quite a bit, because they usually aren’t that colorful. So go to “Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation”. A window should pop up, but we don’t need to change of the settings, so just click “OK”. The new layer should be automatically selected and a properties panel that looks like this should appear:
Now, drag the saturation slider down to anywhere between -80 to -90 for good looking color. You may have to readjust your levels after this to get a look and feel that you want.
And that’s it! A beautiful looking star background in just a few simple steps. Time to get out there and make something amazing with it!