Tutorial: Turning marbles into planets in Adobe Photoshop

I have always loved marbles! They are so pretty, with their almost infinite amount of colours, patterns and textures. While I was at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland this year on holiday, I came across lots of marbles, and it occurred to me that they could play the role of planets in a space-themed image. After having some fun experimenting, I thought I would make a tutorial out of it!

Step 1 – Make the Background

I started by making a new Photoshop document, at 2000×2000 pixels at a resolution of 300 dpi, before filling the background with black. To make the star-filled background, I used a set of completely free brushes that I downloaded from DemosthenesVoice on DeviantArt.

I started by placing a very bright star in the top-left corner of the image, in order to provide a focal point and to be the factor from which every other element will be affected.

Star Brush in Adobe Photoshop

To increase the effect a Lens Flare is needed. To achieve this, add a new layer, fill it with black and go to Filter> Render > Lens Flare, choosing the settings you can see below. To make the background visible, the blend mode needs changing to Screen.

Lens Flare settings in Photoshop

Lens Flare added to star brush in Adobe Photoshop

Now the main star is in place it’s time to add a new layer, select a small star brush and change the Brush Settings to the values in the images below.

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 14.07.24 Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 14.07.39

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 13.56.06

Step 2 – Preparing the marbles

For this step, I picked some marbles, and placed them on a white cloth so I could take a photograph of them. However, I quickly found reflections were the enemy here, so I tried to keep away from windows and selected marbles that were not overly reflective, to minimise the reflections. Once the photos were taken, I opened each one and using the Elliptical Marquee Tool, drew a selection over the marble.

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 11.15.38

I then copied the selection and pasted it into the document, and positioned them where I wanted them to be. As you can see I made some adjustments to the colour and vibrance of the marbles, using some settings on the Adjustments Panel, most noticeably to the green and yellow marble, which I chose to make orange and brown.

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 14.13.46

To allow the marbles to fit in around the stars, I added a layer mask to the star layer, and using a black brush set to a size slightly larger than the planet, clicked a couple of times to hide them.

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 14.17.16

Step 3 – Adding the shading to the marbles

To turn the marbles into planets, it is important to focus on the shading. As we have a light source provided by the star in the top left corner of the image that means the shadows will be thrown to the right. To achieve this we need to add a couple of Layer Styles, an Inner Shadow, and a Bevel & Emboss, the settings for which vary according to the size and positioning of each marble. Below are the settings for one of them.

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 14.31.14 Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 14.31.20


So that’s it! The great thing is that there are so many variations that can be achieved based on the marbles and effects that you use. While I have found the effects in this tutorial to be helpful to me, you may find that other effects work better for you.

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