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Starry Night Sky

In this tutorial we will master a few of the more basic techniques in Photoshop to create a wonderful starry night sky. You will learn how to use gradients, shapes, and layer styles, and also how to import custom brushes to enhance your images.
Once you have opened photoshop go to File>New and this window will appear.
Give your image a name, then choose the size you want your image to be.
2500 pixels is a fairly generous size for this kind of work, but you will usually find it is better to choose a large size to start your work with, then decrease the image size once you’ve finished, if necessary.
With your settings chosen, click OK, and you will be presented with your canvas.
First off we will create a gradient which will act as our sky.
At the bottom of your layers panel you will find a button like this:
Click on it, then choose Gradient from the menu that pops up.
This adds a Gradient Fill adjustment layer to your layers panel.
The gradient will cover your entire canvas, it’s settings can be adjusted antime by clicking on it’s thumbnail.
So after creating your adjustment layer this box will pop up.
It shows the basic settings for you gradient.
For this gradient all we want to change are the colours, the other settings can remain as they are.
To do this, first click on the little box showing the current colour settings of your gradient, circled above.
In the presets box click on the first colour option, which is a basic two-colour gradient going from white to black.
Then click on the little white box, then on the Color box to choose the first colour.
You will be presented with another box where you will choose the first colour for your gradient.
You can either drag the cursor to your preferred colour, or type in a pre-chosen one.
With your colour chosen click OK, and you will return to the Gradient Editor.
Now click on the little black box at the other end of the gradient bar, then on the Color box.
Choose your second colour.
Click OK, then when you are taken back to the Gradient Editor click OK again.
Now you will be taken back to the first dialog box.
There are no more changes you need to make to your gradient, so click OK.
So now you have your sky.
To add the stars we will download a brush set from the internet, then add it to our brushes in Photoshop.
You can find a huge variety of brushes on the web, and a lot of them are free to download and use in your own work.
Our stars will come from a set on deviantArt here.
Once you have downloaded the brush set click on the paint pot icon to show the brush settings.
At the bottom of this box there is a small button which is circled above.
Click on it to bring up a window that shows all the brush shapes you currently have available to use.
To add the brush set that you’ve just downloaded, click the Load button.
Now find the Stars brush set, then click Open.
With the stars now added to you brushes, find the solid black one and select it.
To change the colour of the brush to something more star-like, click on the colour box in the toolbar on the left hand side of your screen.
Select a light yellow colour, or type in the code shown below.
When we come to paint the stars, we will do so on a new layer.
To add a new layer, click on this button at the bottom of the layers panel.
You will see a new blank layer appear.
Make sure you have your new layer selected, then begin to paint in your stars.
Start with larger stars then gradually decrease the size.
You can easily adjust the size of your brush by pressing [ or ] on your keyboard.
Next we will add some much smaller stars using a regular circular brush.
We will add these in a new layer, so as before, click on the new layer button.
To easily identify each star layer, give the layers distinguishable names by double-clicking on them.
Now find a circular brush with it’s hardness at 100%, and no bigger than 9 pixels.
Because we don’t want to create actual brush strokes, we will take the spacing up to maximum.
This means that when you drag, your cursor you will be painting individual dots, rather than a continuous line.
Once you have finished painting your stars we will give them a glow.
First select the larger stars layer.
Double-click on the layer to bring up it’s Layer Style options.
Select Outer Glow from the menu on the left.
Now enter the settings shown above.
Next double click on the smaller stars layer.
The settings will be the same except for the size if the glow which is decreased to 50%.
With your stars finished, we will now create the moon.
We’ll do this by first creating a circle shape.
Click on the shape icon in the toolbox, and choose the oval shape.
To make the shape circular hold down the shift key whilst you drag it out.
The circle should, by default, be the same colour as the stars you painted earlier.
If it’s not, all you need to do is double click on the shape layers thumbnail, and choose that colour again.
Now right click on the shape layer and choose Rasterize Layer.
This will transform the layer into a regular layer.
To give the moon a crescent shape we will select a circular area and delete it.
Choose the oval marquee tool.
Drag a circular shape over the moon (again, holding the shift key).
It is difficult to get the selection right first time, so go to Select>Transform Selection to correct it, if need be.
Then all you need to do is tap the delete key on your keyboard.
As with the stars we will give the moon an outer glow.
Use the same settings that you used for the larger stars earlier.
For an added glow we will create a radial gradient.
So click on the adjustment layer button at the bottom of your layers palette, and choose Gradient.
This time set the gradient’s style to Radial.
And rather than having two colours, we want just one colour that fades into transparent.
So choose the second option in the presets box, then change the colour to the one we used for the stars (feffe6).
Rasterize this layer so that we can edit it as a regular layer.
Now position the gradient over the moon.
You may also want to resize the gradient depending on how far you want the glow to radiate across you image.
With the gradient layer selected, take it’s opacity down to 80% which will decrease the intensity of the glow a little.
Your layers panel should now look like the one below.
To finish off I will show you how to group and merge layers.
To group the layers together, select them all, then drag them down to the folder button.
Now all your layers are in one folder.
To duplicate this folder drag it down to the new layer button.
And to merge all the layers in this group into one layer, right click on it and select Merge Group.
Now you will have a folder containing all the layers that make up your image, and also a layer with all these layers merged together.
One final step will be to give the whole image a slight blur.
This will take away any sharp edges.
With the merged layer selected, go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur.
Choose a very small radius, 0.8 pixels will be enough for this image.
And that’s it.
Silhouetted landscapes like the one below work great with this simple style.
This one was created in just a few minutes using the shape and line tools.
I applied the same layer style used for the stars to give a glow to the windows.
Questions, help, feedback? Leave comments below!