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Lovely work ! You mentioned "When lighting the scene, I used Light Functions to create the illusion of light passing through clouds, thus lighting the environment unevenly" do you think you could show what is the setup to get such a precise result ?(meaning highlight the area you want?)
Amazing art. I'm curious how the rocks manage to be such a natural part of the terrain! It really looks like they have been there for ages.
Tim Barton is a great digital painter, who does amazing depictions of virtual space. In this post he talked about the production of his beautiful images and the way you could use such pictures in video games.
I learned how to use Photoshop when I was a mere high-schooler and for years I did nothing with it. About two years ago I started making lots and lots of space art. My primary profession is a bridge design engineer, but ultimately I’d like to be successful enough with artwork that I can retire early and paint full time. That’s probably a pipe dream, but one can hope. These two professions don’t really overlap in any way except for the occasional 3D modeling of a bridge at work.
Building a Space Scene
The most interesting thing about my style is that it is almost totally random. I begin most paintings without any plan whatsoever except a vague: “Oh lets paint something green this time” or “lets paint something with a lot of depth”. I literally begin my paintings by spraying color around the canvas (in photoshop of course) and just see where it develops from there. So in a way my space art begins as one of those over-rated abstract modern art pieces, and turns into something that is definite clouds and stars. I think this creates better shapes in the cloud formations, because the universe itself is random in its assortment of light and stars.
When I begin a painting sometimes I will set out to be as realistic as possible, such as Amber of the Void and Solar Driftwood, which are literal painted copies of real astro-photography. Now that I’ve established that I can create them if I wish, I don’t see it as being quite so important. I do think a correct sense of scale is an absolute must. If a planet is as big as nebula that are usually thousands of light years across, that’s a big problem. A fellow space artist on Deviant Art has poked fun at me for painting green stars, since green colored stars do not exist in reality. I think as long as its beautiful I’m happy.
Skyboxes for Games
A skybox requires several iterations, since you have to paint over stretch marks and edges. The best policy is to avoid brightness beyond midtones, in my experience clients like to add bloom and over enhancements in game. Also you don’t want the background to be the center of focus. You don’t want to distract too much from those missiles and lasers coming at the player.
A nice shortcut with these skyboxes is to do a star skybox separately or generate the stars within the game engine. This greatly streamlines the nebula production pipline because stars are an eyesore if they aren’t seamless, but nebula can stretch a little bit. If there is any warping of the stars, the player instantly loses immersion and feels like they are in a giant box (which they are).
If you want to follow an even easier route, simply paint a panoramic with seamless right and left edges, then blacken out the top and bottom. Players don’t looks up as often as you might think.
My current method is pretty simple, I paint the nebula in Photoshop and use offset to make sure the edges are seamless. Then I transport into Pano2VR and convert to a 6 sided cube-map. Then I have to repaint the top and bottom faces due to warping. I highly recommend Photoshop, since it’s so adaptable.
An interesting experiment I’d like to try is to render a nebula in Terragen and simple rotate the camera around to get the 6 faces. In fact I think I might try this out tonight.
Creating Within a 3D Environment
Unfortunately the amount of detail needed, and the slowness of voxel cloud rending means that this might be a long way off. However, I have created some gorgeous scenery for Dominus Galaxia in which I take full advantage of the possibilities of parallax layers. I think it creates a feeling that you are inside the nebula when you move around. Check out this short video I made to show it off:
The Importance of Space
Think about it this way. Our planet is so incredibly small compared to the vastness of space. Its just a tiny speck of sand, floating through the vast ocean of the void. When we get outside our planet and look around we realize that we as humans aren’t important at all. It calms me down because I realize how unimportant things are. Its that scale and that enormity that make it so beautiful, and not just abstract slaps of color on a canvas.