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Create an Outer Space Scene Using Gradient Noise in Photoshop

Check out our Photoshop: Drawing Objects In Photoshop course!

Buried away inside the Gradient window is a rather cool effect. It allows you to create highly complex gradient swatches that are useful for a number of effects like backgrounds and textures.

In this Photoshop article I’ll show you something you can do with the Noise setting inside the Gradient Option window.

You can create gradients in two ways in Photoshop: Firstly with the Gradient Tool and secondly with the Gradient Overlay Layer Style. I’m going to use the latter as I find it’s good for auditioning results and once you have a gradient it will be available in the Gradient Tool if you need more control.

To set this up, create a layer and add a Layer Style.

Layer style


Check Gradient Overlay and click on the gradient swatch.

gradient swatch


In the Gradient Type drop down choose Noise.

Choose Noise


You will be immediately be presented with some crazy mess on your layer! This is Gradient Noise.

the gradient noise


Now you're not stuck with this mess as there’s plenty of control. The first thing you can tweak is the Roughness parameter. This will smooth out the transition between the color and can provide some really nice background effects with the right color palette.

Roughness parameter


Speaking of color palettes you can choose between three modes of adjusting color: The first is RGB (Red, Green, Blue) then comes HSB (Hue, Saturation, Brightness) and then the LAB (Lightness, a,b opposing color spaces—don’t ask!!) color picker.

three modes of adjusting color


The sliders on each color mode will allow you to control or restrict the range of colors used in the noise.

Color mode sliders


You can also add random transparency to the gradient as well by checking the Add Transparency check box.

Add Transparency


The Randomize button is a never-ending source of fantastic looking gradient swatches and you might find it hard to know when to stop with this one.

Randomize your gradients


Planet Effect

So what can you do with this? Well, here’s a very quick example that’s quite fun: 

Once you have a gradient you like, convert the Gradient Overlay Layer Style to a new Layer. To do this Control-Click the Layer FX and choose Create Layer.

create a layer


By default this new layer will be clipped to the layer below so just Option-Click (Alt on the PC) between the layers.

the clipped layer


On your Gradient layer apply the Ocean Ripple effect from Effect > Distort > Ocean Ripple.  You don’t want too much and you can probably see where I’m going with this.

Ocean ripple effect


Now you’ll need Photoshop Extended for this as we’re going 3D! From the 3D menu choose New Shape From Layer > Sphere

3D Spehere


After some adjusting some of the lighting you get a rather convincing gas giant effect.

A planet is born


By adding a bit of Outer Glow and some stars in the background (rendered from After Effects using Particular) you get the start of a nice little space scene:

Adding the background


Obviously this is just one way you can use Gradient Noise. It’s great for background effects and don’t forget you can use it with the Gradient Shape modes like Radial (planet rings, anyone?), Diamond etc! 

Bring on the noise!


Download the Photoshop project file here.

Check out our Photoshop: Drawing Objects In Photoshop course!

Toby Pitman

Toby Pitman | Articles by this author

For the past 20 years Toby has worked as a professional guitarist, programmer and producer. Clients include Sir Paul McCartney, George Michael, Shirley Bassey, Yusuf Islam, Giles Martin as well as the London 2012 Olympic Ceremonies. He has also worked extensively in TV, Advertising and Film. As well as composing himself he has also worked alongside many composers like David Arnold, Clint Mansell and Simon Franglen on many major film releases. An expert in synthesis and sound design Toby has also lectured for Apple on their Logic Pro music software which he has used since its days on the Atari. He has also worked as an educator for the International Guitar Foundation and the Brighton Institute of Modern Music teaching guitar. In his spare time (of which there is very little) he moonlights as a motion graphics artist specialising in Cinema 4D and After Effects.

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