This is page 7 of 7. "Nighttime Scene" begins here.
Real stars are behind everything except the black sky. That means move the stars layer in the Layers Bin just above the background. Drag and drop it into position. It moves kind of slowly so have patience with it.
This is where to put the stars layer because then they will show up behind everything except the sky which is, of course, the natural look. As you see it in the Layers Bin above is how this layer will always look. It looks empty.
That’s because the stars are very small and they are white. So even after the sky is filled with stars you won’t see them in your layers bin. That’s one good reason to name each layer; in this picture we have two layers that show nothing to the naked eye.
Right click on the layer and click “Rename.” The rename menu will appear in the main editor window.
Go to the Brush Tool near the bottom in the left column toolbar.
We are going to create stars. But I have to differentiate between the stars you will use and this one below. Do not use this star. It won’t work well.
Rather we will use the stars in this picture; located a bit higher in the menu than the one in the above picture.
1) Up near the top of your Photoshop screen; click on the second brush from the left. That will activate the correct brush.
2) We’re looking for the star brush. Click on the arrow at the right side of the “Selected Brush Presets” box. That will result in the dropdown menu for #3.
3) Find the correct “Star” brush using the slide on the right. Notice that the slide is about ¾ of the way to the bottom. Slide and watch. You may not see the shape of the star in this picture. It is six sided. Now click on the number 70, shown boxed in black. When you click on it that is how it will appear. In the box above, you’ll see the number change to “70 px”.
4) I created 8 stars in 4 sizes; two of each size. The first of each size I clicked only once; the second I clicked three times. You can see that up to a point each click of your mouse button brightens the star. That’s how you accomplish varying illumination with the same size star. It adds authenticity.
5) You can also accomplish this by slightly dragging the mouse as you hold the button. If you look closely at the three stars I created here; you can see the first [no mouse movement] is dimmer, the second [slight movement] brighter and the third [dragged quite a ways] looks bad; not “good” bad, just plain bad.
Keep the dragging in mind as you create your stars. The tendency is to gain speed as you create them and then you end up inadvertently dragging your mouse. If you get a long ways past a dragged star that you don’t like it is much better to clone over it from another area rather than trying to Control z all the way back to it.
I start out with a couple of stars at 125 or so. But I have fairly large picture files. The sizes will depend on how they look in your picture. You can make the stars much larger than 70 pixels by clicking on the blue box at the right of the “Size” box and then sliding the slider where you want it.
Now go to the bottom of the left toolbar. You’ll see the squares for the foreground and background color.
Click the upper left square. [Red in this picture]
Move the cursor circle way up to the far left corner of the resultant box.
Run it half way out of the color box and click “OK.” Look closely at the above picture; you will see only half of the cursor circle. That is the only way to get it pure white from this screen.
If you look at the bottom left you will see a box that says “Only Web Colors”
The menu will change to this one when you check the “Only Web Colors” box.
It is fine to click and use this white. It is easier to get pure white using this box. The only thing that “Web Colors” does is limits the latitude of colors available.
With your color set to white, it’s time to set the size of your first star. Go ahead and click somewhere in the sky and make your first star. Decide whether it’s too large, too small or just right.
If you click and don’t see anything, it may be your foreground color or you may be on the wrong layer. Check both the foreground color and what layer you are working with. If the stars layer is highlighted it may be behind another layer in the layers bin. Check and move it if necessary.
Once you can make a star; look further right on the upper toolbar. You will see a box called “opacity.” click that down to about 80%. This is another adjustment that will create stars that are the same size but look much farther away than comparably sized stars. It makes your Nighttime scene more realistic.
After a few large stars, go to the size and set it down to about ½ of what you have been creating. These two differences, along with the adjustments I’ve shown you, offer quite a variety of stars.
Be patient, keep creating, but be careful to not make them too large or too bright. They will overpower your picture and make it unappealing. You’ll notice that the picture I created for this tutorial has a surreal quality about it. One of the reasons is the size and brightness of the stars.
Start with a few large stars, 100 pixels or so; then smaller ones; more of those - - smaller, more and finally tiny and many, many. Use no pattern in the placement of the stars other than making it look appealing to your eye.
If you know or want to learn a constellation or two, it always helps to make your sky recognizable to viewers of your photos. People are attracted to things they recognize.
The rest of the sky is where the patience comes in; making hundreds of tiny, little stars that will barely show in the finished picture. But as Michelangelo is quoted to have said when questioned as to why he put so much time into the trifles. “Madam, trifles make perfection and perfection is no trifle.”
For a shooting star; set the star to a relatively small brush size. Click at the start point. Place your cursor at the end point. Press and hold the “Shift” key. Now click your mouse again. It will draw a straight line. Set the brush size slightly larger and click at the end of the line you just made. This creates the head of the shooting star.
Notice that the trail will show on top of anything in the background layer. If you have it going over the mast of a sailboat, just erase the part of the tail that covers the mast and/or rigging. Now it appears to be behind the mast, as it should; provided you are creating your stars in their own layer.
You have used a variety of tools in Photoshop to create your nighttime scene. You’ve learned your way around Elements more so than most people ever will. After this one lesson you can accomplish many other things. Enjoy that accomplishment and I would love to see a nighttime scene that you created.
This is my favorite nighttime scene of all. The photo was taken at night. It's hard to see at this magnification, but above the moon is a shooting star and above, and to the right the clock tower is The Big Dipper. They were all placed there using the techniques you learned on this page.
OK, so I'm going back on my word. I said all the pictures on this page except the moon were taken during daylight hours. Oh well, not this one.
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