Use this video tutorial to create a realistic-looking planet in After Effects by using some free video elements from our Nebula freebie pack.

Almost all motion graphics designers or VFX professionals will need to create a space design at some point in their career. According to the 2018 Creative Trends report from Shutterstock, searches for space related elements on the Shutterstock website are reaching astronomical levels. So, you can expect some clients to be asking you to make some space looks this year.

The Nebula freebie pack is just the thing to help you do the job. It contains 19 completely free and organically created (shot with some lenses and a camera in a studio) space background elements. While these elements are great for creating epically expansive wide shots of galaxies and nebulas, it’s also great for creating many different types of textures and even planets.

In the below video, we’ll show you how to use these elements to create a space scene with planets, different levels of depth, and show you how to customize these elements to be the galaxy of your choice.

Create Space Ambience

The first step to creating any convincing space scene is to build quite a few layers of depth. One great way to do this is to create some more subtle textures at various positions in z-space.

There are many ways to do this. For example, one common way to build depth in a space scene is to use a Fractal Noise effect and alter the contrast and opacity till it creates a subtle look in the background. But if you have the option to use an organically created element instead, the result is much more convincing. In this case, we used one of the Fractal Ambience elements from the Nebula pack to create some subtle space gas/dust.

It’s important to create multiple layers as well. This way, when the camera moves it creates parallax depth and makes it feel as though these objects are covering miles or lightyears of space. Start with a star field layer and push it about as far back in z-space as it will go, then build other layers of ambience on top of that, pushing each layer further forward in z-space.

Create Your Planet

To create a planet using these elements, it’s as easy as using a circle shape layer to create an alpha matte for your nebula element layer. There are quite a few options in the pack that can be used to create convincing planets and even suns.

After you create your alpha matte, a way to add another layer of realism is to use the Bulge effect to give the planet a more spherical look.

You’ll also want to soften your alpha channel by adding a slight Gaussian Blur to your shape layers.

Make Clouds Or Atmosphere

From there, you can create multiple layers of depth within the planet as well. Consider giving the planet clouds, or various other layers of terrain. Each time you do a new layer for the planet, push it into a different depth in z-space so that it creates even more parallax. This is the key to making a realistic look.

You can also add subtle layers of depth in front of the planet in z-space as well, so that the camera can move past it.

If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out the Nebula pack and check out Shutterstock’s 2018 Creative Trends report to get an idea of the types of projects you might be asked to work on this year.