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Planet Exploding – Fireball in Photoshop CS4


Your first step will be to find a free stock image of some dry and broken ground. I found a perfect picture over at stock.xchng. This is the image I’ve selected – it’s been opened in Photoshop CS4 and resized for this tutorial to 550px x 368px.


STEP 2 – Invert

Invert the image colours by pressing CRTL+I or going to Image > Adjustments > Invert. The resulting image is shown below.


STEP 3 – Make A Planet

We’re now going to make a planet! Start by adding a background layer of black to your image (replacing the default white one if you have it)

Next – grab the elliptical marquee tool and drawing a circle over your image. Holding the shift key while dragging will keep the circle in proportion.


Once you have your circle, click the refine edge button from the toolbar at the top of the page. I’ve set the radius to 2.0 and the contract/expand to -1. Hit ok!


Next we need to remove the unwanted area of the image. To do this we need to select everything except the circle we have made. This can be achieved by inverting the current selection: Select > Invert or Command+ Shift+I (CRTL+Shift+I on the PC).

Once you have the inverted selection, hit the backspace key to remove the rest of the image, leaving you only the circle in the middle. The black background created at the beginning of step 3 should now be showing.


STEP 4 – Spherize

Now we have a planet, but its not particularly spherical. Luckily Photoshop CS4 has a tool to solve this problem.

First we need to re-select our planet in the middle by inverting the selection again. Select > Invert or Command+ Shift+I (CRTL+Shift+I on the PC).

Next select: Filter > Distort > Spherize. I used settings: Amount 100%, Mode Normal. Personally with this image I feel that the step needs to be repeated to produce a better sphere – So i repeat using Amount: 35%.


STEP 5 – Polar Distortion

Next is the really clever Photoshop CS4 Magic.

Deselect your planet by hitting Command+D (CRTL+D on the PC) and then go to: Filter > Distort > Polar Co-ordinates. Set the mode to Polar to Rectangular and hit OK. For the next step we need to turn the image on its side, so select: Image > Image Rotation >90 CW.


The next step adds the explosion detail. Select: Filter > Stylize > Wind. Using settings: Wind, and From the Right. Now return your image to the correct orrientation by selecting: Image > Image Rotation >90 CCW.


STEP 6 – Reform the Planet and Colour!

We’re almost there now – we just need to reform the planet into a sphere and colour it. To reform the planet go to: Filter > Distort > Polar Co-ordinates but this time use the Rectangular to Polar setting.

We should be left with our plannet, with the wind streaks acting as explosion blasts.


From here, its up to you to colour and edit the picture to look how you like it. For the below effect; I’ve added the following layer filters and effects:

Hue/Saturation: Hue -180, Sat +37
Vibrance: Vibrance +60, Saturation +10
Colour Balance: Cyan/Red +17, Yellow/Blue -9
Levels: Output Levels 0 – 227

I’ve also added a background of stars and some text to finish the image.


So I hope that helps you Matt! Every image will turn out slightly differently depending on which broken ground image you use to begin with. Good luck!