October 17, 2010


Creating Planets and Planetary Rings in GIMP

This tutorial is very easy and the end result is all about what you prefer, so have fun playing around with colour and texture!

Creating Planets and Planetary RIngs

Creating Planets and Planetary RIngs

1. Download Texture + Import

  • Download this rust texture from CG Textures (you will have to make a free account, but worth it!)
  • Bring it into GIMP on a 1600px x 1200px document, go File –> Open As Layers… (Ctrl+Alt+O)
  • Apply Motion Blur, go Filters –> Blur –> Motion Blur: Linear, Length 256, Angle ~30, repeat 2-3 times for a smoother blend:
  • Then, crop your layer to around a third the size of your page – use the Crop Tool (Shift + C): Fixed Ratio (Square), Current Layer Only:
  • We are cropping to the size of the planet, so it is a rough crop, but make sure it is square.
Motion Blur

Motion Blur

2. Lens Effect

  • Firstly, *Right Click* on layer > Add Alpha Channel:
  • To apply a little distortion for a more realistic curve, Filters –> Light and Shadow –> Apply Lens:
  • Settings: Make surroundings transparent, 1.80:
Lens Effect

Lens Effect

3. Add ‘Space’ with HSV Noise

  • Create a New Layer, ‘Space’, place at the bottom of your layers (Ctrl + L) toolbar:
  • Using HSV Noise you can imitate space – Fill the ‘Space’ layer with Black:
  • Go, Filters –> Noise –> HSV Noise, with similar settings as shown:
Adding 'Space'

Adding 'Space'

4. Adding Shadow

  • Create a New Layer, ‘Shadow, place at top of layers:
  • To make this planet part of a solar system add shadow to the bottom corner of your planet!
  • Using the Gradient Tool: FG Only: Black, Radial:
  • Stroke from the edge of your planet to the centre:
Adding Shadow

Adding Shadow

5. Adding an ‘Atmosphere’

  • Create a New Layer, ‘Atmosphere’, place below ‘Shadow’ layer:
  • On your Planet layer, *Right Click* > Alpha to Selection, and then select ‘Atmosphere’ layer.
  • Now, Select –> Border: ~20 pixels, Feather border:
  • And using the Bucket Tool fill Whole Selection at ~75% Opacity with a similar colour to your Planet: bd5b2d
Adding an 'Atmosphere'

Adding an 'Atmosphere'

6. Planetary Ring: Cloud Texture + Whirl and Pinch

  • Create a New Layer, ‘Rings’, place at top of layers:
  • Using the Paint Bucket Tool fill with Black:
  • Go, Filters –> Render –> Clouds –> Difference Clouds:
  • Settings for Difference Clouds: Seed: 5, Detail: 15, Tillable, 10 x 10:
  • Then, Filters –> Distorts –> Whirl and Pinch:
  • Settings: 700, 0.5, 2:
Planetray RIngs: Clouds Texture

Planetary Rings: Clouds Texture + Whirl and Pinch

7. Deleting Centre + Outer Sections

  • Using the Selection Tool with Fixed Ratio, 1:1:
  • Select a proportion of the centre and delete it (Edit –> Clear), as well as the outer edge:
Deleting Centre + Outer Sections

Deleting Centre + Outer Sections

8. Transform + Rotate

  • Using the Scale Tool (Shift+T) transform your ring horizontally, do it manually:
  • Rotate your ring to ~30°, using the Rotate Tool (Shift+R):
  • And move (M) to your preferred position!
Transform + Rotate

Transform + Rotate

9. Add Layer Mask + Colouring

  • On ‘Rings’ Layer, *Right Click* > Add Layer Mask, and using the Paintbrush Tool: FG Only: Black, Circle Fuzzy (19), Size: 10
  • And, paint out the side of the rings that shows over your planet:
  • Set your ‘Rings’ layer to Mode: Screen:
  • Add a bit of colour, Colors –> Colorize:
  • I have tried to match the colour of my Planet!
  • Try Hue and Saturation, if you need to do more colouring!


That’s It!

You can download the .XCF file here!

For a more ultimate guide to individual planets checkout this tutorial!

Thank you to a friendly reader for suggesting the idea!

If you get stuck anywhere just comment below!

If you’d like to use these photographs please Contact Me!

Please comment below if you have any questions and I’ll answer them ASAP!

All images on this site are copyrighted© – All Rights Reserved.

Written by Mike

Michael Scott is the publisher and photographer behind Scott Photographics! He is very passionate about his photography and enjoys sharing the best of his experiences for others to enjoy too! Contact Mike via email!
Read more from Featured, Gimp, Tutorials
22 Comments Post a comment
  1. Stephen
    Jul 28 2013

    Great tutorial! I didn’t realize it was so easy to make the rings from scratch. The onlt thing I can see, and i know it really isn’t a big deal, but, distance of the rings from the planet seems too close.

  2. May 30 2012

    Hi Craig,

    Yeah it is a bit hard to always get the right gradient, so just experiment around with the gradient tool.

    Otherwise, you are doing everything right!

  3. Craig
    May 30 2012

    For the life of me I cannot create a gradient like you did for the shadow. I’m using the FG to Transparent gradient with black as the foreground color and radial selected. I don’t know how you could help me without seeing what I’m doing. When I drag from the edge of the planet to the center, I just get a small circle that doesn’t spread very far. Anyway, the planet looks great.

  4. Feb 1 2012

    Hi Connie,

    Try using Colorize instead of the Paint Bucket to colour your rings.


  5. Connie
    Feb 1 2012

    when i click on the rings layer and hit fill it fill the planet in blackish gray

  6. Alan
    Oct 30 2011

    NVM i found it XD
    Well i think i finished…but when i want to colorize its says that colorize only works on RGB layers :(
    But thanks man Great tutorial!!

  7. May 1 2011

    Hi Lacey,

    I haven’t had this problem before! Have you tried reinstalling GIMP?

    I will put the .XCF up for you to download, at the bottom of the post!

    Sorry I cannot help further!


  8. Lacey
    Apr 23 2011

    The motion blur gives me this error: Plug-In “blur-motion.exe”
    (C:\Program Files\Gimp-2.0\lib\gimp\2.0\plug-ins\blur-motion.exe)

    tried reading from invalid drawable 2 (killing)

    Please help!

  9. Apr 10 2011

    Great to hear Duco, thanks :)

  10. Apr 10 2011

    Thanks for this tutorial! It helped me a lot!

  11. martijn
    Feb 9 2011

    Very nice tutorial i am now busy with my home work but when i am done i will definitely give this one a try.

  12. kiran
    Nov 26 2010

    i would like some tutorial on making banners….

    recently i had seen an icon collection of hearts there was one icon with heart which had a banner in front of it , i would like to know how to replicate it or even better to make something like that.

  13. Oct 27 2010

    A very strong opinion, but I accept your feedback! What would you like to see instead? Do you have any suggestions for future tutorials?

  14. zo3
    Oct 27 2010

    Sorry but the result looks horrible.

  15. Oct 22 2010

    Hi Rob,

    It is a bit unusual for the Noise to come out orange, I haven’t been able to replicate it?

  16. rob stanton
    Oct 21 2010

    Hi I’m having trouble making the space background, every time I try it the “stars” come out as orange and not white, also the rings need some explanation for me at least !

  17. Oct 19 2010

    Thanks Patrick!

  18. Oct 19 2010


    I’m a big GIMP fan and user and love this.

    Thanks very much for taking the time to make the tutorial available.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Edge of the Empire Style Guide | Consummate Gamer
  2. Creating Planets and Planetary Rings in GIMP | checkwebdesign.com
  3. Creating Planets and Planetary Rings in GIMP - GIMP Tutorials
  4. 40+ Best GIMP Tutorials of 2010 | Scott Photographics | Free Photography, GIMP & Photoshop Tutorials

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