While I’m still tinkering with the texturing and smaller details of the mesh of my alternate USS Enterprise, I thought it was time to create a space scene. The majority of sci-fi renders of spaceships incorporate of combination of nebulas, clouds, suns, stars and planets, and unfortunately I did not strain from these conventions. In my defence these cliched elements provide a physical source of exterior illumination rather then an invisible light.*
First I rendered out a view of the Enterprise to bring into Photoshop. I made sure to make the render a TIFF file and included an alpha channel. In Photoshop the alpha channel masks/eliminates the space around the Enterprise, making the lower photoshop layers visible. I decided to use a nebula and a planet as background objects, with the nebula being the main light source. The next step was creating these objects in Photoshop.
For the planet I followed the general guidelines of this tutorial, as I felt the result was the best out of all the tutorials I found. I used this tutorial to create the nebula, though I made several additions to the workflow to personalize my design. Once I was satisfied with the nebula and planet I turned off the ship layer and saved an image file of the nebula and planet. I reopened the 3D scene of the Enterprise and used the space scene as light source for Global Illumination and re-rendered the scene. The new render of the Enterprise was brought into Photoshop file and after some adjustments with the Curves tool I saved out a composition which combined the ship, nebula, and the planet. Click the thumbnail image to see the final result.
*This is only true if the main light in the scene is a backlight. If the camera is between the main light and the object then the main light should obviously not be visible in the scene.