A quick guide to getting good colour from old Earth photos

I notice that people often post old Apollo era shots of Earth, unprocessed, in some cases reproduced from faded prints.

Well, haze in the atmosphere dulls down all shots from space, but it’s REALLY easy to fix. I’ll be using Photoshop elements, but you can do the same with pretty much any image editor, including the free open source GIMP. Similar options are available on tablets and phones.

The same techniques are a good start in restoring scans of old family photos.

 Here’s the original image.

An unprocessed Apollo photo of Earth. Note how faded the colours look.

Continue reading “A quick guide to getting good colour from old Earth photos”

Modelling CGI rockets, part 2, worked example

So, in part 1 I showed you how to locate and work with references.

Here in part 2, I’m going to work an example, the Mercury Atlas. I’ve done it in one long part again so it’s easy to print. (Handy hint! You may be able to print to PDF to get a portable version…)

I’m not going to give blow by blow instructions to build the model yourself, but you should see enough examples of techniques used to address common elements in modelling rockets.

Now I have Rockets of the World, so I can use the dimensioned plans from that – small version follows, (deliberately too small to use, as its copyrighted).

Mercury Atlas
Mercury Atlas

But you can do a good job without. Using methods described in part 1, I was able to locate some perspective free views, at good resolution. Click for a larger image: Continue reading “Modelling CGI rockets, part 2, worked example”

Lunar Renderings

As it came up in a couple of different circumstances, I thought I’d write a post featuring some of my Lunar renderings. The Moon was one of the first things I successfully rendered in 3d – The simple shape made the modelling easy, and just adding a colour channel texture and a bump map meant I could produce nice views of the Moon from any angle.

The current model.

The current version of my Lunar Model has 46 million polygons, and the craters and mountains are modelled using displacement mapping. In other words, the features are done with proper geometry, so the crater walls cast shadows.The colour texture map is about 1 gigapixel, so really large high resolution views are possible. Continue reading “Lunar Renderings”

A guide to modelling CGI rockets, part 1, references.

Some of the most popular items I model are rockets, and to be honest – they are not that difficult. The basic shape is normally a series of cylinders and tapers, topped with a cone!

So I thought it might be a good idea to write a general guide on how I go about it. I’ve done it as one long article, so it’s easy to print if you wish. Continue reading “A guide to modelling CGI rockets, part 1, references.”

Tutorial – Making a CGI Ringed Planet

Level – Intermediate:

Introduction:

This is a fairly old tutorial, as you may notice by the version of Lightwave used! However, the principles are exactly the same in newer versions, and indeed you should be able to apply the ideas presented with pretty much any CGI software.

Original introduction

I have seen many rather poor attempts to make convincing ringed planets, and thought it might be a good idea to tell you how I do it. I rate it as intermediate in level, as I am not going to explain mouse click and numeric values. You should be familiar with making spheres and disks, and applying image based texture maps. I have done this tutorial as one long page, so it is easier for you to print. It should work with any version of Lightwave from 5.6 onward, and the ideas should also be easy to adapt to any other modern 3D graphics package.

The planet has 2 main components, the globe of the planet itself, and the ring system. Continue reading “Tutorial – Making a CGI Ringed Planet”

Cheap and free ways to get started in CGI Astronomical Art

There’s no doubt that it is possible to spend vast amounts on graphics software – many of the industry standard packages run to thousands of pounds, and even image editors like the full Photoshop are very expensive, (and come with monthly fees too).

But provided you already have a computer, it is possible to get going for little or even nothing. This blog post will explore some of your options.

Be aware though, that this stuff is NOT easy, and whatever package you go for, it will take considerable time and effort to master.

Blender 3d.

Blender Website Screenshot
Blender Website Screenshot

This is a seriously powerful 3d package, with some highly advanced features such as fluid simulation, and hair systems. It is completely free, and open source.

You can find out more, and download it here:

BLENDER

Continue reading “Cheap and free ways to get started in CGI Astronomical Art”

My Art is now for sale on Fine Art America

I’ve set up a shop on Fine Art America, where you can buy my work in various formats, from prints to shower curtains and duvet covers! 

Here’s the link:

https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/2-nick-stevens.html

My shop on Fine Art America

My shop on Fine Art America Continue reading “My Art is now for sale on Fine Art America”

The Rocket Library

In 2018 I was doing an international commute, and wanted something I could work on effectively while travelling. Eurostar is pretty comfortable, (particularly in standard premium), and the new laptop was seriously powerful, but I’ve never found it easy to work with a touch pad, and there wasn’t enough space for a mouse.

 So I came up with the idea of tidying up the various real spacecraft I have worked on, and assembling sets of images rendered perspective free, to a standard scale, which would make it easy to clearly show the different sizes of the various spacecraft.

This soon became the Rocket Library project!

A collection of most of the rockets I have modelled, all done to the same scale.
A collection of most of the rockets I have modelled, all done to the same scale.

(Click for a larger version.) Continue reading “The Rocket Library”

Orbiting the planet Saturn, in ultra high definition

This one was really quick to conceptualise, and took months to complete.

Mainly because I kept trying to cut corners with render settings that were not high enough, or assuming that I could fake a join between runs with different render settings, and it would not show…

Saturn, still image from the video...

Saturn, still image from the video…

Continue reading “Orbiting the planet Saturn, in ultra high definition”

How to do edge renders in Lightwave 3d, a brief tutorial

This is a short blog post, which will describe how I go about edge renders in Lightwave 3d. It’s really easy and I find it a great technique for renders that are not photorealistic.

I am using Lightwave version 11.6, I’m not sure how this works in other versions. But it’s probably almost identical.

What do I mean by edge renders?

This is an effect that runs a line along various edges and boundaries. It can be used to emphasise fine detail, or to give a diagram effect. It works with transparency, and animates nicely.

Here’s an example.

Hale Telescope Edge Render
Hale Telescope Edge Render

Note how features of the telescope are highlighted with fine white lines.

Ready to start? Continue reading “How to do edge renders in Lightwave 3d, a brief tutorial”