Learning how to how to paint a galaxy is a craft that has so many techniques that you can paint the same thing a million different ways.
Some images are better suited for some kinds of techniques, but others are at their best when it feels like experimenting.
Since everyone creates differently, I wanted to really find a way to embrace that with a tutorial. In this article, I want to teach you how to paint a galaxy, but I’m not going to give you all of the answers.
My real goal here is to focus on explaining more than telling so that you can make a galaxy that is custom to you.
We all go about these things differently, which is why I want this to be more of a guide than anything.
Photo by Jeremy Thomas
What To Include in Your Star-Filled Galaxy
The first thing that you need to address when it comes time to paint a galaxy is what kinds of elements you want to include in your image. Every galaxy is completely unique, formed across time and space from all kinds of materials.
The end result of this is a combination of many different elements in many different places. You can pick and choose what it feels right for you, but there are a few primary components in a galaxy that you probably want to have. The big difference between the dark void of space and a beautiful galaxy is what is in it, and how that looks.
The First Step to Painting a Star-Filled Galaxy
The first component that you absolutely must include for your galaxy is the underlying space. Every galaxy has all kinds of bright and shining things making stunning shapes, but these would not exist at all without the surrounding space. That is why you must always include the actual dark void of space in your image to make the rest of the elements pop. Don’t worry, this is more fun than it sounds.
The Second Step to Painting a Star-Filled Galaxy
The second thing that you must have in order to make a stunning star-filled galaxy is obvious: stars. Stars are what make galaxies so stunning. While the other elements are cool, stars bring a life that is all their own.
I have yet to meet a single person who wasn’t absolutely captivated by stars in the night sky, so don’t forget them. Make sure that you add plenty of stars in all shapes and sizes to make an image that really draws your audience in.
When you learn how to paint a galaxy, you must learn how to paint one crucial element: planets. Most every galaxy has planets in all shapes and sizes filling the area. While we have all been on the fence about what counts as a planet since Pluto was demoted, you control your galaxy.
This means that you can make your planets as big, small, or wild as you want. The important part is that you feel out the art piece for yourself and move from there. Adding planets is where you can get really creative.
Though those are the three primary components of a galaxy, there is always room for more if you really want to. When you learn how to paint a galaxy, you can add meteors, moon dust, and shooting stars as much as it pleases you.
My favorite thing about painting a galaxy is that generally the more creative you are, the better it looks in the long run. Have fun here picking and adding smaller elements to really give your painting more depth.
Photo by Andy Holmes
How To Paint The Space Element of Your Galaxy
For most people, the concept of space itself either excites them or terrifies them. This is because it is so big and filled with the unknown. In the same way, most people are hesitant about open water in the ocean, space can seem a bit overwhelming.
While you can certainly leverage this when it comes to deciding how to paint a galaxy, you might want to warm it up. For me, my favorite thing about a good galaxy painting is the colors, which is why I like to leverage them as much as I can, even if it seems subtle.
Painting the backdrop of space generally comes with a rather basic start. The most simplistic space background that you can paint is to cover the canvas completely in black. For some people, this is all that they like to do, and that is completely okay. Sometimes leveraging a stark background can really help to make the other elements of your galaxy stand out in a fun way.
Decide what feels right to you and work from there. My hope is that you can use this guide to go back and try to make different styles of galaxies and see how they compare. If black feels too extreme for you, you can always try out a dark blue instead and see if that feels more tone appropriate.
Ways to Add More Depth
If you don’t like to stare at the literal void of space, that is completely okay too. There are all kinds of great ways to dress up a plain backspace background. Most people choose to use include other colors like blues and purples to give their space a friendlier look with a little more depth.
It can take your backdrop from a science fiction horror film over to a happier and brighter expanse worth exploring. Learning how to paint a galaxy is more than simply painting a black background with a few stars. You want to make it personal, so pull out all of your different blues and purples and see how you can use them to brighten up your sky.
When you find the colors that you use, be prepared to be a bit all over with your painting. You don’t want to be too perfect with the backdrop of your painting, though you certainly can be if you want. I just enjoy the organic feel that many galaxies have.
Use the blue and purple to make organic looking undefined shapes. Instead of a specific square or circle, let the edges of your shapes fade into one another or blend them into the background. This helps you to end up with a look that is unique to glowing in space.
You can make these glowing pops of color all over, but I find them to be more powerful towards the center of the piece. I like this look because it draws the gaze right to the center where your best galaxy elements will be.
How to Paint Planets
Learning how to paint a galaxy means adding your planets after you have finished the sky backdrop. Painting planets is a simple process, but it leaves the most room for creativity. Planets will almost always be a single orb either left alone or with surrounding elements.
You can add surrounding rocks, moons, or rings to make them bigger or smaller. When you get to work on these, try to be creative. Use different colors, play with designs, and see what you can do to make the image more vibrant. You can use similar color schemes or make every planet completely original.
I love to really toy around with different colors and patterns here to see what it brings to the image. It’s is a great opportunity to really brighten up your image with some fun colors.
How to Paint Stars
Learning how to paint a galaxy involves the very important practice of painting stars, but these aren’t what you are used to. We all learned how to draw a simple star as children, but stars in paintings tend to be less defined. A star is really more glow than anything, so finding the right way to capture that is more difficult than defining angular edges.
There are a few different ways to go about this, and I personally find that the best way to do this is to mix a variety of different star styles to make a more complex image. Again, learning how to paint a galaxy is a personal effort, so work with what feels right to you. I know what I like, but it is never going to be the only good way to go about it. That is the beauty of art.
When it comes to painting a galaxy, you want to find the right colors. Most people will paint stars in a fun way that includes different whites and yellows. Varying shades can add so much depth to your painting as a whole, which is why I always encourage people to use multiple shades.
It adds a complexity that galaxies have in real life. So, before you begin sprinkling stars to fill the spaces between planets, settle on your color scheme.
The Easiest Way to Paint a Star
The easiest way to paint a star is to use a simple dot. Making a little orb is a great way to make a basic star in your galaxy, and I love this for a few reasons. Not only is it easy enough for anyone to do, but it is also perfect for filling in the spaces between other elements.
If anything feels too open or blank, add a cluster of little orbs to bring a vacant space to life. It is a really easy trick that can balance paintings a lot. It isn’t the most glamorous part of learning how to paint a galaxy, but it is effective, and I love it for that.
The next kind of star is a little closer to what you might be used to. You can make a simple star shape using four points with a point painting up, down, left, and right. I think that varying the dimensions of these points is an effective approach, but I do have my favorites.
I feel like extending the top and bottom points more is a great way to bring something special to this look, particularly because it makes it look like it is shining.
The final kind of star is kind of a combination of the others. You will want to begin with an orb and then extend beams of light out from it subtly. Don’t make them too long and try to make them vary in length. This makes it easy for you to really see the beautiful glow of the stars, and it gives you more room to give them a little personality.
Photo by Jeremy Thomas
Adding the Galaxy Glow
The real beauty of a galaxy is the glow that we all love to stare at. Galaxies are unique forms in space that tend to glow in an absolutely captivating way, which is what makes them so popular.
Adding a good glow to your galaxy after all of the other elements are handled simply means taking brighter colors like yellows, blues, and purples, and adding a hue around some of your elements. You will love how much this fills your galaxy with a unique and special feeling of life.
When you know how to paint a galaxy, it is something that you probably won’t want to stop doing. It can be a therapeutic scene to paint, and since you can always change it up, there is always more to make. You will notice that I didn’t include which tools to use with this, and that is because I want to leave it up to you.
Take some time to try out different tools and see what feels right. Sponges, brushes, and blades can be incredibly helpful here, but it is all about what feels right for you!
What are some of your favorite things to paint? Have you tried painting a galaxy before?