Learn how to create a fiery close up of the sun with a boiling surface of plasma. There is nothing I love more than playing around in Photoshop for the hell of it. This tutorial is born from one of these meaningless sessions.

This tutorial will use many of the same techniques I used in my realistic planet tutorial which you can view here: Create a Photo Real Planet in Photoshop

Unlike my planet tutorial, this one will not use any photographic elements and will be created entirely within Photoshop. We will use a combination of cloud rendering effects, colour blending, 3D tools and layer blending. This tutorial is a bit of fun and is actually very easy to do in my opinion.

We will be making this sun below.

Let’s get to it.

Create a new file: Any size you want but I recommend starting off with a 3:2 Ratio canvas something like 3000 x 2000 pixels. (Bigger = better sun texture) I find this ratio produces a better texture wrap when we go 3D.

Make sure your colour swatch is set to the default black/white. “D” on the keyboard will set it to the default. “X” will invert it.

The surface of the sun

The cloud rendering effects in Photoshop are perfect for creating a sun texture.

Go to Filter > Render > Difference Clouds

Difference clouds is where the magic happens. I recommend repeating the Difference clouds filter several times. Keep repeating it until you are happy with the final look of the texture. I probably repeated the filter 10-15 times.

Repeat shortcut: alt+ctrl+F

So you should have something similar to this, now it is time to add a bit of colour. This stage of the process is very open to modification you can use any colours you want.

It is hard to logically explain how I came up with these layers and colours because I literally just experimented. I cycled through all the blending modes until I found something I liked. In this part of the tutorial, you can do whatever you want. I recommend you have a good play around you might find something that looks better than mine.

This tutorial is open to a massive amount of experimentation.

When you are done, flatten all the layers.

3D Time

Now the fun bit. From the top menu select:

3D > New Mesh from Layer > Mesh Preset > Sphere.

One click and you have a sun… kind of

We need to change one thing, we want our texture to have no lighting. On the top right you should see a 3D properties panel, next to texture you should see a drop-down menu for the style channel. If you cannot find it try looking under the 3D scene settings.

Select Unlit Texture, this will make the surface texture of the sphere unaffected by the 3D light.

That’s all the 3D we need, so to be done with the 3D tools select the sphere layer and then go to layer rasterize 3d. This will flatten the 3D object into a flat 2D disc.

Add a black layer under the sun to make it look like space.

If I know anything about the sun it’s that it is a bit bright. And a bit hot.

Glow Effects

We need to give our sun a nice warm glow so right click on the sun layer and then select blending options. Next select outer glow, the default settings are usually pretty good, but have a play around. I decide to add a warm orange colour but this is not essential pick any colour you fancy. What is important is that the inner glow is the same colour.

Fell free to copy my exact settings or just have a play with all the options and see what happens. When you find a colour you like copy the colour data.- we will use this to create the inner glow.

Add some inner glow and like before have a play with the settings or copy mine if you prefer. The trick is trying to get the outer and inner glow to blend so that the edge of the sun is soft, it might take a little trial and error.

The final piece is adding a big soft glow effect to make the sun believably bright. I did this by a drawing a big yellow circle on a new layer.

Next I applied a Gaussian blur filter to give it the appearance of lens flare.

Filter, Blur, Gaussian Blur. I set mine to 120 px.

To get the desired effect I cycled through the blending styles for the layer and picked the one I liked the most, which happened to be “hard light”

Adjust the fill/opacity of the layer to get the desired effect.

photoshop sun tutorial

I next added a few black circles on new layers to represent distant planets.

The last thing I did to this image was add a levels adjustment layer this allows you to adjust the overall balance of the image.

Brighter or darker, depending on how you tweak the levels.

Don’t stare at it for too long or you will damage your eyes.

If you want to take things a step further you can grab the smudge tool and start adding coronal mass ejections and solar flares.  I recommend doing it on a new layer, the above screenshot is from another sun file – it is still the same process I just spent much more time on it.


Works part-time as a Graphic Designer and Website Designer. Studied Animation and has been using and learning design software for over 15 years.