In this tutorial I am going to show you how to make a black hole like the film Interstellar, which as it turns out was based on real science. I thought I would celebrate the first ever real photograph of a black hole by the Event Horizon Telescope. The photo is as you might imagine very low resolution and blurry but it is a monumental achievement.

Here is the photo:

Event Horizon website

This tutorial will be made using Photoshop exclusively with no photographic material. You can of course use photographic material but I had no suitable photos to use.

You will learn how to make an image like this:

Time to complete: 15 minutes
Difficulty: Intermediate/Advanced

I try my best to explain every step but a good understanding of Photoshop is recommended.

Just like my previous tutorial where I created a somewhat realistic sun in photoshop. This tutorial was born from a similar session of just playing around. This tutorial has been condensed and simplified in order to make it easier and quicker to follow. The technique is open to a huge amount of creativity and improvement.

This video was a massive help in getting my head around how to create the image.

In Photoshop:

There is a bit inconsistency between the video and the tutorial below but the end results will be extremely close.

Here is a video of me making the Black hole at 1.25 speed:

New Document

Create a new document, my file is 2000 × 2000 pixels, the canvas needs to be square in the beginning because the filters we use need to be perfectly round. If you have a landscape canvas you might end up with an ellipse not a sphere.

Create some guides so that we can quickly snap to the exact centre of our canvas.

View, New Guide Layout.

On a new layer draw out a sphere with the selection tool and fill it with a light colour. This is just a rough guide for our black hole, and we will delete it shortly.

Custom Brush

I created a custom brush to create the overall matter of the excretion disc. What I did was grab a basic hard round brush and added a scatter jitter, a size jitter, and a transfer/opacity jitter. I also adjusted the spacing to make sure it wasn’t too cluttered. (I want the density to be irregular).

I don’t have the exact settings but something like this will work:

  • Transfer: Opacity Jitter 100%
  • Scatter: 380%
  • Shape Dynamics: Size Jitter 100%
  • Brush Tip Spacing: 15%

Next on a new layer using the mouse (tablet not required) I traced the outline of my sphere with the brush to create a ring of debris and matter. Do this however you wish but try not to make it too uniform.

You can now delete the layer with the circle.

It is essential that the brush strokes are on a unique layer.

Distorting the Space Time Continuum

Disc 1

Go to Filters, Distort, Twirl. I set mine to the max (999) and hit OK.

Next add a slight radial blur this will smooth out the rough areas. Filter, Blur, Radial Blur

Don’t go nuts 10-20 produces a good effect.

That’s the main excretion disc done.

If you don’t think the disc looks dense enough you can duplicate it and then merge multiple layers it into one layer.

ctrl+j = Duplicate

ctrl+e = Merge Layers

Disc 2

Duplicate the disc layer we just created.

I recommend watching the video because this part is hard to explain in text.

Select the new layer and then go to: Edit, Transform, Perspective. You should now have a bounding box around the disc. Pinch both sides of the top together like this:

If you pull one corner in it will affect the opposing side symmetrically. Hit enter when you have a shape like this. (above)

Nearly there, finally once you hit enter it will return to the normal transform mode.

Depending on which version of Photoshop you have:

*With the updated CC version you might need to hold shift and Alt down to stop the layer scaling in proportion (we want it to stretch). Holding Alt-Key will scale the opposing side symmetrically.

First compress the disc (drag the top down):

And finally grab one of the middle-side points and pull the sides out (with the *Alt key pressed) to create a disc.

With the duplicated disc you will need to make it slightly bigger too. Position the ring around the centre of the black hole so it looks like it is orbiting the black hole.

Hit Edit, Reveal all, if the edges are being cropped out.

Finally, grab the eraser tool and remove the back edge of the horizontal ring.

Almost there.

Liquify

If you watched the video in the intro you will see how they demonstrated the light bending around the “excretion discs”. To create this effect we need to blend the horizontal disc we just made into the vertical disc, so they look like one continuous beam of light.

With the horizontal ring layer selected go to filter, liquify which will open up a new window.

Make sure the box “Show backdrop” is ticked. We need to see the background, so we can accurately blend the two elements together.

Now this might take you a few tries, using the Forward Warp Tool:

Pull the sides of the disc up and around the vertical disc slightly. Try your best to make the edges disappear into the vertical ring, don’t worry about any stray bits we can erase these after.

Don’t worry if you don’t get it first time.

Hit OK when you like it.

If you are happy with the way it looks merge the two layers together. (CTRL+E)

It is finally time to invert it our black hole into white so with the black hole layer selected: go to Image, Adjustments, Invert.

And add a black fill underneath the black hole.

Lighting Effects

From here you can do whatever you like. I added the following blending styles to my black hole:

To open up the blending styles right click on the layer and hit blending options.

Here is where I will leave you, you can now add stars planets or whatever you like. The last thing I did was added a cheesy Hollywood lens flare.

If you liked this tutorial I have a few more Photoshop Space Tutorials:

Create a Photo-Real Planet

Create A Realistic Sun

If you want to expand your space artwork check out my Cosmic Brush Pack for Photoshop.


David

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