No matter how good your photography skills are, it can be very difficult to capture stars in the night sky when you’re photographing in the evening. In this tutorial, we’ll show you a step by step guide to add stars in Photoshop so that your images will be full of the beauty that was there when you tried to photograph the sky.

The first step in the process is to create a new empty layer that is above the original image layer. Then, you should use the fill tool to fill the newly created layer with a black or dark blue color depending on the color that is closest to that of the night sky in the original image. Next, grab the Add Noise Filter and apply it to the layer you created.

You will probably notice that the noise filter creates awkward artifacts and pixelations. To smooth these image artifacts over, apply a Gaussian blur filter to limit the amount that each noise particle spreads on the image.

The final step to create stars in Photoshop is to adjust the levels of your star layer. Enable the levels adjustment on the layer, and then play with the black point slider and the white point slider until your stars appear realistic in comparison to the base image layer’s level of light. You’re well on your way to making Photoshop stars.

Making Your Stars Glow

If you want to make stars using Photoshop even more realistic, you will need to add a glowing effect. Then, when you add stars each will have a small halo of light.

The first step in adding a glow to your stars using Photoshop is to copy the layer of stars that you made before. You should give this new layer a descriptive name, and place it above the star layer in the hierarchy. Then, you should add a new Gaussian blur filter and increase the level of blurring beyond whatever you had in the previous star layer. 

silhouette of woman in front of star filled sky

Now, it’s time to add contrast to the blurred halos of stars in the new layer. Use the auto contrast tool to bring out the light in the stars. You’ll probably need to go back and adjust your blur filter again after the auto contrast operation to get the best effect.

Once you’re satisfied with the visual space of the glow, you can tune all of the glow’s parameters at once by adjusting the opacity of the glow layer. Make sure to examine the image carefully at higher opacities, as artifacts will be more noticeable in the final product.

Giving Your Stars Color

Your Photoshop stars will appear the most realistic if they have slightly tinted colors that are independent of the noise filter. To add color to your stars using Photoshop, add a hue/saturation layer on top of the previously created star layers. You may want to group these star layers together to keep things more organized. 

Once you have created a new layer, adjust the colorization options on the new layer to a hue value around 220. Then, set the blend option to color. Next, make a duplicate of the hue layer you just created, and change its hue value to around 40 so that there are two hue reference values in your layer mask.

Using The Clouds Filter To Smooth Color And Saturation

If you want to get fancy, you can also apply a clouds filter to your layer mask. This will ensure that the foreground and background colors are roughly matching. You may need to increase the intensity of the clouds filter by duplicating its layer or increasing its saturation.

You can view the layer mask in the document by making your base image layer invisible but leaving the star group of layers visible.  

landscape night sky with stars

Blending Your Stars With The Image

While it isn’t strictly necessary, you may want to blend your stars with your image layer so that the overall mask on the image looks more uniform. 

To do this, put all of your layers into one layer group, then change the blend mode to either lighten or screen. Lighten preserves the integrity of the star layers, whereas screen preserves the integrity of the base image layer. 

Afterward, add a layer mask to the entire group of layers so that you can edit them all at once with the brush tool. There are several brushes that may work for blending. If you want to add stars to your Photoshop images frequently, you should make a star brush preset with whatever brush options work the best for you. 

Once you have a brush in hand, change your foreground color to black or whatever hue the original star layer fill was. Then, use the brush to touch up regions of the grouped star layer mask to hide individual stars or reduce the prevalence of stars created by the noise filter. 

Be aware that blending the added stars will backfire and create glare-like sections of the sky if, in your picture, the foreground was dark in comparison to the light of the night sky. In other words, if your original image had reflected light in the sky, blending the stars will only make the appearance of the reflected light more unsightly. 

If you make a mistake while using your blend brush, you can try to undo it using the basic undo functionality. You can also try to use the sharpen tool over the area where you made a mistake, but try to do so sparingly to avoid artifacting

Before And After Adding Stars To Your Image

Once you’re done adding stars to your image and adding all of the associated layers and changes to increase the level of realism, you can save your image and call it a day. 

star filled sky

Alternatively, you can increase the complexity of your image’s celestial bodies by adding wispy clouds to approximate the presence of the Milky Way. This is especially useful when you actually did photograph the Milky Way only to find that its subtler beauty wasn’t captured in your photo. 

To make a galaxy in Photoshop, it’s the same basic technique as our tutorials for how to make stars using Photoshop. The only major difference is that you should keep your layer opacities lower, your glow effects stronger, and your original noise effect less abundant.