How to Draw Outer Space / by J. Logan Carey

Outer space in illustrations is full of stars, planets, galaxies, moons, asteroids, spaceships, wormholes, and the occasional elder god on his way to work. So I've gathered a variety of tutorials and tips for drawing everything cosmic for this post.

Don't worry about the specific app or medium used to create these drawings. Observe and learn the technique and you can recreate it on anything. Watching a tutorial about an app you don't have? You can probably find an equivalent brush in whatever you're using. Same goes for digitally emulating traditional art mediums. Whatever app you're in, chances are, there's a brush for that. The technique and philosophy behind any piece of art is universal and translating it with your chosen tool is what makes your art yours.

Delta Cancri 4, the fourth planet in orbit around the double star known as Delta Cancri in the constellation of Cancer from Zodiac. Done in Procreate.

A dead astronaut splash page I did in Autodesk Sketchbook that will appear in the Cancer chapter of Zodiac.


Video Tutorials

I've combed the internet to find some of the most useful video tutorials out there on creating space artwork. The mediums are different, but all could be adapted to your own needs and tools.

James Julier uses Procreate to show us how to easily create a random field of stars and some glowing galaxies and nebulae.

The videos below show how to make a flowing space scene using your fingers in the app Paper, but the techniques are simple enough to be able to apply to any digitally drawn outer space scene so don't be afraid to try it out.

Now let's learn to make an outer space scene with planets and stars and even an asteroid with Alphonso Dunn.

Every solar system needs a sun and a moon or two. Here's a digitally drawn sun and a moon drawn in pastel.

Okay, we've got our space background, let's try out some spaceships to travel our little piece of the universe.

Here's a couple of valuable techniques for drawing spacecraft. The first is using a 1-point perspective to give your ship a sense of depth and distance. The second is using a copy / paste / flip technique (symmetry if your app has the ability) to give your ship a nice sense of symmetrical construction.


Inspiration Gallery

Here's a small gallery of some great interstellar illustrators of the 20th century to inspire you and your own extrasolar artwork. 

Peter Elson (Gallery)

© Peter Elson

© Peter Elson

© Peter Elson

© Peter Elson

Luděk Pešek (Gallery)

© Beatrice Pesek

© Beatrice Pesek

Lucien Rudaux (Gallery)

Chesley Bonestell (Gallery)


Reference Sources

Cassini Legacy - 20 years of exploration and an in-depth look at the solar system we call home

HubbleSite - Image gallery from the Hubble

NASA Image and Video Library - Official image site of NASA

Space.com - Space exploration and astronomy news

SpaceX - Official gallery of SpaceX's missions and spacecraft


Practice Exercises

What good are some lessons without some good old-fashioned practice? Not much! So draw these subjects below to build up your cosmic skills!

  • A field of stars

  • A far off galaxy

  • An exoplanet

  • A star unlike our own

  • A cloud-like nebula

  • A crater-covered moon

  • A spacecraft made in the distant future