Self-taught motion graphics and 3D artist Buwaneka Saranga lives in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He uses the digital medium for most of his artworks, but also creates sculpture from clay. He’s currently studying for an HND in filmmaking. 

In this tutorial, Sri Lankan 3D artist Buwaneka Saranga shows you how to create a photorealistic Earth using a mix of Maya and Photoshop. 

He’ll teach you how Maya’s Sampler Info, Surface Luminance, Remap HSV and other powerful shading nodes work together when creating a realistic planet, which you can use to produce a rendering of our home planet as he does, or to create authentic-looking alien worlds. He’ll then show you how to add polish to the render using Photoshop.

For the tutorial, we’re assuming that you have a good grasp of the basics of Maya, as Buwaneka won’t be detailing basic concepts such as nodes, the Outliner or Hypershade windows, or creating primitive geometry.

Before starting, you’ll need to download a series of textures from NASA and rename them. You’ll need Earth (Land), City Lights, Clouds, Bathymetry (which is used as a specular map), and Topography (used is as a bump map).

You’ll be using textures with a resolution of 8,192 x 4,096 pixels. Buwaneka suggests downloading the highest resolution textures and reducing them to 8k in Photoshop. Even so, using these high-resolution textures will require a hefty amount of RAM and CPU power, so we’re assuming you have a powerful system.

Time to complete

6 hours


Maya 8 or later, Photoshop 7 or later

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