3D, Techniques

Create a Pulsar Star Inspired Digital Abstract Artwork

Combining abstract 3D elements with lighting effects is a great way to achieve great visual effects.  Several major art groups have released entire exhibitions on using similar techniques, using 3D Studio Max or Cinema4D in conjunction with Photoshop and Illustrator to create spectacular effects.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to create a pulsar star inspired digital abstract artwork using Cinema4D and Photoshop, although these techniques are easily applicable to any 3D program.

Let’s get started, and if you have any comments or suggestions, let us know in the comments! ¬†Also, please help share this tutorial.

Tools Used:

  • Photoshop
  • Cinema 4D

Final Image Preview:

Today we will be creating a piece that I got inspired by a specific type of star, called a “Pulsar Star”.

Pulsars are highly magnetized, rotating neutron stars that emit a beam of electromagnetic radiation. The radiation can only be observed when the beam of emission is pointing towards Earth. This is called the Lighthouse effect and gives rise to the pulsed nature that gives pulsars their name. Because neutron stars are very dense objects, the rotation period and thus the interval between observed pulses is very regular.

In other words, Pulsars are just drums in space each having it’s own unique beat to it. Some musicans have even recorded the beats and composed music around them. Some Pulsars can rotate about 400 times a second.

Because this interested me greatly, I decided to compose an art piece around this information and model the figure after a Pulsar.

Step 1:

We are going to start off with a black canvas, to represent the depth of space. Choose two corresponding colors which will be your bases for the rest of the piece. Take one of your Soft Brushes, and press one time in the center of the canvas with your main color. Continue to press the brush in other places for your second color, adjusting the opacity of both to match your liking.

Step 2:

Take your smaller, Hard Brushes and press with the color white to places you’d think you’d need “stars”. Later, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussain Blur and blur to even out the lightness of all of them, making sure they are not too overpowering but still visable. Set the blur setting from around 1.3-3.

Step 3:

Continue to add more stars to fill up the canvas. You may also make shiny orbs in Cinema 4D, then import and adjust lighting in Photoshop. Remember to keep everything in your focal, so the piece doesn’t look jumbled together. When your happy with where your objects are, we’ll go in depth on how you make the simple cinema objects in Maxon Cinema 4D.

Step 4:

Begin with two spheres and add a Metaball action to the two shapes, spreading them apart to form your desired shape. Add any other details like explosion if you feel its necessary.

Step 5:

Now you can add any transparent material to your sphere and adjust your lighting to your desired product.

Keep these shapes for later when we add our main focal.

Step 6:

Now, we are going to make another object in Cinema. I chose to make it a light, circle-shaped figure which will blend nicely with the rest of the figures in the piece already.

Paste evenly through the focal.

Step 7:

Take your Elliptical Marquee Tool (M), and fill circles with your two colors around your focal. Change the opacity to around 50%

Step 8:

Go back to the step in which I explained how to make the shapes, and add the objects we made in Cinema, preferably one of the main colors you have chosen, and import to Photoshop.

Line up the objects so that the final look will resemble the Pulsar Star.

Step 9:

Your going to create a layer mask attatched to your main objects, and using your Soft Brush, put your second corresponding color to the place where you plan on having your light source. Do not over do it, the last thing we want is monotone. Spread the colors out evenly, and adjust opacity. Then, take your Soft Brush again and with white, we’re going to add our lightsource. This will be in the center of the figure.

Step 10:

Keep adding to the light source by adding more brushing to the figure, and add a Brightness and Contrast adjustment layer. We’re going to set the Brightness setting to 7.

Step 11:

Take a 1 px Hard Brush, and start brushing with the white outward in two directions. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussain Blur and and set the value to 3. This is going to represent the beams that Pulsars emit when spinning.

Step 12:

We are going to simulate a light glare, so in order to do that we are going to take the Elliptical Marqueet Tool (M), go to Edit > Stroke and change the color to white, and the Width to a value of 1 px. Go change your brush size to a 1 pix soft brush. Then, take your Pentool (P) and make four lines spreading out from the inner circle. Right click > Stroke Path and change the setting to “Brush”. Once your figure looks like the one below, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussain Blur and set it to about 3.

Place it right above your light source.

Step 13:

Take your 20 px Hard brush, and the color white. We are going to use the brush around the focal evenly. Then take your Eraser, with the same sized Soft Brush and erase most of the circle until there’ a sliver left. Adjust opacity to your liking.

Step 14:

You may now add and balance the rest of your composition. I chose to add yet another object I made in Cinema, and insert it around my focal.

Make the rest of your adjustments, like another Brightness and Contrast layer. I set my Brightness setting to 36.

Step 15:

We want to add more details to our piece so first up we’re going to create different shapes and going to arrange them around the focal. These layers are going to be set to Softlight.

Step 16:

Take you Pentool (P) and go around your piece with white and set the layer once again to Softlight.

Step 17:

Now we’re going to Click-Ctrl + Alt + Sift + E and it will automatically paste visible. Go to Filter > Distort > Twirl and set the opacity to a number where it’s still visable, but not overpowering.

Step 18:

We’re going to add more shapes and stars I talked about in earlier steps and add them in the negative spaces of the piece to even it out.

Step 19:

Let’s add another adjustment layer which will be a Brightness and Contrast layer and set it to 31.

Step 20:

Finally, we’re going to resize the piece to your desired size, and Click-Ctrl + Alt + Sift + E and it will automatically paste visible. Go to Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen and make the setting around 23, and your finished!


  1. I was really excited when I saw this tutorial posted. I just downloaded Cinema 4D and I wanted to do something cool with it. Yet, the more I read it, the more disappointed I became. This is just not detailed enough to be considered a tutorial and I feel like I wasted a bit of my time. In the Cinema 4D part, there should of been WAY more detail then just 2 steps. At least show screen shoots of the settings you used to create the bubbles. I can’t even move on because I have no idea what I’m suppose to input. Next time put more time and detail into the tutorial for it to actually be called a tutorial. This is more of an overview. Looking forward to a more detailed tutorial from you.

  2. @Tahti, the tutorial is for more experienced people.. Or at least people who know what to do in Cinema 4D.

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