A cartoon Earth presents its own challenges. If perspective and accuracy is ignored, it can be an easy task. However, there are ways to create an Earth cartoon that is both accurate and relatively easy. For this to happen, some extra manipulation options in Photoshop must be used.
Artists branching out to fantasy or science fiction related background illustration will come across an opportunity to draw a celestial sky. Sometimes, it can be just simple planets with no textures. Other times, it can be drawing out very detailed planets.
The goals of this guide it to introduce a method that makes creating a complicated planet, like the Earth, from a simple flat planar drawing. These techniques are useful not only for creating a cartoon Earth, but for any spherical drawings like marble reflections or water spheres.
The best types of textures are the ones that fit perfectly into a grid. For all intended purposes, an online image search of the required textures is necessary to save time drawing out the textures manually. After that, it becomes an exercise in knowing how to manipulate the textures properly.
The flat texture used of the Earth has no perspective. That it, the size of the continents are not accurate as it fits into a grid when unwrapped into squares. This image has a bonus feature in that the oceans and continents are flat colors.
The advantage of flat colors is that it makes selecting outlines a lot easier. Since the goal is to have a cartoonish look, black outlines of the continents will need to be drawn in. But rather than doing it manually, Photoshop can create an outline very easily with its layer styles.
The 'stroke' layer style can do the black outlines with a click of a button. However, the continents will need to be identified first. Since it's a flat picture, the oceans must be separated from the rest of the continents. The magic wand tool will select all related colors. In this case, it is white.
After it is selected, delete selected areas. Then, double click on the layer to bring up layer styles. Select the stroke option to add in the black outlines. The thickness can be fine-tuned easily with a few options such as color, size, and blend modes.
Separating the continents into a new layer allows another layer style to be used: 'color overlay.' Rather than coloring it manually to remove pixelated graphics, the entire continent masses can be colored automatically with a selected color.
The new oceans are done in the same method. Create a new layer underneath the continent and fill it any color. Open up the layer style and use 'color overlay' to adjust the colors of the ocean. Obviously, the initial fill can be the ocean color. However, this method allow for quicker adjustment.
At this point, there are two layers: one for the continents and one for the ocean. To simplify the next process, duplicate the current layers first. It's always a good idea to retain the originals for future flexibility and edits.
After that, merge the duplicated layers back into a flat picture. Now there is a new flat picture file that has the desired cartoonish effect. Also, a flat picture file can make use of the selection marquee tools to define an area for making a cartoon Earth drawing.
There are two marquee tools that will be used: the rectangular and elliptical shapes. To select an squared area with the rectangular marquee tool, hold down the shift key. Then, drag to select the desired continents needed for the project.
Once done, copy the selection and then paste it as a new layer. It is possible to work in the same Photoshop file, but it is suggested to save the picture as a new picture file for the next step as it requires the picture to be centered.
Open up the new picture file and go to Filter > Distort > Spherize. By default, this filter generates a sphere from the central focal point of the picture file using the full canvas size. Therefore, anything that is not centered and scaled to fill out the whole canvas first will not be distorted properly.
Anyway, make sure the amount is set to 100% to generate the perfect sphere from the square tile. The next step is to cut out the sphere from the rest of the tile. This is done with the elliptical marquee in the next few and final steps in this guide.
Just like using the rectangular marquee, holding shift will make the elliptical marquee make a perfect circle. Again, cut out the spherical shape from the tile and paste it as a new layer. It is now safe to delete the tile layer that the sphere was cut from.
Now that the properly proportioned globe is complete, it can be left as is or be further refined to give it more levels of depth. Layer styles are a great way to color the globe quickly with automated coloring so long as the basic rules of shading are followed.
Specifically, adding a key light (direction of the main light source), a fill light (simple illumination of a large area), and a rim light (a halo of light around an object) to the globe. This will allow the cartoon Earth drawing to stand out by creating various highlights and color gradients.
Since the 'stroke' layer style is already used to create a black outline, a rim light can be created using the 'inner glow' layer style instead. The thickness, blend modes, and opacity are the main options to experiment.
For the key light, the trick here is to use the 'inner shadow' layer style. Contrary to the word 'shadow', changing it to a light color creates a nice bright curved surface. The main option here is 'angle.' This is where the direction of the light hitting the globe is managed.
Lastly, the fill light can be done with the 'gradient overlay' layer style. The key here option here is the 'blend mode.' Selecting 'soft light' or 'overlay' will enhance the colors so long as a gradient from white to black is selected. When tweaked correctly, the final product is a well-proportioned and well colored cartoon Earth!