Skip to main content

Creating Star-bursts

Creating Those Cool Spikes on Stars
(or if you prefer, adding those awful flaws on a perfectly fine image)

I'm going to start off by acknowledging that this effect is not everyone's cup of tea.  In fact, I know some photographers that cringe every time they see it.

Nevertheless it is a look that many people do like and therefore to forward the world of art, I think it's prudent that I make a post so that people can make that choice for themselves.

What Causes Diffraction Spikes?
Diffraction spikes are created when the incoming light (acting in wave nature) diffracts (essentially bends) around a small object in the path of the light.

In a reflecting telescope the diffraction is created by the rods (Struts or Veins) that hold the secondary mirror.

In a camera lens, the diffraction is created by the small "out of round" opening created by the diaphragm blades of the lens.

So there you go, now you have an understanding as to what creates the spikes.  I'm also sure you know understand why SOME people do not like them.  They are in fact an artifact or a flaw in an image.  Albeit on that is pleasing to many eyes.

OK Darryl, enough of the physics lesson, get to the spikes!!!!!

Ok, ok, hint taken (even if it is from myself)

Creating the spikes is very, very, easy with the aid of Photoshop.

Lets start with an image from my archives.

With this image, both the Lighthouse and the "Star" (I actually think it was a planet) are to be the focal points. I thought an appropriate name for this shot is "The Twin Beacons".  

Both the lighthouse and the star are very bright, but since the lighthouse overpowers the star we need to accentuate the star so that it catches the eye of the viewer a bit better.  In comes the spikes!

On this particular image we will add a star spike to the bright star above the lighthouse.


Under the "Windows" menu click on "Brush Presets"


Once the Brush window opens you will see a drop down menu in the upper right corner of the brush menu. Activating it will bring up a list of the brush presets you have.
In this case the desired brush is found in the preset named "Assorted Brushes" 


The particular brush that we will be using in this image is "Crosshatch 1", which is found 4 or 5 brushes down and looks like an "X".


Don't forget to play with the Opacity, Flow, and Size of the spike.  This vary the brightness and size of the diffraction spikes.  Do yourself a favor and play with on a LAYER. That way you won't destroy all your hard work by making a mistake.

Before using the brush you should also take a color sample of your star.  That way it will be a matching color and will look more "realistic"

Once that is done, use the zoom tool to zoom in very close to the star.  Center the brush on the star and start brushing.  Do not however move the cursor or you will not get the desired effect.

The Final Image

I hope that you found this tutorial informative and helpful.
If there is something that you'd like to learn feel free to message me here or on G+

Good luck shooting and I hope you have "Dark Clear Skies"


Popular posts from this blog

How to Make the Stars POP!

If there is one thing I've learned about processing night shots.

There are as many opinions and as many ways to do things as there have been sunrises! With that being said, I thought I'd share another technique that I've employed a couple of times

This technique is very simple and very effective.  The nice thing about my tutorial is that I show you how to do it yourself.  I’m not a fan of “presets” that take the adjustment factor out of your hands.  I’d rather show someone how to do it for themselves.  That way you can actually expand your knowledge and learn to help yourself and others around you.

In this particular “How to” we will be increasing the size and brightness of the larger stars.  This technique can also be used to bring out the natural colour of the stars or any other adjustments you may want to use.

Like most of my tutorials, I take the approach that you have a basic knowledge of photoshop.  If you don’t and need some further assistance with this tutorial, please…

How to Reduce Star Trails

600/(18x1.5)= &%*@!*$

So, you either didn't follow the 600 rule, you're bad at math, or you made a mistake! Now you've got a shot that you absolutely love but the stars look like eggs, or worse yet, they are mini trails!
Don't scrap that photo without at least trying this little know trick of the trade.
In this tutorial I will teach you how to remove small trails to make your stars look crisper.
****  Does it always work??  Nope ****
But heck, why not at least give it a go before deleting that photo.
The Original Image
Here is my original image opened in Photoshop.  You will notice that the stars look like mini trails. This particular image was exposed for 43 seconds (23 seconds longer than I usually expose an image).

The Original Image Magnified
Here you will notice how the stars are trails and not as crisp as they should be. Normally most people would throw this image out.

Stars Layer Selection
Start off by selecting the sky.  I used the marquee tool but you can use an…

Make Stellarium More Realistic when planning for a night shot

**Article by Darryl Van Gaal
As both a landscape, and deep space astrophotographer I find myself using Stellarium ( on a weekly basis.  It's a great (free) program and in my opinion is one of the best out there competing with programs that cost hundreds of dollars.

I like it for the ease of use along with the reality of the night sky.  If you use the right settings, the sky you see in Stellarium is strikingly similar to the sky you'll see when you look out your door.

Like I said, I do believe that it is an easy program to learn the ins and outs of,  BUT, like anything, there is still a learning curve.

I've posted about Stellarium in the past ( ) teaching you how to simulate your cameras field of view with a particular lens on it.  Which is aid in planning photography outings.

This post is similar as it will teach you how you can use it to help you get a feeling as to what you&…