I have become quite obsessed with tiny planets recently, I think they look super funky! The distortion in the resulting image helps convey the idea of a cozy private world, in which anything is possible and the sky is the only limit! Below are a few examples of tiny planets I’ve created, and you can find many more on my “Tiny Planets” gallery at TheSpanishAna.com 🙂

Sydney Opera House tiny planet.
Sydney Opera House tiny planet.
New Zealand tiny planet.
New Zealand tiny planet.
Blue Mosque, Istanbul tiny planet.
Blue Mosque, Istanbul tiny planet.
Sydney Harbour tiny planet.
Sydney Harbour tiny planet.

Today I am going to teach you how to make a tiny planet, and some tips and tricks that I find really useful in the process. I use Photoshop CC to create my tiny planets but I suspect you will be able to use other software too, even my Nexus 5 phone can create them (called panospheres)!

1) Choose an image

The first step is an easy one: choose the image you want to turn into a tiny planet. The best candidates will be images of landscapes, in which both sides left and right are quite similar (so that when the distortion occurs they mostly match). The process of making a tiny planet is very destructive for the pixels of your image, so the larger the image you start with the better (preferably panoramas that have been stitched together from multiple images).

That being said, none of my tiny planets have been make form a large stitched pano haha. I lean towards simple minimalistic designs, and I am ok to sacrifice the number of pixels (I’ll just print it smaller). I have created a tiny planet photobook (which you can purchase here). I have selected the small square format (7×7 inches, i.e. 18×18 cm) and all my tiny planets have enough resolution to be printed full page (except 2).

For this tutorial I will show you how I worked with the following image that I took of the Sydney Opera House last weekend:

Original photo to turn into a tiny planet.
Original photo to turn into a tiny planet.

2) Resize the image into a square

Once I’ve chosen my image I need to resize it into a square (1:1 aspect ratio). The image will end up squished but that is ok, it will all work out later. To do this I open the image in Phoshop and go to the menu “Image”, then “Image Size” (Alt + Ctrl + I). Once you’re in there make sure you click on the aspect ratio toggle to make the aspect ratio unconstrained. Then copy the number of pixels in “Width” and paste it into “Height”. You could also do it the other way around, as long as you end up with the same number in both fields. I like choosing the larger number, even though that will mean the pixels will get stretched, so my final image will be larger. You could also crop the image into a square, but then you would loose precious valuable pixels.

How to resize an image to a square using Photoshop.
How to resize an image to a square using Photoshop.
The image has been resized and squished into a square.
The image has been resized and squished into a square.

3) Rotate the image 180 degrees

Once I have the image in a square format I rotate it 180 degrees to turn it upside down. To do that in Photoshop use the transformation tool (“Edit” menu, then “Free Transform” or Ctrl + T). If you don’t rotate the image your tiny planet will come up inside out like the tiny window shown here, which can also be nice if it’s what you’re looking for 🙂

Inside out tiny planet, i.e. tiny window.
Inside out tiny planet, i.e. tiny window.

4) Perform the tiny planet MAGIC!

Now comes the actual tiny planet making, the key to the process, the well guarded secret of tiny planeting, the MAGIC! What you have to do is this: go to the in Photoshop menu “Filter”, then select “Distort”, then “Polar Coordinates”, and in the pop up window that appears make sure that you select “Rectangular to Polar” (should be the default one if I remember correctly). Voila! That’s it! Done! You’ve got yourself a tiny planet, congratulations! 🙂

Use the rectangular to polar coordinates transformation in Photoshop to create a tiny planet.
Use the rectangular to polar coordinates transformation in Photoshop to create a tiny planet.

5) Rotate the tiny planet to your liking

From now on the rest is just touching up the tiny planet. For starters, it looks upside down so I will invert the image 180 degrees again. Here is how it results:

Rotated tiny planet.
Rotated tiny planet.

6) Beautify the tiny planet

In order to improve this tiny planet I fixed the seam and blurred the centre. I also redid the tiny planet a little bit different, with a smaller centre and a larger Opera House. Check out the Tiny Planet and Photography Tips categories for tutorials on how to improve and beautify your tiny planets.

Final Opera House tiny planet.
Final Opera House tiny planet.

I hope you fall as much in love with tiny planets as I have 🙂 If you would like to see more of them check out my “Tiny Planets” gallery at TheSpanishAna.com, and you can even purchase prints here! I would love to see your tiny planets too, share them with me on Facebook, Google+, Twitter or Instagram. I am all over the place! hehehe. Also, feel free to subscribe to this blog to be the first to know when I publish the next post 🙂

Last, but not least, I would like to aknowledge my friend Rodney Campbell, a Sydney based photographer. It is thanks to him that I created my first tiny planet, following the tutorial he posted on his blog. Cheers mate!! (hehehe I feel so Aussie writing that!)

Thank you for reading!!

xx Ana 🙂

Ps. Check out my “Tiny Planets Tips & Tricks: Blurring” post in which I show you how I use blurring to fix the seam 🙂 It is a simple process that achieves stunning results!