Deep space stereo drawings

written for the stereosite by Vanessa Grein, Germany

Ready for a jour­ney into deep space? Then why not cre­ate your own uni­verse by draw­ing it?

Space and galax­ies have always fas­ci­nat­ed me and when I start­ed paint­ing some years ago I cre­at­ed sev­er­al galax­ies in the clas­si­cal way —  in 2D on can­vas. But when the book Cos­mic Clouds 3D by David Eich­er and Bri­an May was released in 2020, I got the idea of con­vert­ing my paint­ings into 3D by using a depthmap. And I realised that the result was far from sat­is­fy­ing. So I switched from can­vas to dig­i­tal art­work, which has the advan­tage  of being eas­i­er to con­vert into a stereo­scop­ic draw­ing than a tra­di­tion­al one. 

But how can you cre­ate your own 3D uni­verse? My deep space draw­ings were made on an iPad using Pho­to­shop and Pro­cre­ate, but basi­cal­ly any pro­gram which pro­vides dif­fer­ent lay­ers will serve the pur­pose. The lay­ers are the key to cre­at­ing the 3D-effect. 

After start­ing with a dark back­ground, it is time to add the clouds. The eas­i­est way to draw them is by using cloud or fog brush­es that come with the pro­gram. But I rec­om­mend the use of dif­fer­ent brush­es to cre­ate a more real­is­tic look. There are plen­ty of free pre­sets for Pro­cre­ate avail­able, or you can just design your own brush. Be adven­tur­ous and mix dif­fer­ent colours and shad­ows to achieve more variety. 

Neb­u­la Step 1
Neb­u­la Brushes
Dif­fer­ent Layers

It’s impor­tant to not draw all on one lay­er; rather, divide it onto at least two or three lay­ers, which will be moved side­ways at the end to cre­ate the stereo­scop­ic effect. Once the neb­u­la is fin­ished you can put in some stars: Place them using dif­fer­ent sizes and opac­i­ties on dif­fer­ent lay­ers. I use at least five or six lay­ers because I have found that the more lay­ers you can move, the more depth you get.

Neb­u­la Step 2
Neb­u­la Step 3
Left Image


When you are hap­py with your draw­ing you can start the con­ver­sion into a stereo­scop­ic draw­ing. Don’t for­get to save the orig­i­nal one because this will be your left image. The right one is cre­at­ed by mov­ing the lay­ers some pix­els to the right. The indi­vid­ual amount you should move the var­i­ous lay­ers depends very much on the sub­jects and the effect you want to achieve. 

This exam­ple shows how it looks when you only move one layer.
i3DSteroid App

Once you have moved every­thing you can save the right image. Place left and right image side by side onto a new lay­er, or just use the StereoPho­to Mak­er or the i3DSteroid App which works per­fect­ly on an iPad. I pre­fer the app because you I can eas­i­ly check if the 3D effect is good enough or if I have to change some­thing. I am lucky that I can free­view stereo­scop­ic images (par­al­lel only), but of course you can use a stereo view­er as well.

The advan­tage of SPM or the iD3stereoid app is that you can eas­i­ly save the image for par­al­lel and cross view. But I dis­cov­ered that some­times the same stere­opair looks sat­is­fy­ing with both view­ing meth­ods. These are the final results.

Par­al­lel view
Cross view

There is not one right way of doing it, espe­cial­ly because my galax­ies are artis­tic images and not pho­tographs. Some­times it is just tri­al & error until I´m sat­is­fied with the result. And some­time I just delete it and start a new one.

Start your own space jour­ney and always remem­ber: There is no bound­ary in art. Enjoy the process of cre­at­ing some­thing new! 

Want to see more? The space shut­tle is wait­ing for you to take you to anoth­er Jour­ney Into Deep Space!

Vanessa Grein (Aachen, Germany)

I am Vanes­sa Grein and I work as a spokes­woman in Aachen, Ger­many. My stereo jour­ney start­ed about five years ago but my pho­tos had nev­er seen the light of day until last year. Encour­aged by Dr. Bri­an May, I shared them on Insta­gram and expe­ri­enced a love­ly warm wel­come by the stereo com­mu­ni­ty. Many of the pho­tog­ra­phers have their sig­na­ture styles and I was look­ing for some­thing new. After exper­i­ment­ing a lot I decid­ed to com­bine my two pas­sions  — paint­ing and stere­oscopy — and came up with deep space draw­ings. But it might be just the begin­ning of a new adven­ture.

Insta­gram-pro­file: vanessa.grein