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So, I'd like to make a rendering of my world to see what it would look like from outer space. I have the map drawn up, and the various features (mostly) designed. Think about it like taking a series of orthographic drawings and turning them into a three-dimensional rendering.

I'd like the final rendering to allow me to take images of the planet, like The Blue Marble (obviously not that detailed - after all, it's a photograph! - but from that position):

What software can help me with that?

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Terragen is a software which can create really beautiful terrain renderings, which it can also map on a sphere to create a planet.

This image is from the official Terragen showcase gallery: enter image description here

A slightly less orthodox example, also from the showcase gallery: enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Teragen is really impressive. Some of those renders I have to look really closely at to tell if they're real or not. $\endgroup$ – Green Sep 3 '15 at 15:26
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You can use Photoshop to create 3D spheres which you can later shade and render underneath atmosphere and clouds. Using each of these elements as a separate layer allows you the maximum control over your planet. You can rotate them independently in and out of view as you desire. You can light your sphere from any direction with complete control over the source.

enter image description here

I personally don't use this technique often though, except for gas giants, as a sphere is much more difficult to detail to the extent that it looks realistic. Not impossible at all, it just takes more time. And for what I do, it's just not necessary. So the vast majority of my planets are 2D.

enter image description here

Using Photoshop can be tricky, and learning to make decent planets will take time. But you can come up with some awesome results.

If your interested I can create a tutorial on how to make a planet using Photoshop.

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