ProductionCrate has released an incredible bundle of 100 space and atmosphere HDRIs for you to use in your 3D digital art and VFX. 10 of these are available to download for free today, and only require you to sign up for a free ProductionCrate account.
Getting to space in your 3D renders can be the most visually rewarding project an artist can work on. Capturing the grand curvature of the earth, the vast atmospheric clouds and endless stars in the sky serve as the best background in the universe, and now you’ll be able to access it for free. The free HDRI’s include:
These free space HDRI’s are ready to download in 16K resolution, making their resolution perfect for cinematic renders that demand a high texture quality.
Download Earth from Space HDRI environment images
If you’ve worked in 3D artwork, you’ll most likely be familiar with HDRI images. These are specialized images that are designed to contain all of the information to illuminate a 3D scene. This is achieved by representing the colour and intensity of light coming from every direction and is used by a rendering engine to integrate a 3D object into the environment contained in the HDRI image. HDRI images are one of the foundations of all VFX projects, as lighting your 3D models to match the lighting of background footage is crucial to achieving a photorealistic result.
In this example, the spaceship illumination is automatically prepared, as the HDRI image contains a bright sun, as well as a soft blue light beneath (representing the light reflected from the planet).
Capturing HDRI images is a tedious process. First, a camera will be positioned in the expected location of the 3D object (so that the light being captured accurately represents the conditions expected). By taking several photographs at varying exposures, it’s possible to avoid the clipping seen if a photo contained a shadow and the sun in the same frame. By doing this, the multiple images can be “stacked” together, with an algorithm automatically identifying which exposure levels contain the most information for each area of the picture. Additionally, the exposure information is embedded into the final result, meaning that while typical images have brightnesses ranging from 0 – 1, our combined “high dynamic range” image may spread from 0 – 1,073,741,824 (based on the OpenEXR specification). This process is repeated with the camera rotating enough times to capture 360 degrees of imagery, creating a spherical photo similar to those you encounter in Google Street View. The end result is an image that can be wrapped around an environment, projecting its light into a scene exactly how it would do in the real world.
While the process of creating these can be a laborious technical obstacle, the end result is an asset that can be added to any 3D scene instantly. This is why we created these space HDRI images, simulating an accurate appearance of the Earth from space for you to download now!
Granted, we did not go to space to capture these images, however, incredible attention to detail has been carried out to offer the most realistic and spectacular backgrounds for your spaceship scenes. Refusing to accept mediocre results is what pushed us to create truly unique HDRI images that are simply out of this world. In these 16K HDRI space images, you’ll see vast cloud structures, sunsets, physically accurate atmospheric scattering and the arching thin blue line between earth and space.
The 16K resolution of these space HDRI images provides an unparalleled level of detail with minimal impact on performance. Thanks to the high resolution of this environment map, you can zoom in up close to every cloud scattered in the sky with little loss of visual quality. The 360 degrees of content, combined with the 16K resolution, makes this the definitive space environment that offers your camera unlimited freedom of movement. Tilt up, pan left, zoom in, and witness an awe-inspiring view of Earth from space.
With incredible colour and exposure accuracy, anything that you add to your scene will be influenced by the light with pixel-perfect accuracy. Edges on your 3D models, whether it’s a spaceship, astronaut or asteroid, will catch the highlights of the blazing bright sun. Swathes of blue light received from Earth’s vast atmosphere provide vibrant fill light, softly illuminating the underside of your models. The pitch-black darkness of empty space will create unbeatable contrast and shadows. All of these features combined replicate the iconic lighting seen in space scenes from Star Wars, Gravity and Interstellar.
How to create a Space Scene in Blender
Adding space HDRI images to your 3D scenes is much simpler than you would expect. In most software, such as 3ds Max, Maya and Cinema4D, you first create a Sky or Dome light source. This sets up a source of light that comes toward your scene from every angle. We can then specify what colour each ray of light should be by simply using our space HDRI images as a texture. You may need to set the mapping to “spherical” so that it interprets the image’s coordinates correctly.
To create the space scene in Blender, you will first navigate to the Shading window. By changing your output from Object to World, you will be able to manipulate Blender’s background. Start by adding an Environment Texture node and use the file explorer to navigate to your downloaded space HDRI image. Once the Color output of the Environment Texture node is connected to the Background node, your HDRI image will be ready!
For best results, making your spaceship’s surface metallic and reflective will create the most immersive appearance. Seeing the reflections of Earth on the panels and details of your ship is an excellent way to tie the foreground and background of your artwork together, making them feel like one cohesive scene. Creating a bloom effect will also help the brightest parts of your image, such as the sun, appear to interfere with the lens for a truly photographic appearance.
Likewise, it is recommended to adjust the exposure and saturation of the space HDRI to steer your scene towards realism or stylized. Adding a bloom effect, which is built into Eevee’s rendering engine, is an easy way to simulate the bright lights of space bleeding through the camera lens.
ProductionCrate’s Youtube channel has uploaded a detailed tutorial on how to create space scenes in Blender. David presents several additional tricks that will then take your render to the next level, such as additional bounce lighting, bloom and how to customize the color of the planet.
If you need assets to populate your space scene with, ProductionCrate has a collection of free 3D spaceship models for you to explore. Additionally, our library of assets hosts astronauts, aliens, robots, asteroids, and other 3D models that are easy to download, set up and render.
Additionally, graphicsCrate hosts a unique collection of Nebula effects that can be added onto these space HDRI images for an incredible backdrop to your planet.
ProductionCrate is excited to see what you will be able to create with these free planet HDRI images. Whether you’re working on a blockbuster space film or a music video aiming to push the limits of creativity, ProductionCrate is here to make it possible.
Want to explore more content? Check out our entire collection of HDRI imagery here!