How to Make a Polar Panorama in Photoshop

May 25, 2010 · 9 comments

in Inspiration,Photoshop,Scapes,Travel,Tutorials

Polar Panoramas, also known as Pano Planets and Polar Planets, probably won’t be the next best selling photographic service to make you millions, but it is one of the most rewarding ways you can display your landscape photographs. While the results are rather eye-catching, these images are in reality very easy to make, requiring only basic Photoshop skills. Best of all, once you have selected your photo, the tutorial takes less than 5 minutes to complete!

What exactly are Polar Panoramas, you might be wondering? A Polar Panorama is created by twisting a 360-degree panoramic image, into a circular shape to form a little planet.

How to make a Polar Planet in Photoshop:

Step 1: Selecting a photo
The easiest way to create your own Polar Planet, is to start off using a 360 degree panoramic image.  If you do not have any existing panoramas, you can also use a cropped landscape photo, just ensure the length of the photo, is at least twice as long as its width.

When choosing your image, keep the following in mind:
•    The bottom quarter of your image should have little detail, and be as uniform as possible (i.e. water, sand, grass etc) because this area will be distorted the most, and will form the centre part of your planet.
•    The upper quarter of the image should be sky. This will create the space in which your planet will be floating.

If you are using a cropped landscape image, the left and right edges of the photo should be as similar as possible, and the horizon must be exactly level in order to create a planet that joins seamlessly. If necessary, crop and straighten the image, otherwise your planet will have a great big crack resembling a vertical cliff face.

If you do not have an existing landscape image that matches the all the above criteria, select a landscape photo and create a mirror image panorama by using the following steps:
1.    Open the image in Photoshop
2.    Duplicate the Background layer
3.    In the Image menu, select Canvas Size, and make the new canvas size twice the length of the existing photo, and select the side anchor.
4.    Create a new Guide in the centre of the image by clicking on the left ruler, and dragging your mouse across the image and releasing the mouse button in the middle of the canvas, thus separating your photo and the white canvas.

5.    Select Ctrl T (Image Transform) and duplicate the image by flipping it over, covering the blank section of your canvas

6.    Flatten the image by selecting Flatten Image on the Layers menu.
7.    Straighten and crop as necessary, to ensure the horizon is at exactly the same height on both the left and right edges.

8.    Save the image, and continue with Step 2.

Step 2: Resize to a Square image
In the Image Size window in Photoshop, uncheck Constrain Proportions and set the image width to be the same as the height, to create a perfect square image.

Step 3: Rotate 180 degrees
In the Image menu, select Rotate Image, and then select180 degrees, to flip your image upside down.

Step 4: Apply the Polar Filter
In the Filter menu, select Distort, and then select Polar Coordinates. In the pop-up window, make sure Rectangular to Polar is selected, and click OK. This is where the magic happens…

Step 5: Final adjustments
You may need to touch up where the left and right edges merged, and tinker with the contrast, colours and rotate your planet to your liking.
I like to overlay textures onto my Polar Planets, to create a more dramatic and animated feel.

And there you have it – your very own little planet! I’m sure you’ll find this technique as addictive as I did, and soon you will have your own magical solar system of tiny planets!

Optional extra:
If you leave out Step 3 and do no rotate the image, you end up with a reverse effect that is quite out of the ordinary too.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Mom May 25, 2010 at 7:35 pm

Rix, what do I do to post this on my Facebook news feed so that my friends can see it?

rikki hibbert May 26, 2010 at 8:05 am

For now, click on the title of the post, then copy the web address in the top bar – it should be something like rikkihibbert.co.za/(date)/(name of post)
Then paste it on your Facebook profile page.
I’m busy getting the “Share” button fixed…

Werner June 1, 2010 at 10:46 pm

Cool stuff, I want to try that !!

Wesley Vorster June 2, 2010 at 9:48 am

I love this! Just need an image to try it out!

rikki hibbert June 2, 2010 at 7:32 pm

It’s pretty gimmicky, but the results are so rewarding!

Looking forward to our full moon long exposure photo expedition!

rikki hibbert June 2, 2010 at 7:39 pm

@Wesley – landscape images work best, especially if the height of the horizon is equal on the left & right edges.

Julian August 24, 2010 at 10:54 am

Wow, these are really creative!!

rikki hibbert August 24, 2010 at 10:42 pm

Thanks Julian! x

Krish November 5, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Hello rikki, that’s so tight! I tried it but the circular objects are coming out ellicptical in the result. How to fix that one?

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