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polarama tutorialTechnically called a Polarama (because it uses the Polar co-ordinate system), you can end up with a little “planet” when you wrap around a panorama photo – like you can see on the thumbnail to the side there.

Today I’m going to show you how to achieve this effect in Photoshop. This is a quick and easy tutorial anyone can follow; even easier if you already have some panoramas to play with.

No Panorama? Use Photomerge

Start by taking lots of pictures that you’ll stitch together into a panorama. In order for the planet effect to work, make sure you have a consistent sky all the way around. It’s essential that you lock the focus and white balance if you can.

  • Open up Photoshop and from the File->Automate menu, choose Photomerge.

polarama tutorial

  • Use the browse dialog to find your files. Ensure settings are on Automatic, and Remove Geometric Distortion.

photoshop tips

  • When you hit OK, things are going to take a while to process, proportional to how many photos you took. The atrocious result below took about 30 minutes to render with 47 huge iPhone photos; the rendered file ended up at 2.1GB. It’s a good example of how this entire process will mess up if you don’t lock the white balance. Learn from my mistake!

photoshop tips

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  • When you’re done, cut the edges either side so that they align; if you took a good amount of overlap, you should be able to find a common feature to both edges that you can just slice down the middle of.

I must stress, using a panarama app such as 360 is far, far easier. I resorted to using this; the geometric distortion with scenery that was too close was just too much for Photoshop; you’ll get better results if your foreground is a little further away than my tiny garden.

photoshop tips and tricks

Polar Distortion

Next, we’re going to distort the image into a square shape.

  • Go to Images->Image size and uncheck the chckbox that says Constrain Proportions. Make the height the same as the width and apply. You’ll end up with a square but ridiculous looking image. Great!

photoshop tips and tricks

  • Spin the image around next; Image -> Image Rotation -> 180?. Note – if you skip this step, your sky will be in the middle. So don’t.

photoshop tips and tricks

  • The last step is to use polar distortion. Select Filters -> Distort -> Polar Co-ordinates -> Rectangular to Polar, and apply.

You may also want to rotate again at this point, and if there’s an ugly stitching mark in the middle due to temperamental skies, use healing or smudge tools to clean it up. As it is, we had a glorious day of throughly non-English weather.

This is an earlier attempt, which shows clearly what happens if you don’t have sky all the way around. This is difficult if your surroundings are too close, but you might actually want this effect if there’s a tower you want in the scene.

polarama tutorial

Have you made one that you think is awesome? Be sure to share it in the comments. Flickr also has a specific group called Create Your Own Planet with some absolutely stunning examples, but no one uses Flickr anymore, apparently.

Check out all our other Photoshop tutorials too; I’m particularly fond of my tilt-shift how-to How To Make Your Own Tilt Shift Scenes In Photoshop How To Make Your Own Tilt Shift Scenes In Photoshop Read More . If there’s some other effect you’d like us to perhaps cover, let us know and we’ll see what we can do.

  1. Jon Smith
    June 4, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    Thats a cool read-I always wanted to know how they do it

  2. Raj
    June 4, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Great article. Thanks for sharing

  3. Joshua Lockhart
    June 3, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    Great tutorial James. Definitely want to give it a shot.

  4. Elijah Love
    June 3, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Great tutorial! I've always been curious as to how those are made. Now I know that the process is exceedingly simple! Thanks!

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