Coffee Planet

In this post I’ll be showing you how to take a wasted cup of coffee and turn it into a coffee planet in Photoshop!

Have you ever been working away on a project and lost track of time? You go to grab your cup of coffee and – oh. Oh no. You’ve let it go cold šŸ™


You can turn that ruined cup of tea / coffee into a new and habitable* planet!

I felt inspired recently by a post in World Anvil‘s Discord server from a fellow worldbuilder by the name of Siltuz, who posted a picture of their abandoned coffee and noted how it looked like continents on a map!

I was itching to have a play with this image, so I asked Siltuz for permission to share this tutorial with you and they kindly agreed šŸ˜€

So, in this tutorial I will be walking you through step by step how to create the planet above, using a photo of leftover tea / coffee.

You can also find other inspiration in the wild such as paint splats, stains and peeled stickers – check out for more ideas!

Siltuz took this picture by putting the camera over the cup and using flash to illuminate the shapes.

The first thing I did was put this image into a 1920 x 1080 pixel document so that it would make a cool desktop wallpaper, but pick a document size that suits your needs.

The first thing that I noticed about this image (other than my preference in tea strength colour) was the lack of contrast between the “sea” and the “land” shapes.

To fix this, I created a New Adjustment Layer > Levels by clicking the black & white circle next to the group button down by layers (or by going Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels).

I adjusted the sliders so that the “sea” was much darker and the whites weren’t so harsh. These are the settings that I used to achieve this:

If you don’t want the levels adjustment to affect the background, select it and press Ctrl / Cmd + Alt + G to create a Clipping Mask (or right click the layer and select clipping mask). This means that it will now only affect the layer directly below it and nothing more.

It should look a bit like this with the little arrow next to it! You’ll notice that I am in the habit of making a copy of my original images just in case I ever make a mistake, you can do that easily with Ctrl / Cmd + J to duplicate a layer.

Next I used the Burn Tool (O) and darkened the sea areas to give a better contrast to the landmasses. I also burned around the edge of the “planet” to give it more depth and make it appear a bit rounder. You can also switch to the Dodge Tool (O) to lighten the landmass areas some more.

The next step I took was to blend in the edges of the photo to make it look a bit more like an isolated planet. To do this, select the layer and click Add Layer Mask (down near the new layer button). With the layer mask part selected, use a soft brush set to black to mask off the sharp edges.

I felt that it looked a bit too blurry, so I used the Ellipse Tool (U) and held down shift to create a perfect circle the same size as the planet. I made sure that this circle layer’s fill was set to 0% opacity so that it was invisible – this will be important in a moment.

Hold down Ctrl / Cmd and click on the layer thumbnail for the circle shape (it should now have a dotted line around it) and whilst this is selected, make another New Adjustment Layer > Levels. You should now have a new Levels adjustment layer that has a layer mask of the circle.

From here I adjusted the levels and brought the black slider up a bit which has made the planet look more spherical and less blurry. If the levels layer is affecting the background and not your planet, select the layer mask and press Ctrl / Cmd + I to invert it.

Time to make it look less coffee-like!

Select the circle shape layer and add a New Layer Style (the “fx” button down near the new layer button).

I added a light blue Outer Glow and played around with the settings to create an atmosphere for the planet.

I then added an Inner Shadow but set the colour to white and the Blend Mode to lighten. This created a directional light source that would replicate light from the star that this planet orbits.

To give it a bit more depth I added a Bevel & Emboss, but set the size to the max so that it just adds a shadow and highlight. Note that I set the angle of the shading to the same as what I set for the Inner Shadow.

The planet is looking ok, but not very crisp. So on a New Layer, I went Image > Apply Image to create a merged copy of the layers below (whilst still keeping them there). I then went to Filter > Other > High Pass and adjusted the settings so that it showed up the edges of the landmasses.

Set this layer to soft light (reduce the opacity if it’s too sharp) and it will add a bit of contrast & sharpness to the image.

Here’s what I have so far! It looks pretty cool but I want to make it look a bit more earth-like.

I created a New Adjustment Layer > Selective Colour and moved the sliders around to adjust the colours to something more blue.

But it looks a bit too cold and blue, so let’s add some life to it.

On a new layer, I brushed some green over the land areas.

Done! End of tutorial, thanks for reading šŸ˜€ stay tuned for next week’s tutorial!


This looks uuuuuugly so set the layer style to Colour and press Ctrl / Cmd + U to bring up the Hue/Saturation adjustment.

I had to adjust the colours a bit to make them look more appealing.

To finish it off, I added a New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map set to a black to white gradient, with the layer style set to Multiply at 50% opactiy. If this affects your background, use the clipping mask trick from earlier by selecting the circle shape!

You could call this done, but I’d like a nice background to make it look like it’s in space. I went to my favourite stock image site, Unsplash and found an image of stars (link here). All images on Unsplash are free to use, but to find other free images for your work check out my guide here!

I placed the image beneath all of my layers (but above my black background layer). I also set a layer mask using that circle layer again so that it wouldn’t show up behind the planet.

Here is the finished result!

Huge thanks again to Siltuz for letting me use the original photo for this tutorial!

Let me know if you give this tutorial a try and if you have any requests for tutorials pop them in the comments below!

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