Set up a 3D planetary landing scene in Maya


Hello everyone! Ahmad Turki here and today I will be showing you a step by step tutorial for my latest art work “LANDED | 上陸.”

moon planets sci-fi modelling photoshop space sci-f
moon planets sci-fi modelling photoshop space sci-f futuristic

Creating the terrain

I started with just a plan, playing around with displacement maps, since it’s just easier than creating a terrain model with ZBrush. Then I went to and got myself a high-res map, and that's how I started this project.

Setting up the environment

After setting up my base, I added a mountain to create the feel that the place is steep, which would create more mystery to the image overall. Since I am a big fan of drama movies, I always like to add a more dramatic feel to my renders.

Setting up the camera

After I was done with the environment, I had to set up the hero of my shot, which in this case is the space ship. I wanted to keep it simple and not busy as the main focus to my artwork was presenting the lights.

Laying out the astronauts

After going through CG trader’s models I found cool astronaut models courtesy of Angelo Ferretti. Then I just laid them out in an abstract style, each one of them looking somewhere as if they were looking for something. And whatever it is I leave it for people to decide.

Adding the colours

Now everything is all laid out, I wanted to keep my textures and colors as simple as possible, as my focus point was the overall composition. While most of the scene was going to be dark, there was no need to add textures as we won't see much of them, so I used emission to emit some light from the astronauts, which would add more detail to the overall image.

Setting up the lights

I kept the lights to 2 lights; I wanted to create a mix between Yellow and Red. Yellow was my key light and red was more of a rim/fill light. I was inspired by the cyberpunk theme, keeping it a bit futuristic and interesting.

I always like to play around with the light color. I understand sometimes it may affect the overall look of the render, but sometimes it just works beautifully without much post-work comp tweaks.

Put the focus point

Now everything was all set up and ready for my render, I had to add my favorite tool in Maya, which is the Depth Of Field option in my camera. I usually like to use the Maya rendered depth of field to see it live in my render, rather than just render a Depth pass and optimize. I believe rendered can be prepared by 90% in Maya and then you can add in the last 10% in comp. So I put my focus point on the spaceship, and at the same time got some nice bokeh effect from the astronauts’ emission lights.

Prepare for render

After setting up my camera, the last stage for my render was setting up the render settings. I rendered with resolution of 2200 x 1000 as I like to keep my renders wide and high-res. For the sampling I always go with Min samples of 32 and Max of 128 as the render will come out clean, so no point going more than that.


I started to play around first with black-and-white values. What I liked most is that it gave the render a more cinematic look. So I decided to keep both versions, and in Photoshop I added few elements like adding some dusty particles and a camera frame to add to the mystery of the render.

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