I recently came across a neat tutorial for Blender on how to create a realistic Earth image using real land and cloud images from NASA. Well, all right, we hit “realistic” about half way through the tutorial and went on to “slightly stylized,” but I like how it came out so I thought I'd share it here.
…and looking at it now, I realize you can't actually see any of the land textures because they're all on the dark side of the planet (except Hawaii, which should be visible, but I can't find it even in the full-size image). Huh. Not the greatest composition ever, is it? I do love the night lights effect though, that's pretty neat.
While I could have added a realistic starry backdrop, I was focused on finishing the rest of the tutorial and instead went for a simple random noise texture stretched to get stars. While playing around with different noise textures for the background I found the Voronoi noise texture and thought it was cool enough to save a picture of:
(Incidentally, in this picture you can actually see the land textures…)
Anyway, I now have a fairly simple (minus the stylized parts) way of rendering a pretty realistic Earth, and I bet NASA has similar textures for other Solar System bodies, so I may have to do something with that in the future…