DIY Star Map

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About: Lots of hobbies, more than enough time.

Ever since I was a kid, I have been amazed by the night sky. It was always a mystery to me how the stars managed to keep their positions night after night, the only thing that would change was their orientation—relative to my normal position that is—altogether.

Growing up, I learned that it had to do with Earth's rotation and its position in the sky. This was also the reason why some of the constellations I could spot in one season didn't show up in the other seasons.

This property of the stars gave me the notion that every event, every special day in our lives, has its own dedicated sky view, be it day or night. This, in turn, gave me the idea for this project.

I really enjoy making things myself instead of buying them—especially if I'm planning on giving them as gifts. I believe it's more heartfelt to spend your time creating whatever it is you want to give someone as a gift. It may not always turn out perfect but I'm sure whoever you're giving it to will appreciate the time and effort you put into creating their present.

It's about time for my younger brother's birthday and I thought maybe I could create a star map of his birthdate. I remember watching the sky the night he was born, and this would serve as a memento of that night for both of us.

Without further ado, let's get to the list of supplies I used for this project!

Supplies:

  • Canvas (could be any size you want, I used a 40x50 one)
  • Acrylic Paint
    • White
    • Any other colour for the background (I used indigo)
  • 2 Flat Acrylic Paint Brush (a big one for the background, and a small one for painting over the guidelines later)
  • A Round Acrylic Paint Brush Size 1 (for the stars)
  • A Straight Pin (for the smaller stars)
  • Protractor
  • Triangle Ruler
  • A White Gel Pen (I used this for drawing the constellation lines, you could use a rigger brush with white acrylic paint)
  • Markers (for the lettering. Again, you could use normal brushes with paint)
  • A Red Pencil (for drawing the guidelines on your printed paper)
  • A Graphite Pencil (for drawing the guidelines on your canvas)
  • LED Lights (optional)

I didn't include links for where you could buy these because most of the items that i have on this list aren't really branded, but these are all available at almost every craft store.

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Step 1: Getting Everything You Need

The first step, of course, is to get all the tools and resources you need for the project. As I mentioned in the last section, all of the things I used are available in craft stores.

For the Star Map, I used this website called Heavens-Above, it's a cool website with lots of different features. Here are the steps you need to go through to get your star map, you can also use the pictures above as a guide;

  1. After opening the website using the link above, you'll need to set your location. To do that, simply click on the indicated part at the top right corner of the page.
  2. Now, there are two ways you can set your location; either by entering your location the traditional way. Or you can click on the 'WHAT3WORDS' icon and it will redirect you to a map where you can set your location by dragging a point on the map around, this, in turn, will give you a 3-word address which you can copy and paste to its proper place on the previous page.
  3. When you're done setting your location, simply click the 'Home' button near the top right corner.
  4. Click on 'Interactive sky chart (now with PDF print option)'.
  5. Now set the date and time. The website automatically reverts the date and time back to the current date and time every you exit that page or even when you press the back button, so make sure you've set the right time before you print the page.
  6. Now you can choose what you want to show up on your map.
  7. You're all set! Now all you need to do is click on that printer icon and it will generate a PDF file with your Star Map which you can then easily print out.

Now that you have everything you need, let's get to work!

Step 2: Painting the Background of Your Canvas

As the title indicates, we're now going to paint the base of our canvas.

For the paint, I wouldn't suggest mixing two different colours since we'll be covering quite a large area and chances are you'll make quite a few mistakes throughout the way. At first, I was going to mix some black with the indigo paint I had on hand, but thankfully I didn't, because I made a lot of mistakes later on and fixing those would've been a bother since I'd have to mix the paint again and again after every mistake. Not doing so earned me quite some time.

I didn't even use a palette in this step, I simply poured a decent amount of paint on the canvas and spread it around using my bigger wash brush. Try not to hold back from using the paint, but also make sure you spread it all out evenly, or else it'll end up looking quite striated. Also, don't forget to paint the sides of your canvas as well.

Try moving your brush back and forth in one axis only. For example, you could only move your brush from right to left and back to right and so on, but then you shouldn't move your brush up and down.

Once your done painting your canvas, leave it aside to dry, and proceed to the next steps.

Step 3: Drawing Guidelines for the Star Map

This step's an easy one, you'll need a ruler, a drawing compass, and a coloured pencil.

Using your pencil and ruler, draw 4 straight lines across the map; one from North to South, one from East to West, one from 45° to 225°, and one from 135° to 315°.

Next, measure the radius of your circle, then divide the radius into 4 equal sections and mark their ends. Then, starting from the marks you just made, draw 3 circles using your compass. It should look something like that last image.

Step 4: Drawing Guidelines for the Canvas

For this step, you'll need a triangle ruler (a.k.a set square), a protractor, a compass(we'll make one ourselves), and a pencil.

Start by measuring the width of your canvas (W), then divide that into two (W/2). Then, starting from one edge, mark the top of your canvas at W/2, after that make another mark at W/2 but this time on the side. Since my canvas' width was 40cm, I marked the top at 20cm, and the side at 20cm as shown in the third image.

Now place the triangle ruler as shown in the second image (right next to one of the marks) and draw a short line approximately across the other mark. Do the same on with the other mark. this should result in something like the third image (without the dashed lines of course). This marks the center of your circle.

Next, you'll need to decide how big you want your star map to be on your canvas, as we'll be making a custom tool that'll serve as a compass for this project. I cut a long piece off one of my hard plastic notebook covers to make this tool. I wanted the biggest circle to have a radius of 14cm so I chose a starting point and marked it 0, then I made another mark 14cm away. then I divided that section into 4 sections and marked the plastic at 3.5, 7, and 10.5. I also marked 15.5 since I wanted to draw the outer section of the map as well. Finally, I poked holes through the marks I had made using a push-pin, and that was it!

Now it's time to draw the circles. Insert the push-pin into the 0.0 hole, then insert the pin into that center-mark you made on your canvas earlier. Next, using a pencil, draw all 5 circles. you could use the white gel pen to draw the last two circles (the 14cm and the 15.5cm), but I did that later on. It's totally up to you.

To draw the straight lines, use the 7th image as a guide. First, continue drawing the two lines(the ones you used to find the centre of the circle) till you reach the end of the 14cm circle, then using a protractor, draw two more at 45° to these lines.

Step 5: Painting the Stars

This was my favourite part of the whole project, felt like solving a puzzle.

Using the guidelines, try to copy every star from your paper onto your canvas. A size 1 round brush works well enough but for some of the smaller stars, I just dipped a straight pin into the paint and used that instead to paint the stars. I think it's better if you leave the constellation lines to the end. Otherwise, it'll get quite messy and you might forget a few stars.

Step 6: Painting Over the Guidelines + Drawing the Constellation Lines

First, you'll need a small flat brush with the base paint to paint over the guidelines, make sure you don't paint over any stars, and make sure you don't use too much paint or it'll bulge out.

When you're done with that, it's time to draw the constellation lines. Like I mentioned in the introduction, you could use a rigger brush for the lines, but I prefer the gel pen. I simply used a ruler with the pen to get lines straight and that's it.

Then, using the tool from earlier, you can draw the two outer circles with the gel pen if you haven't already. Using the protractor, measure each angle and mark their place, then write them down with the gel pen.

Step 7: Lettering + LED Lights

For the lettering, I used a Kurecolour Black marker along with two Staedtler metallic markers. I used texts from this site as a guide.

Now originally, I was planning on punching holes through the stars and inserting the LED lights from the back of the canvas through these holes. But, my LED lights were too big ,and my stars too small. In the end, I decided against it since I didn't want to mess it up. I simply attached the LED lights to the side of the canvas using normal tape. I ended up liking how it looked and so I kept it that way.

Also sorry for the bad quality of the video, I accidentally broke my phone recently and I haven't got a new one yet, so I had to borrow others' phones for the photos/video I took for this project.

Step 8: You're Done!

I hope you liked my project, and if you've tried making it, let me know! I'd love to see how it went for you.

Please let me know if you have any questions, constructive criticism is also always welcome!

If you have been, thanks for reading!

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    14 Discussions

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    m1interactive

    4 weeks ago

    Hey great job and thanks for the inspiration. I just made one for my Grandson. I sent it to Kinkos to get printed on backlit paper and plan to mount it on a backlit frame to make the stars glow. The print came out fantastic!

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    sana383m1interactive

    Reply 21 days ago

    Thanks a lot! I'm very glad you found it useful, I hope it made your grandson happy!

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    AngelaS222

    5 weeks ago

    I love this idea--I am possibly going to use this in my classroom. Thank you for sharing!

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    rocket radhi

    6 weeks ago

    Just Awesome. I'm a star gazer too. Once i have done similar kind of constellation for my high school competition with LED as star.. This reminds me of that.

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    sana383rocket radhi

    Reply 5 weeks ago

    Glad you liked it! The sky is truly wondrous and inspiring, one can never have enough of it!

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    Dumbphone

    6 weeks ago

    What a fantastical idea! Your celestial recreation is brilliant, and the finished product is so well done. Thank you for sharing.

    1 reply