We're used to marveling at the painted concept art that comes out alongside a big space epic. The incredible spaceship images, the gorgeous planetscapes. But back in the day, practical model builders created some views that were just as lovely.

You can see the results on screen: Star Trek II's battle scene in the Mutara Nebula looks like a painting come to life. But sometimes you catch a glimpse of a set photo or behind-the-scenes image, and it looks just as good. And you suddenly realize: these practical effects makers were creating these vistas in real life, with no tinkering afterwards.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Here are some of our favorite photos of model effects that look just as awesome as a painting.

As always, click to enlarge and see the full image — or right-click and select "open link in new tab."

Top image: Ship miniature by Scott Schneider for Alien Resurrection at conceptships.blogspot.com

"V-The Final Battle" mothership, model by Greg Jein. Photo from Stipes' Universe

Romulan Spaceship by Greg Jein for Mike Okuda. Photo at Drex Files.

Reaverized Serenity model used for hard the landing sequence by Grant McCune Design, Inc. Photo by Keelhauler FFP 01 at Flickr

The Nostromo's landing craft from Alien, by Visual Effects Supervisor Brian Johnson, supervising modelmaker Martin Bower, and their team at Bray Studios, based on combinations of Ridley Scott's storyboards and Ron Cobb's conceptual drawings. Photo from therpf.com

The refinery from Alien, photo from http://www.zen171398.zen.co.uk

Spaceship 3 by Will112 at deviantART

Mars by Matthew Albanese at behance.net

Ship miniature by Scott Schneider for Alien Resurrection at conceptships.blogspot.com

Ship miniature by Scott Schneider for Alien Resurrection at conceptships.blogspot.com

Enterprise model, on display at the National Air and Space Museum

Enterprise D four foot miniature. Photo from Drex Files

Enterprise D shuttle miniature by Greg Jein, photo from Drex Files

Bajoran raider studio model, photo from Memory Alpha

Voyager model, photo from Memory Alpha

Kazon fighter model from Star Trek: Voyager, photo from Memory Alpha

Concept ship model by Arne Beck at Concept Ships

AT-ATs from The Empire Strikes Back, photo from Vanity Fair

Dennis Murren in the Battle of Yavin IV, photo at May 25th, 1977

George Lucas and the Death Star, photo from Insight Editions

TIE Fighter test shot, from the rpf

Star Destroyer tower, photo from Insight Editions

Agroship from the original Battlestar Galactica, by Universal Hartland

War of the Gods Light Ship from the original Battlestar Galactica, at Universal Hartland

Cylon Raider and Viper models from the original Battlestar Galactica, at Galacticaa.net

Replica of the 6-foot-long model from the original Battlestar Galactica, photo from Fine Scale Modeler

Gemini Freight and Theta Station from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, photo from Universal Hartland

Sinaloa from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, photo from Universal Hartland

Transporter from Space:1999, photo from Starship Modeler

The Hawk from Space:1999, photo from Starship Modeler

Minas Tirith by Weta