the girl who used to dance on fire and brimstone (whiskyinmind) wrote,
the girl who used to dance on fire and brimstone

Icon Tutorial

Over on llmcrorysbar 2cbetter2 was asking for iconning tips and referenced this icon of mine as an example of what she's looking to achieve so… I wrote a tutorial for it. This is for Photoshop Seven and uses Curves and one Selective Color layer. It can be done without the selective color which makes it compatable with other programmes.

Programme: PhotoShop 7
Level: moderate
PSD: nope, sorry.

Okay, here we go!

Lately I've started doing most of my colouring work on the base before I crop it, sometimes working on the colours on a screencap can bring out something that catches my eye in a way I wouldn't have expected and defines the crop. So, we start with our base (which is one of my own screencaps).

Not too horribly dark, unlike a lot of caps from TV shows, but it could still do with being a bit brighter so duplicate the layer (on Photoshop - Layer > Duplicate Layer) and set the 'mode' to screen.

Leave it at 100% opacity and fill for the moment. Your cap should look something like this now:

The next thing I want to do is increase the contrast. This will make the darker colours richer and the lighter colours 'pop' more. To do this I'm going to add two 'curves' layers. These look really scary when you're not used to using them, and the best thing to do is play about with them, see what they do. There are four 'channels' (it's the term PS uses, I don't really know why!), each one relating to a specific colour within the image.

RGB - the complete image

For this image I'm going to increase the contrast a little on all of the channels - here's the screencaps of the settings I use, as you see most of them aren't *huge* changes, little changes all add up to make a big difference. So, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves... and these are the settings I used.

And your image now looks like this


Could Parker look any more washed out? You're now thinking "Sho! What did you do? It looked so much better before the stupid curves layer!!" and you'd be right, the added contrast I'm going for just isn't there... until you change the layer mode. Change it to 'Soft Light' (at 100% opacity & fill) et voila!

see? I'm not completely insane, no, really, I'm not. (who's that laughing in the back of the class?)

It still needs a little more contrast I think, so yes, you guessed it, another curves layer! (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves...) and these are the settings this time:

I'm only using the RGB channel this time but there are a lot more inputs on it so, here's how to get your 'curve' to look like that.

when it's a straight line, click anywhere on it and you'll see the 'Input' and 'Output' boxes appear.
1st point: Input 8 Output 0
To create more input points, click on the line above your last defined point.
2nd point: Input 33 Output 79
3rd point: Input 63 Output 172
4th point: Input 91 Output 186
5th point: Input 167 Output 245
6th point: Input 223 Output 252
7th point: Input 252 Output 255

And here's the result

Hopefully you'll go with me on this since I showed you last time I wasn't completely nuts and, let's be honest, that looks awful! Set your layer mode to 'Multiply'.

MUch better, right? only thing is... the contrast is more or less where I want it to be, but it's too dark again. So, go back to the duplicate of your background layer - the one set to screen - and duplicate this one. (Layer > Duplicate Layer)
Drag it to the very top above your two curves laters and there you go!

This next layer is just me tweaking the colours and is PhotoShop specific as it uses a Selective Coloring layer. If you're using another programme (like Gimp or PSP) you can skip this step)

what I want to do is increase the reds to add a little warmth. So Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Selective Color and here's the settings

Taking the blues down and upping the yellow on the red tones on the image warms the whole thing up a little, but makes it a little too orange for skin tones, so we drop the yellow content of the yellows in the image. And I really hope that makes sense!

Okay, Photoshop specific layer out of the way (other programme users, are there colour adjustment tools that would do something similar? Maybe a color balance or variations layer?)

Welcome back! So I'm pretty happy with the colouring and contrast of my image so far, but it's not an icon yet. We need to crop it! Before I do this, I already know that when the size is reduced it's going to lose some of the definition, so in preparation for sharpening it later I'm going to put the whole thing onto one layer. You could at this point simply flatten the image (Layer > Flatten Image), but I'm paranoid about this kind of thing so what I do is 'stamp' a copy of the whole thing onto a new layer.

Layer > New Layer
Select > Select All
Edit > Copy Merged
Edit > Paste

(or keyboard shortcuts - Cntrl+Shift N; Cntrl A; Cntrl+Shift A; Cntrl V)

Now choose your crop tool and define your settings like this:

I always keep my resolution somewhere around 72 and no higher than 100 because it produces the best results with such small images.

Choose the area you want to crop and drag the tool over that area.

Once you're happy with your placing, crop away and now you have your basic icon!

Not too shabby! All we have to do now is sharpen it a little to make our couple stand out a little more. So:
Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen

Personal thing here, I think it's just a little too sharp at this point, so before I do anything else I go up to Edit > Fade Sharpen and drop the opacity to somewhere between 50% and 75% (this one's 75%)

now you can go ahead and flatten the image if you're not as paranoid as I am and save in PNG format.

The finished icon:

I hope this was helpful! Feedback is *always* appreciated!
Tags: icons, icons: tutorial, tutorials
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