Time Mistress (khallandra) wrote in icon_tutorial,
Time Mistress

Iconning: Tips and Tricks

Instead of writing a tutorial on how to do a specific icon here are a collection of tips and tricks that I have been using that may be helpful to iconners of all levels, I use PSP so you will have to discover relevant names that may not be within your own program.

The ideas have been obtained from the various tutorials found in this wonderful community. I will be using a variety of sample images, these are to best demonstrate the tip.
These will not be comprehensive step-by-step procedures on how to get effects just some ideas to get you started. Aimed at all levels and includes:

Black and White tips, using Exclusion, Luminosity, Yellow Soft Light Layers and Textures.

How to Use a Tutorial
A tutorial is a set of steps to get a specific result with a specific base. So when using a tutorial get a base similar to the maker. Follow the steps then use the IDEAS to create your master piece, if it says use a specific texture try another one instead and see what it looks like. Try to create something unique out of the steps rather than a direct copy (that's why PSDs are not something I use, it is too easy just to end up with a copy).
Mix tutorials even, have a few layers from one mixed with another, you'd be surprised at the results (mind you this is a trial and error experience, sometimes it looks awesome, others just plain horrible).

Black and White
It is not as simple as just desaturating, typically a simple desaturation just looks washed out. A quick fix is to play with the brightness and contrast, typically I use a 1 to 3 ratio, is I up the brightness by 5, contrast will be 15, down by -3, contrast will be 12. That isn't an exact formula but a place to start.
More advanced techniques use various colour balancing layers and other layers underneath the desaturation.
And finally textures, a good set of textures used in the right place can bring more depth and interest into your back and white image.
Simple Desaturate Desaturate + Brightness and Contrast Layer Desaturate un top of a duplicate base set to 100% softlight, colour balance layer playing with the reds Adding some textures

Most important thing is to play, the examples above are just simple examples of the techniques.

Exclusion Layers
If you want a nice yellowish tinge to your work I'd suggest using a multiply layer of a tan colour rather than an exclusion layer as an exclusion layer adds more and is best used underneath other colouring layers to give more depth of colour.

First we start with our plain image, it is quite yellow. First this is a demonstration of a full dark blue exclusion layer, see how the blacks are bluer and the yellows and whites are creamy, the layer is not very useful in full opacity so often you dull it down to 20-30%. The second is a full dark brown exclusion layer, everything is given a blue-ish grey tinge.

Base Dark Blue 100% Exclusion Dark Brown 100% Exclusion

Here is now an example of adding some selective colour and colour balance layers to the base image, it has brought out the colours desired but is quite stark, yes you could play with your layers to make it less contrasty or you can add a Dark Brown exclusion layer just underneath all the colouring layers, set it to 40-80% depending on how greyed out you want it to be (this one is at 80% to demonstrate)


This time instead of the dark brown exclusion layer we have the dark blue, set to 80%.


And lastly, using both of the exclusion layers together.


A way of adding some grey into your icon to allow for some depth to be seen is to add a light blue layer of Luminosity, though typically use an opacity of 10-20% only, these examples have the layer set to 15%. First is our base image, second is a straight fill layer of light blue set to 15% Luminosity, third is a light blue texture using the same setting. Using a texture gives some variance into the layer adding some more areas that can be defined.

Base Fill Layer Texture Layer

You can place this layer at any point in your icon, here are two examples of it being placed before and after a series of colouring layers. When it is placed before it mutes out the colouring and stops it from becoming too dark, placed after it brings out the details of the darkened aspects but leaves the colouring.

Coloured Only Before Colouring Layers On Top

Yellow Soft Light
Typically a yellow softlight layer is added to the base image before selective colouring layers, this allows the reds to be brought out some more. It works best when also having a soft light layer of the duplicated base and you have to play with the opacity to get it right, in all these cases the fill was set to 50%. Again like the luminosity layer you can use a yellow texture as your soft light layer to get different results.

Base Coloured Image Fill Layer Texture Layer

Removing a Background
Again many tutorials on this using all sorts of tools. Three ways I have been using are:
1. Eraser brush
2. Mask layer
3. Quick Selection Tool
With each of these techniques there is often an 'erase to history' option that you will need to find in your program. First you'll need to turn your background layer into a proper layer and then erase otherwise you'll just get the background colour and this is not what you want.
Try not to remove too much of the person themselves, halos around them can be effective just make certain it is uniform around the entire image not fat in one spot and skinny in another. This make take some practice, using the zoom function and changing the size/hardness of your brush will help here.

So once you have cut out your image what can you do with it? Many things in fact, you can add in a different background (typically textures are used), move people around and blend them together. Use the layer as a feature such as a black and white inset or a softlight background (in the example). Put text behind the figures head. The options are as much as your imagination allows. Quick example with a textured background, softlight inset and text behind the figure.

Using Textures
This will only be a quick overview, there are comprehensive tutorials on using textures so if you are interested in learning more seek them out. All textures used in this tutorial are from ohfreckle.

Textures come in many shapes and forms the four most common are:
1. Fill textures - simply block like textures that can be used on a number of settings to give depth to an icon. They are the ones used in the examples above.
2. Colour textures - blocks of colour that are used to enhance aspects of an icon, they are more a feature than an entire block of colour
3. Light textures - typically set to 'screen' on an image to give an effect, common light textures are light swirls and dots
4. Background textures - these have more depth to them they can be photographs of objects, patterns or grungy effects - use in moderation and putting various fill textures on top can lessen the intensity of these textures.

In the following examples the textures have been added to the previous image, no other effects or colouring has been applied so you can see what each texture does.

Background Texture Only Added Colour Texture, set to Screen Fill Layer x 2, 50% each Multiple and Soft Light Light Texture, set 100% Screen

Experiment with the textures, add them in layers at varying opacities and strengths, build them up to get your image. You can use textures as colouring effectively as well. Experiment until you find the right balance.

Other Tips
- Save your icons in the programs native format, keep all your layers present and use adjustment layers in programs that allow this (in others I suggest saving your files in stages prior to 'merge' functions.
- EXPORT your images into png/jpeg/gif format don't use the 'Save As' as with exporting you get a preview and can adjust parameters to suit the icon, nothing worse then spending all that time to have it come out as badly compressed and look terrible
- When cropping be creative, use the crop tool and rotate the crop area, you can always use the smudge tool to fill out any blank areas
- Use text with caution, rover powering text can ruin your icon, I'm personally not that much of a text user as it is such a fine line between having it right and having it completely wrong (that and I can never think of something good to add other than their name).
- Use your layers, turn them on and off to see what gives a better effect
- Use tutorials to get idea, join icon communities to see what other people are trying
- Don't copy but make your own instead, you don't want your icon to look like the original maker made it right?
- Have fun and experiment, sometimes they will fail and sometimes you might just discover something

Have Questions? Please ask HERE (as your question may already have been answered there). Sorry can't offer PSDs or step-by-step how tos for your own program. Else please feel free to use any of these techniques in your own works.
Tags: colouring: black & white, graphic effects: textures, program: gimp, program: paint shop pro, program: photoshop, tutorial: black & white, tutorial: colouring, tutorial: textures

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