Using Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0
Uses Color Fills, Levels, Gradient Map, Gradient Fill, Photo Filter, Texture
Level of Difficulty: A beginner could probably try.
Like the last tutorial, I am working with blending an icon to have separate images work together. So, pick out the two image you want to use (it's also possible to use the tutorial with a single picture). I chose pics of Cho Chang and Cedric Diggory from Order of the Phoenix. Now pick your focus picture; in my case, this was Cho. It's the image that will be the main subject. Take that first picture, and crop it accordingly. Apply it to a blank icon and sharpen/blur where you need to. Now, my image was a high resolution picture. I did not need to do anything to prepare it for work. If you have poorer quality pictures, take care of preparing them, first. I wrote this assuming the images were of high quality.
1 - Now you'll want to apply the second image. There are various different ways of accomplishing this: feathering, cutting and pasting, blending, etc. I used the cut and paste method. Your first task is going to secure your main subject. I duplicated the first layer, and cut Cho out from the background using the poly lasso tool. Do this carefully and make certain to get rid of the pesky pixels that might hang on to the sides. Go ahead and get rid of the background. Selecting the first layer, apply your second image onto the icon and place it where you think it fits best. Do not crowd the first image, since it's going to be your main focus.
My image was too dark when it was set up, so I had to duplicate and set a layer to Color Dodge at mid opacity. It just surved the purpose of lighting it up, nothing complicated there.
Now, take a look at your image, the base that you will be working on from now on. What are the dominant colors? (Mine are neutrals and darks). Do you want text, and is there a place to put it? (Yes, at the lower left corner). What do you want to do with the icon? For this tutorial, I am going to use lighting effects. So, to get ready for future text, I wanted to use a bar to highlight where I will put it later. This is generically so easy to make. You can fill a selection, rectangle tools, textures, etc. I used a fill option and then applied a couple of brush effects. Keep it behind your main subject, because I wanted her to be in the foreground.
2 - Let's begin with a Color Fill that will lighten up the image. I chose Screen as the layer option, because it's generally the best method for quick-and-easy washed brightness. Right now, keep closer to the whites and keep it at a lower opacity. It's early in the game, so do not feel the need to go overboard right. If some parts are still too bright simplify the layer (right-click, simplify) and erase the parts where it's too light.
Let's establish contrast and add a bit of color through the use of Color Fill set at Color Burn. As previously, keep the opacity in check. Color Burn is powerful at any color, but I chose a light teal. It gave an almost green hue over the icon, and helped contrast the images.
Now it's time to pick a base-color, something I personally feel is important when working with lighted effects on icons. Something easy to work with is a beige/orange/gray tint set to Multiply. Just use Color Fill for that, but do not go too light or especially too dark. I choose a dull beige (boarding gray) and ended up with this:
2 - Do not panic, it's supposed to be dark right now. You'll use the steps to follow, and then you can judge if you chose too dark a Multiplied color. You can always go back and fix it. It's a experiencing process.
Next, I used this texture by ___shousei and set it to Screen. Lower the opacity if you need to. I picked this lighting texture, because I like the effect it gave over this particular image. The lights hit Cedric's picture and flow over to Cho's wand. I just thought it worked well. You can use whatever lighting texture you need for your icon.
3 - Next I created a Levels (Layer->New Adjustment Layer->Levels). As far as coloring was concerned, I only needed to touch up the Reds (under Channel Red), Yellows, and Blues (both under Channel Blue) a pinch, to heighten skintones. My main focus here was RGB. I feel more control over the basic lighting of the icon here, although you can use Brightness/Contrast if you are more comfortable with it. As for Levels, the white input arrow should be your main focus. Slide the arrow to the left and lighten up the icon. You'll see those highlights start coming in. Do not entirely rely on it here, just lighten it to where it's bright enough to continue. If you have Photo Filter, you'll be using another Screened layer soon. If you do not, lighten your image up a bit here, and tip your white input arrow under Channel Blue. It won't create the exact same effect, but it will be close enough.
4 - Now for Gradient Map at Soft Light (Layer->New Adjustment Layer->Gradient Map). This, along with the next step, gives you the most room to play around with. You have many options to work through and yours will depend entirely on your icon and it's existing colors. I'll give you a couple of examples.
- Light Spectrum
- Blue, Orange
- Red, Blue, Yelow
- Black, White
As you play around with these and see which one you want to work with, you will see that some just do not work at all. When you become more comfortable with Gradient Maps, you'll discover, though, that sometimes what looks pretty bad at the moment can be changed to something nicer when it's helped by other layers. For my icon, I ended up with Blue, Orange.
5 - Time to take care of the orange skin with some light. Gradient Fill works just fine (Layer->New Fill Layer-> Gradient). Obviously, you've seen that you now have the same options as the Gradient Map. Except, even at Soft Light, it's a set-down light and not blended into the image itself. You'll also notice that you have different options of styles. As I mentioned on the previous step, it all depends on your icon, but I will suggest that the standard Black, White works fine on many different icons. Since I chose Blue, Orange before, I chose Black, White here, and ended up with this:
6 - That's better, but let's finally set in those lights. Photo Filter (Layer->New Adjustment Layer->Photo Filter), set at Screen (keep the opacity in check) works fine because as its name suggests, it just filters over the icon. You now notice two things to focus on: Your filter, and the density of the color. I would not suggest puting the denisty up passed 50%, only because the color will start to take over. Since my icon now had the warm orange overcast, a cooling filter (teals and blues) was the best opition to have a Screened layer set to. If you do not have Photo Filter, and your image is too dark, use a Soft Lighted Color Fill and figure out what works best for you.
7 - Let's work with text. Find a font that suits your theme and apply it where your icon allows. That's where the bar can come in handy. A light bar like mine called for a darker color on a small font.
But sometimes you just cannot make it easy to read. Text effects can help you there. Duplicate your text and set the layer to Color Dodge. Go into your text effects (which for me was under Artwork and Effects). Applying both an inner glow and an outer glow will brighten up that text. If you noticed that it just became too bright, worry not. Duplicate the original text again, and put it over the brightened text at a low opacity Color Burn. It should come out better.