How to go from to described from start to finish in a moderately extensive tutorial.
Program: PS CS3 (have no idea if it's translatable).
Difficulty: Intermediate? You're going to have to know your way around layer masks, curves and levels.
Before we start I'm gonna have to say that this probably works best on sort of murky, brown/reddish images without a lot of contrast because I've used many layers to brighten up the image. Me being lazy and afraid to make changes I might regret later is at the core of how I make graphics. That's why I obsessively use separate filter layers, layer masking and A LOT of different layers!
1. Resize and/or crop your image.
Since Donna is cut off right in the middle I decided to work with it and emphasize that shape. The screencap isn't of the best quality so I had to resize the image quite a bit to make it look good. I ended up with this after I added a black background:
2."Emphasizing" your point of focus.
The image is way to busy for my taste, Donna is more or less blending with the background and I wanted her to stand out a bit more. To fix this I added a layer mask. I liked the idea of showing a bit of the TARDIS interior and masked only parts of the image with a soft, round, medium sized brush.
You could clean cut Donna by herself by using the pen tool or perhaps the magnetic tool and then add the layer mask, but I thought the icon looked a bit empty like that.
In the end I got this:
3. Fixing the base colour.
I didn't like the colour difference between the image and the black background so I added a dark brown layer: #1a100c on top of the black background to even out the contrast. This also made the image background a bit more noticeable. I set it to Luminosity and lowered the opacity so the brown wouldn't be too overpowering. You can't see a big difference between this step and the previous one but believe me it does make a difference once you start colourizing the icon. Finally I masked some parts I didn't like colour-wise:
4. Clean your image.
Now as you can see the image is very blurred yet some parts look a bit pixelated at the same time. To fix this I duplicated the image, put it on top of the original image and smoothed it out by adding a median filter : Filter>>noise>>median; radius 1px. I know a lot of people use blur at this stage but I like how the colours blend when using median. I masked out all the parts I didn't want to smoothen.
Secondly I duplicated the original image once more and put this new layer on top of the smoothened one. Then I sharpened the image once and lowered the opacity so the icon wouldn't look too sharpened. As per usual I masked out the parts I didn't want showing.
The icon now looks like this:
Next come the fun parts where you get to experiment to find a colour you like! Before the icon is finished it'll look silly because I use many different layers, which by themselves look crazy, but it's all about the final result; that's where it all comes together. I started out wanting a brown, muted look that was bright at the same time... sounds strange but I hope you get what I mean!
5. Getting a muted colour.
On top of the base-images I added a layer of brown: #211409 and set it to Exclusion, 100% opacity to get that darker, muted colour. It also gives the icon a nice uniform colour.
It looks pretty bad right now, but don't worry!
6. Brightening the image with levels.
The icon lacks just about everything and to fix that I started by adding a new adjustment layer underneath the brown exclusion-layer. Go to Layer>>New Adjustment Layer>>Levels>>Ok
I fiddled around with the settings until it looked pretty ok:
Next I added another Levels-layer on top of the previous one. What I did first was to click on "auto" because it brought out some nice colours in the image. Then I fiddled a bit more with the settings until I got what I wanted. Lastly I masked out some parts I didn't like:
Now I like the slightly greenish colour but I was aiming for a more orange/red feel so on to...
6. Making the icon come alive with curves.
Curves is definitely my best friend when colouring graphics (no idea how to use selective colouring :D) so I added a new layer on top of the levels-layers. Layer>>New Adjustment Layer>>Curves>>Ok.
I liked the colours the levels-layer added but I decided the icon needed to be more orange and a bit brighter. Of course since every image is different you're going to have to fiddle around a bit until you find the settings you like. General idea of the settings I used:
I masked some parts and got this:
On top of this new layer I added yet another curves-layer because I wanted the icon to look a bit more fiery and bright with more contrast. Now I used a preset I made when wanting to make a blueish icon look more green and bright. Try to aim for settings that brighten and leans toward a green colour. General settings I used:
After a bit of masking:
7. Adding text
Yes I'm one of those who rarely make text-/texture-less stuff and in this case that really worked with the image I chose to icon: great big space at the bottom of the icon/cut off image AND a fantastic quote. So I chose to use AGENCY FB because it's my font obsession of the moment (I seem to use it on every other icon I make). I experimented with different placements, sizes, tracking, lower-case/upper-case lettering until I was satisfied. I wanted something that worked with the icon in general and something that was complimentary to the off the cut-off shape of the base-image.
8. Finishing touches
So I guess you could stop here but I decided to add a colour balance layer on top of all the other layers. I chose to make the icon look a bit more purple, because I thought it might be nice to give it some more depth:
Finally I masked of sections I didn't like and there you have it:
Similar technique used on these:
Since I am not above shameless pimping, these belong to this post @ ohcompletely
Wow that was a lot of text! I hope you've found this tutorial somewhat helpful and that it's not too hard to follow. I know I tend to ramble on a bit, so sorry for that!
Finally: if you liked the tutorial use it only as inspiration for graphics, don't just copy it right off. I promise you'll feel much more accomplished if you experiment and come up with an even better result than what I got :D
Remember that every image is different so you will have to use different settings for different images ;)
I wont be uploading a psd for this but if you have any questions and whatnot just ask and I'll see if I can help you out!
I would be very happy if you commented here!