Made using Photoshop Cs5
Not super difficult but longish
The lovely library_of_sex asked for a tutorial on this icon. I'm not sure why, but how could I say no? So here we go, I tried to make this less rambly than usual but that wasn't gonna happen tbh.
Note: All of my tutorials are meant to provide a look into my process, techniques and reasons behind them, NOT to provide a way for anyone to copy an icon exactly, so please don't do that for any icon you intend to publish at least! Doing that just to practise is fine ofc. Instead, I'd be very happy to see what other kinds of icons this tutorial or any of my others could inspire :) (this part was not directed at Kim btw, I know you wouldn't do that! just a general message)
This icon was an AC made for technique20in20 which is also a multifandom comm, so what this means is that I could have made ANYTHING AT ALL. :D yay! No restrictions! I take 'no restrictions' as a permission to go super weird.
A. CAP 1
First let's start working on the main cap in this icon. I used this one from the teenwolf section at kissthemgoodbye.net.
I knew I wanted to cut him out of the background. A small note here, tho: this type of cap where the subject has 'glow' around him is actualy NOT ideal for a cutout cause it will look weird and unnatural when you cut out the light source! However, I didn't let that bother me too much (liked the cap too much to give up on it), just don't wanna teach bad ways to anyone, so... do what I say not what I do? xp
When doing cutouts, I resize the cap to 40% of the original size, and first do some basic coloring. In this case, I didn't do much cause I knew I'd use gradient map coloring so it wasn't necessary to do that much 'normal' coloring. Instead, I did the following steps to add brightness and contrast:
1. Copy the base layer and use the auto contrast function.
2. Make a gradient map adjustment layer with this weird-ass gradient map where there are blacks on both sides and a white color stop in the middle, for some reason. idek. Set it on soft light 100%.
Looking like this:
Much better contrast than when we started, I say this is good enough to start cutting it out.
When doing cutouts, I make a copymerge layer, and put a solid color fill layer underneath it, usually in bright colors that are nothing like the colors in the cap so it's easy to see what has been cut.
Most makers seem to prefer the pen tool for cutouts, I however am way too dumb to figure out how it works (every time I try I end up ESCing the hell out of there), so instead I use the brush tool, 3-4px hard brush, pressure sensitivity on, and just use a black brush on the layer mask until the cutout looks clean enough. I always do the masking with the image zoomed in as close as possible without getting to the pixellated state.
TIP: it's better to use layer masks rather than the eraser for cutouts, cause then you can easily go back and rework some parts; eraser removes them permanently. (kinda. you can still ctrl+z tho)
(I cut some of the extra background out for this tut to make it slightly less huge, but the image is still in the same size than before)
Time to resize!
As a small extra, I'll show a bit of what I actually had in mind for this icon. Since the cap is pretty funny (awkward teenager Isaac pretending to be some cool mafia guy/businessman), I wanted to use some funny text and make it very colorful with neon gradient maps and with geometrical textures used for composition. I got this far:
But then I couldn't come up with text, which it desperately needed to fill in the space, soooo time for plan B, which I didn't have, so actually time for random textures on random blend modes. And to restart the entire composition. Sometimes it's beneficial to just start again - I do like my end result much better than wherever this was going.
B. ACTUAL ICON
So first, I needed a background. I probably used my texture randomizer, which is currently unavailable but one day when i get its problems fixed (probably in 2056) I'll share it with you, so that all of your icons can be as random as mine! yay! :) Anyway, the randomizer liked some grunge and suggested this texture. (btw, I don't know the makers of almost ANY of the textures here; please let me know if you recognize any!)
1. I cropped it to 100X100px without resizing it at all (I liked the level of grunge and resizing changes that).
2. I wanted more color so I made a color fill layer with #2a1043 and left it on Normal, Fill 32%.
3. I went back to the large Isaac layer, copied him, and pasted the image on this new base. I made this a smart object so I could easily change the resizing factor (I'm the least decisive person ever so I always want to be able to go back on any icon decision I make! Most of my subjects and textures are smart objects but I'll only mention it once here). I probably changed the size many times here too but it looks like I settled on 18,37%.
4. I used my randomizer again cause I had zero ideas for texture use/composition. Luckily, I got this gem by slayground:
I love textures like this that have differrent parts and shapes I can use for composition. So many ways to crop it! In this case I resized it by 43.32% and found a crop I liked. I tried different layer modes and also moved the Isaac layer around to find a good way to align him and the texture. So many options, but in the end I ended up setting the texture on Exclusion 100% with this crop:
We're getting somewhere. I like icons where some parts of the subject are inverted, and I like the very muted green+purple combo this led to.
5. Isaac still looks dark so I made a Curves layer with just one point in RGB channel: output 97, input 72. I put this layer under the texture layer I just added, and clipped this layer to the Isaac layer so it doesn't brighten the background, only him.
6. To add to the pale green-purple coloring, I made a gradient map from #3a2133 to #dee4cd and clipped it to the Isaac layer as well, on top of the curves layer. The map looks like this:
Note that when using gradient maps, the color stops don't always have to start and end at the sides, I often move them towards the center to make the subject seem more radically divided into these colors, sort of like an illustration.
Honestly, I could have left it there. Maybe I should have. But my brain went 'ADD MORE STUFF, THERE IS SPACE' so who am i to argue :3
7. I took this awesome texture by someone???:
resized it a bit, moved it around, player with layer settings and ended up using it on Exclusion too. I also clipped a Curves layer to it, didn't make any points, and set it on soft light (any empty adjustment layer on a layer mode has the same effect as a copymerge layer set on that mode, but again, this way is better for adjustability: you can go back later and don't have to make new copymerges ^^) anyway, this just adds a bit of contrast to the texture.
There are still some pixels not covered with STUFF so let's change that asap! :p I decided to use another cap here, so let's take a small detour into that part:
C. CAP 2
This one, again from kissthemgoodbye.net:
1. I resized it to 40% of the original size and made a Curves layer and clicked on the Auto option. I set this layer on Soft Light.
2. I used the Copper Gradient on Soft Light, Fill 50%:
3. There's a copymerge layer that I've somehow brightened up even more, not sure how tho, possibly a film grain filter?
4. Another copymerge which I sharpened using the Filter-> paint Daubs filter, and left the layer on 41%.
5. Cutout again using the same technique as above.
-> -> ->
D. BACK TO THE ICON
1. Copypaste the second image, resize and play around with composition. I tried several things. Here's an alt that didn't work for me simply cause I wasn't feeling the rotation aspect, but could possibly work for someone else?
This is what I decided on, instead: to position him on the tiny text block.
2. but since the text wasn't blocky enough to 'support' him visually, I added a small bar between Isaac and the text. this layer is underneath almost everything, right on top of the purple layer I made in step B2, so I used #a4beab and it turned muted purple, due to being affected by the exclusion layers.
3. Time to play with gradient maps to get that second image to match the rest. First gradient map: #1e1521 -> #434962 -> #d9d9d9. Clip it to the small Isaac layer.
4. Still doesn't blend well enough. Next gradient map: #3a2133 -> #c9c9c9. I left the Fill on this one at 25%. Clipped to the small Isaac layer again.
5. Then I used the same texture that the background was, but resized and auto contrasted. I set it on Screen 50% and clipped to the small Isaac layer to give him a bit of brightness and grunge.
now the smaller image looks much more like it belongs there.
6. Fiddling to fix tiny things that bug me:
- copymerge layer where I blurred the sharp right side on the tiny Isaac
- then I actually drew a tiiiny almost invisible line to give definition to the left side to separate his arm and jacket
- then I blurred his other shoulder cause it was very sharp too, then his tie and jacket and then I did similar things to the larger image
There is also a copymerge layer which I left on Normal 100% but just shifted it to the left by ONE PIXEL and I have literally no idea why.
Result after all this:
7. Some trickery with a texture. This will be a bit difficult to explain, but I'll try. I took this texture which is probably resized and desaturated from a larger texture, why else would it be such a random size as 103x103px :p
I set it on Soft Light 75%.
8. Then I made a copymerge layer, used auto contrast, and set this layer on Lighten 100%. Then I made a Levels layer and changed this setting to 5 (sorry, don't know what it's called in the english version!).
Then I made another copymerge layer and set it on Normal 75% AND made the 103x103px texture layer and all the layers I just added after it invisible. This way the effect of all these new layers is set on 75% only.
Result after all this:
It's barely visible, but there's a difference, some new lighting and grunge added to it.
8. Copymerge layer, i sharpened it somehow, probably Unsharp Mask.
9. Copymerge layer that I rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise and moved waaaaaay aside and down, to get just a tiny part of that tiny text part on the left to fill the empty bar part at the bottom. i set this layer on lighten. Btw, it's very likely that I only now came up with the idea for that gap and decided to move the larger isaac up at this point, but it doesn't really matter which order I did things in.
10. Fiddling again: copymerge where I blurred the sharp edges of the geometrical texture, the smaller Isaac, did some handdrawing to give definition to small Isaac's tie and shirt area.
11. One more Curves layer to lighten it up a bit more with just this one point: output 146, input 141.
It's not a perfect icon, there's a lot you could do to make an icon like this better, for example the cutouts still don't look perfect to me, especially on bigger Isaac's hair. But I'm still pretty happy with how it turned out and and flattered that one of my icon idols wanted to learn its secrets :> I hope some of these rambles were in any way useful. Don't hesiate to ask if something is unclear or you'd like to know more about why I did something seemingly random. Thanks for reading! ♥