1. So we start with this screencap from the Freeze Frame Network. To me it seemed to just beg for a center crop.
I cropped it down using the crop tool.
(Yeah, due to the difference in color I'm not sure that actually from the same cap, but it was the closest I could find.)
It was too dark, so I duplicated the base layer three times and set them all on screen. You'll notice two things: it's yellow, there's a ton of gross pixelation in the parts of the image that were originally black.
To fix the yellow, I floodfilled a layer with color #0072bc (a bright blue) and put it on color, 8%. (Linked to the color so if you have Colorzilla you can just eyedropper that shit.)
To fix the grainy parts and make the background black again, I used the curves tool. I wanted to make the dark parts darker and the mid-levels brighter, so I dragged the bottom corner point to the right and then created a point in the middle and dragged it up a little, like so. I didn't mess with any of the color channels.
Since I wanted Buffy's face to be at the center of an otherwise-mostly-dark icon, I copy-merged all my layers to a new layer (ctrl-shift-alt-e) and then floodfilled the layer below it with black. After that, I erased the lingering non-black parts around Buffy. If your image doesn't already have a background that matches the one you want, you'll have to do a lot more erasing. I just had to erase the top and some around the edges.
I use high pass for sharpening, usually with a radius of 0.5 or 1. I like the results more than other sharpening methods, but ymmv. For this icon, I copy-merged, then filter>other>high pass, with a radius of 1, then set that layer on soft light.
For the next step, I brightened it up a little bit, using a method I was obsessssssssssed with like two years ago when I made this, haha. It's a selective color layer, with input like this:
Red: -100, 0, 100
Yellow: 0, -70, -100
I suspect I was also trying to remove a bit of the orangeyness, which is why I didn't add that red and yellow back in the neutrals, which is what I usually did. If you're not using photoshop, I believe there are alternatives to selective color you can use to remove the orangeyness. Like if you have anything akin to color balance or variations, those would work just as well, as would the individual color channels in levels and curves.
I thought the difference between the black background and the still-orangey brightness of Buffy was too stark, so I decided to make the entire icon browner. I did this by floodfilling a layer with color #311800 (a medium-dark brown) and setting it to exclusion. This makes the blacks brown (the color of the layer) and the whites a light blue (the inverse color of the layer). It's one of my favorite ways to soften the look of an icon, though usually I don't do it so drastically.
Remember in the beginning of the tutorial where I said I wanted the emphasis in this icon to be on Buffy's face and ponytail in the middle of a sea of darkness? With the icon like this, I noticed I had a problem. It was too bright at the bottom. Additionally, it looked flat. There was no dimensionality and that made it uninteresting. So I found a texture by blimey_icons that suited, and set it on color burn at 40% opacity to darken it up a little.
Since scratch textures were all the rage at the time, I added one and set it on screen at 40%. I have no clue who made it, so if you happen to know, please tell me so I can properly credit them, because this is one I use A LOT.
And that's it.
1. Not gonna lie, I totally made this icon because I liked the previous one so much. I was trying to do the same thing but with a picture where you can see her face. So it's not much different, which is why it doesn't merit a separate post. I started off with this cap. Again, this one is from the Freeze Frame Network and I'm not sure it's the actual one I used for the icon given how the colors differ.
So I cropped it down like so. I'm a huge fan of this sort of center crop with the person's head around the middle of the icon and a lot of negative space. A HUUUUUUUUUUUGE fan. Like, probably over half the icons I make have this crop. I am lamely obsessed with it. I admire other people's creative cropping, but when it comes right down to it, I'm gonna crop like this, and I'm gonna LIKE it.
To brighten it up, I copied the base twice and put the layers on screen, one at 100% opacity and one at 50% opacity.
It looked a little flat, so I needed to increase the contrast. Now, the last thing I wanted to do was increase the contrast in any way that would amp up that unnatural lavender coloring she's got going on. So I created a gradient map layer that went from color #382009 (brown) to white, and set it on soft light. That not only gave the picture more contrast, but also worked a little on making the colors warmer.
Since I wanted a black background, I made a new layer and colored over all the non-black parts of the picture with a black paintbrush.
I wanted to give Buffy a more natural coloring, so her skin didn't look purple but instead skin-colored. So I needed to increase yellows/reds and decrease blues/cyans. I used color balance, with these settings:
Midtones: 0, -33, -100 (to increase magentas and yellows in the middle tones)
Shadows: +10, 0, +20 (to increase reds and blues in the dark tones)
It's not like I had these specific numbers in mind though, usually I just open up color balance and start dragging things around wildly until I like what I see.
Because at this time I was obsessed with selective color, as I said in the last tutorial, I made a selective color layer that had these settings:
Reds: -100, 0, 100
Yellows: 0, 0, -100
And put it on 50% opacity.
If you don't have selective color or don't like it, I'd just skip this step. Didn't make a huge difference in this icon.
Like with the last icon, I decided the difference between the person and the background was a bit stark. For this one, I floodfilled a new layer with color #603913 (a medium brown) and set it to lighten, 10% opacity. It's not a HUGE difference but sometimes the subtle differences are what make the icon.
So, again, scratch textures were IN at this time. I added that one and set it on screen at 60%, then masked away all the parts over Buffy (and you can see that little mistake where I was trying to mask in white but clicked the wrong layer). If you're not comfortable with layer masking, you can just erase. Once again I don't know the maker of this one (and can't even find the original), but I'd guess it's made by whoever did this guy because they look similar. And again, I'd LOVE to know who made them.
The icon was just a tad too bright for me where I used the texture, so I floodfilled a layer with color #dadbcf (a cream sort of thing), set it on multiply, and then masked out (or erased, your choice) the part over Buffy.
Then I decided I was done with the icon because I didn't know what to do next even though I still thought it needed something, lol. It happens sometimes.
I hope you like this and it's helpful.
I will not give out the psd, so please don't ask. It's far less useful than the tutorial anyway since some of the steps were merged down and had to be recreated.