These two tutorials were requested by late_regrets in my "Ask The Maker 4.0"-thread. She wanted to know how I achieve the soft colouring I use quite often in my icons. Like the title says it's a "A Beginners Guide to Soft Colouring" (because the person requesting just started making icons), so it's pretty detailed.
Just a few things before we get started:
Program: Photoshop CS5. I work with Vibrance, but you can use Hue/Saturation, if you don't have Vibrance.
Difficulty: Medium (for the first tutorial), Easy (for the second)
About choosing pics/screencaps: I've been making icons for more than two years now and in the beginning I would just go and icon every pic I liked, but I realised soon that this wouldn't get me very far, if I wanted to become a "good icon maker". My advice: Look for pics/screencaps that have a good quality. It doesn't have to be super duper HQ, but the pics shouldn't look too pixelated or blurry.
The first icon we'll recreate is the one of Im Yoona from the Korean idol group SNSD (picture). Here is what the original icon looks like:
Please keep in mind that I'm recreating all these icons, so the outcome might not look 100% like the original icon, but I'll try to do my best to come as close as possible!
I chose this picture, because it was such a beautiful shot of Yoona. The pic looks a bit blurry, but the blurriness actually creates a nice dreamy atmosphere and I want to try and recreate this atmosphere in the icon. So for once I actually know what I want to do with a pic, which doesn't happen often.
The first thing we need to do is prepare the base. Open a new file (size: 100x100), with a white background and drag the picture over. Go to Edit - Free Transform and arrange the pic like you want.
The crop is pretty close to the crop in the original icon. But while the crop looks good, I find that the white wire from her earphones disturbs the balance of the icon, so let's erase it.
Select the Smudge tool (about 5 pixel) and carefully erase the wire. I'm sure that there are more ways of doing this, so if you have a different way of erasing things, go ahead.
Now that our base is finally prepared, we can start with the colouring. My first step is always Layer - Duplicate Layer - Soft Light. After this step, the colours already look a bit more vivid and intense. Now go to Filter - Blur - Gaussian Blur (about 13 pixel). This creates a softer look.
The next step deals with textures. I love textures a lot and
overuse them for colouring and for creating cool effects (YES! I'm a texture junkie!).
We'll use these three textures:
1. by innocent_lexys (she makes the most awesome textures!)
2. and 3. by yours truly
Set the first texture to Soft Light (Opacity 40%), the second one to Screen (20%) and the third one also to Screen (50%).
So "dreamy-feely", check! Colours, not so much.
Now we need to work on the colouring. I want to give Yoona's hair a beautiful brown colour and make her skin look less pale. I do this by simply applying a Curves Layer with the following settings:
RGB 107 / 138
red 139 / 121
green 121 / 121
blue 133 / 160
Now I can go and work on the "dreamy atmosphere" I decided to give the icon in the beginning. We will apply two textures again and these two textures are some of my favourites, because you can create a very soft light with them.
1. and 2. by me
Set the first texture to Soft Light (25%) and the second one also to Soft Light (80%). You can see the difference these two textures make in the result:
The colouring looks okay, but boring, because it is just brown. We need more colour and I decide to go for green and yellow, because I think it would fit the brown quite nicely.
Create a Colour Balance Layer and select the first option "Shadow". The settings I use are: -30, +22 and -16. In one simple step, we have given the icon a greenish touch.
Let's apply a simple texture on Soft Light (50%) to brighten up the icon a bit and make it softer looking.
I'm still not satisfied with the way Yoona's hair and skin colour look. Both look too light and I want to make the colours richer. So I apply another Curves Layer with the following settings:
RGB 118 / 144
red 143 / 118
green 127 / 126
blue 130 / 126
Looks better, but brown is still the main colour in the icon and I'm still missing the green-yellowish touch, I want to give the icon.
Now we will work with "colour dots" (or whatever they're called). I read about this effect in several other tutorials and I totally fell in love with this effect too. It's a fast and easy way to add the colour(s) you want to specific places in your icon.
Create a new layer (Layer - New - Layer). You should have an empty layer now. Take a soft brush (about 40 pixels, don't use one that's too big or you'll have to erase too much afterwards) and select a rich forest green (my colour code is: #1d5303, if you want to use this setting).
Now just make dots, where you want a greenish touch. I chose Yoona's hair, because green skin might not look so good.
Looks funny, I know. But don't worry, we are not finished yet. Set the layer to Soft Light and here we go:
If you think that the green is still not intensive enough, just duplicate the layer. I changed the Opacity from 100% to 40%, because I don't want her hair to look too green.
Two more steps and we are finished. Hurray!
Now we will soften the right and left corner of the icon with this yellowish texture a little bit:
erase around the corners (use a layer mask and erase on the mask and not on the actual texture!)
set the layer to Soft Light (55%)
this is my result
It might not make a big difference, but I still do this quite often to give my icons a smoother look around the corners. And because we used a yellowish texture, we have added a touch of yellow too and that's what we were going for.
The last step is a step I never skip when I make icons, because it's this step that actually adds extra softness to my icons. Remember how we used Gaussian Blur in the beginning? We'll do this again now, but first we have to merge all our layers together.
Select all layers and then go to Layer - Merge. Now we have one base again. Duplicate the base, select Soft Light (40%) - Gaussian Blur (7 pixel). Merge again, sharpen and we're done! *cookies for everyone*
orginal icon new icon
And because I'm me and therefore very weird, I actually like the new icon more than the orginal one. Oh boy...
The second tutorial is for this icon featuring Jung Jessica also from SNSD (picture). The original one:
The colouring is actually super simple (the icon is basically just a reddish-brown "mess").
In the beginning, we'll do the same thing we did in the first tutorial: Open a new file and create a 100x100 canvas with a white background. Drag the picture over and arrange it. My crop is close to the original one, so hurray...! Now we duplicate the base and set the new layer to Soft Light (Opacity 60%) - Gaussian Blur (4 pixels).
Now we'll use three textures to lighten up her dark hair:
1. 2. and 3. by moi
Set the first texture to Soft Light (80%), the second one leave on Normal, but change the Opacity to 15%. The third one set to Soft Light (25%).
The brown of her hair is more visible now, but Jessica's lips and skin look very pale. I use a Vibrance Layer and change the Opacity to 75% (use Hue/Saturation, if you don't have Vibrance).
Now we will use the Curves Layer twice to brighten the whole icon up. We will only change the RGB and not the colours, because like I said in the beginning, the icon is mainly reddish-brown and doesn't have other colours.
Select a Curves Layer with the setting RGB 187 / 162 and the Opacity 40%.
Duplicate this layer and use the setting RGB 227 / 206 and the Opacity 70%.
My icon looks like this:
It looks too bright now and is still missing the deep reddish-brown colour, but don't worry, we'll change this in the next three steps.
Apply a Colour Fill Layer with a dark colour. You can do this under Layer - New Fill Layer - Solid Colour. My colour code is #0e0b1f. Then select Exclusion (80%).
Now we'll use textures again to colour the icon (like I said, I'm a texture junkie). Use these four textures:
1. 2. 3. and 4. by me
Set all of them to Soft Light. The first texture to 100%, the second one to 60%, third one to 100% and the last one to 60% again.
Now we have the reddish-brown colouring we wanted.
If you like the colouring already, you can leave it at that. I decided to apply another Curves Layer to make her face a little bit darker: RGB 125 / 138 and leave it at Normal (60%).
This is my (almost finished) result:
For the last step, we'll do the same as in the first tutorial: Select all layers and then go to Layer - Merge. Now we have one base again. Duplicate your base, select Soft Light (60%) - Gaussian Blur (8,5 pixel). Merge again, sharpen and we're done!
original icon new icon
New icon looks better...again! I hate my life!
Concrit? Comments? Death threats (because I suck at explaining!)? Leave them down below!
Thank you for reading!