Tutorial (Photoshop CS)
01. The first step is entirely up to you. Once you know what image you want to work with -- for me, it was a screen capture from msr_stillness -- you can apply any coloring and cropping you like. Text, brushes, and patterns might make your finished icon too busy, but who knows? As for me, I did some rotating of my image before cropping it, and then I duplicated my base and set it to screen. Then, I duplicated that layer a few times before adding a very pale, yellowish fill layer.
If you're not sure what to do for this step, there are tons of wonderful coloring tutorials out there at places like icon_tutorial and icon_coloring that will give you and idea. Just make sure to merge the layers once you're done. Saving it isn't a bad idea, either.
This is the colored, rotated, and cropped image that I started with:
02. For this step, I used a texture by pink_1lady's March 11 set:
You could use this texture as well, or you might prefer a different shape, such as a heart or a square. If you'd like to do a heart, for example, you would start by creating a new 100x100 pixel image and flood filling it with black. (The reason we're using black is because we're going to use this texture as a mask, and we need the black background to hide a large portion of the image.) Then set your foreground color to a medium-light grey, such as #AFAFAF.
Now, press the U key on your keyboard -- that's the shortcut for the shapes tool. On the Options toolbar, which is usually on the top of your screen, make sure the buttons for Custom Shape Toll and Fill Pixels are selected. There will be a drop down menu labeled Shapes, and you can scroll through the list until you see the shape you want. I'm going to use the one called Heart Card.
While holding down the Shift key on your keyboard -- this makes sure the shape is drawn in the proper proportions -- click in the upper left corner of your image and drag toward the lower right corner. Once the outline of the shape is the size you like, release the mouse button, and you'll have your grey shape.
The size is all that matters here, so don't worry if the grey shape isn't positioned where you want it. That's easily fixed once we get to the masking stage. For now, change your foreground color to white, create another new layer, and draw the shape again, but smaller this time. Position this smaller white shape wherever you want inside the larger grey one.
03. Now that you have your texture, be it pink_1lady's circle or one that you just made, it's time to make it into a fill pattern. Just click on the Edit menu and select Define Pattern. Click OK on the window that pops up, and now your image has been added to whatever pattern set you've already loaded. (You might want to save the texture you made, though, just in case.)
04. Now we're going to talk about another texture, also by pink_1lady.
I liked the light grey noise pattern, and I liked the splash of color. Ultimately, those colors didn't work for the icon, and I ended up doing something pretty involved so I could still use that texture as my icon's background. Instead of making this overly complicated like I did for myself, I'm going to show you how to make your own grey noise texture.
Of course, you might not want to use a grey noise background. You might have a different texture in mind, in which case, feel free to jump ahead to step five. (Note: If you made your own black and white texture, and the background you want isn't in the pattern set that's already loaded, make sure to click Append when Photoshop asks "Replace current patterns with the patterns from [set name]?" Otherwise you'll lose the black and white texture and have to redefine it, or make it over again if you didn't save the image file.)
To make a noise texture, create a new 100x100 pixel image. Using the Paint Bucket tool, fill the image with black. (You might have to look at the Options toolbar and make sure Fill is set to Foreground.) Then, under Filter > Noise, select Add Noise. Make sure the boxes for Monochromatic and Gaussian are checked, and then enter a number around 200 for Amount. Press OK. And now, under the Filter menu, choose Blur > Blur. Blur this layer once more.
On top of this, create another new layer and fill it with a medium grey, like #929292. Again, under Filter > Noise, choose Add Noise. This time, though, make sure Monochromatic and Uniform are checked, and use a number around 30 for your Amount. On the Layer palette, enter a number around 45% for the Opacity. (If you can't find your Layer palette, press the F7 key, and it should jump right up for you.)
Duplicate this layer by selecting Duplicate under the Layer menu. Now, set the duplicate's opacity to something near 60%. Then blur this layer, but only once.
Now, create another new layer filled with #929292, and change its opacity to around 20%.
Just one more layer! This new layer should be filled with #BDBDBD. On the Layer palette, there will be a drop down menu that says Normal. Click the menu and select Screen instead.
You should have something like this, which you can define as a pattern by following step three:
05. Finally, it's time to go back to that icon you made in step one. Create a new layer and select the Paint Bucket tool. On the Options toolbar, make sure Fill is set to Pattern and that the Pattern is set to the image you want as your background -- our grainy background, most likely. You might have to click the drop down menu and scroll through the list to find it.
Click inside the image to fill it with your pattern.
06. Look at at your the Layer palette. If your icon image is called Background Layer, you won't be able to move it or apply a mask. To do these things, first you have to duplicate the Background Layer using the Duplicate option on the Layer menu. Once you have done this, right click on the original Background Layer and Delete Layer.
Now, drag your Background Copy above the layer you created in step five.
Under Layer > Add Layer Mask, select Reveal All. It will look like nothing has changed at this point, until you look at your Layer palette. You should see something like this, which will let you know that you've applied the mask:
To use our black and white image as our mask, choose the Paint Bucket Tool. On the Options toolbar, once again make sure Fill is set to Pattern and that Pattern is set to the image you want to use. You'll probably have to click the drop down menu and scroll through the list to find the black and white image we defined.
Once you have selected the image you want, but before you do any clicking, look at the Layer palette. The layer with the mask should still be active, and there should be a small black border around the white square representing our mask. (Look at the image above for illustration.) If you don't see the border, click on the white square to make sure the mask is selected/active. Now you can return to the image and fill it with our pattern. You should end up with something like this:
As you can see, I used pink_1lady's texture for my mask. The black wasn't completely black, however, so I have to use the Paintbrush tool to correct it. I set my foreground color to black, and then, in the Options toolbar, I set the brush size to 12px and the hardness to 88%. I ran it over the trouble spots, and I was left with this:
Now you can really see how the colors on the mask worked. Anything that's white is completely opaque. Anything black is now transparent. Anything in between is semi-transparent.
07. The problem now is the position of the mask. I'd like to have both subjects' faces visible, which means I have to move the mask to the right.
To do this, look at the Layer palette. You'll notice there's an icon of a chain link in between the picture of the mask and the masked image. This means the mask is linked to the image. If you try to move the mask now, you'll end up moving both the mask and the image, and you'll get nowhere at all. So, the first thing you have to do is unlink them by clicking the chain link -- that will make it disappear.
Now you can click on the image and drag the mask to where you want it. (If this doesn't work, check your Layer palette and make sure the mask is active.)
If you move your mask, you'll have to do some correcting with the Paint Brush Tool, much like I did in step six. Set your foreground color to black -- remember, black will hide anything you don't want showing -- and paint over any problem areas.
Once you're happy with that, it's not a bad idea to link the mask to the image once again. On the Layer palette, just click the empty space the chain link was, and it will once again reappear. Now, no matter what is active within this layer, both things will move. By clicking and dragging, you can reposition the masked layer. You can even go under the Edit menu, and choose Transform > Rotate, and change the angle of your masked layer. (Because of how Rotate works, you might end up with a few barely visible borders. Just use the Paint Brush Tool set to black to get rid of them.)
Here's something I did using the heart-shaped mask and a different background, this time from inxsomniax:
(Note: To make the heart mask work, I had to use the Rotate tool on the actual mask in order to get both of my subjects inside the heart. You can do this while you are repositioning the unlinked mask.)
08. You could very easily stop here and have a finished icon, but I wanted a little something to break up all that empty space in the lower left corner. I chose a brush from tragic_icons' Paisley Scribbles set.
This brush set is actually an image pack, which means you have to define the brushes yourself. It's easy enough -- once you've opened the image, under Edit, just click Define Brush Preset, much like you did when you created your patterns earlier.
I used the actual image pack image, however, mainly because I knew I'd have to size it down, and I find it easier to maintain the quality and sharpness of an image than a brush. I also knew I wanted the brush to be white, so under the Image menu, I went to Adjustments > Invert. (This can also be accomplished using Command+I on a Mac and, more than likely, Control+I on a PC.)
I sharpened the image once by using Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen and resized it to 100 pixels in height by 63 pixels in width using Image > Image Size. I then copied and pasted this image onto my icon. Since it was a Background Layer, I had to press Command+A (Control+A on a PC) to select, and then Command+C (Control+C PC) to copy. Then I clicked on my icon and pressed Command+V (Control+V) to paste it.
On the Layer palette, set the new layer to Screen. Because your image was white on black, this will make the black disappear. (If you were working with black on a white background, and wanted to keep the black, you could try setting the layer to Multiply.) Now you can use Image > Transform > Rotate to point this decorations in the direction of your choosing. I also wanted it to be a little bit smaller, so I used Image > Transform > Scale for that. Holding down the Shift key as you pull on the edges of the bounding box will keep the object's proportions from getting messed up.
View your Layer palette, and drag the layer with your little doodad below the masked layer. Your final Layer palette will look something like this:
As always -
If you have any questions or comments, I'll get back to you as soon as possible. If you liked this tutorial, feel free to friend sunnylikeicons -- and I'd love to see your results!