Making icons: Molly (Red Dragon)

The story behind this tutorial: I have always wondered how some icon artists achieve a particular look and when I came across Writish Icons' tutorial I was very excited. However, because of us using different programs, I couldn't follow her steps exactly (even though I kind of figured out how to achieve the specific results) and, well, gave up midway.

In spite of this, I based a part of this tutorial (the beginning) on hers: how to handle the opacity of the layers. The rest is what I've come to learn through various icon experiments.

Remember that the values I entered here can be freely modified to suit your own needs; just because I entered some values for this image, it doesn't mean they're good for any image. Experiment and find what you like :)

The base I used: screenshot.

Crop your image to your liking. It it is either:
a) slightly blurry: go to Filter -> Sharpen -> Smart Sharpen... and enter an amount between 20 and 40%. Do not exceed 40%, you can apply the filter multiple times if needed.
b) very blurry: scratch Smart Sharpen, go to Filter -> Sharpen -> Sharpen directly.

Duplicate the Background layer. Set the blending mode to Screen and the Fill to 60%.

Duplicate the Background layer and place "Background copy 2" above "Background copy". Set the blending mode of "Background copy 2" to Soft Light, the Opacity and Fill both to 60%.

Click on the small round black/white button on the bottom of the Layers pallette and select Curves... Now click somewhere inside the grid, so the Input and Output boxes appear. Type these values: Input: 117, Output 133. Click OK after you're done.

Create a new (simple) layer. Fill it with this color: #f4ac5e (you don't need to include the "#"). Set this layer's blending mode to Soft Light and the Fill to 50%.
Note: I used a shade of orange because the main color of the base is blue. When using a warm-colored base, you should use opposite colors (such as blue or green).

Create another layer and fill it with #f4ac5e, 50% Fill. However, set this one's blending mode to Darken. And voila!

Optional stuff: add text, textures or brushwork to the image if you want to spice things up a bit. Here are some examples:

Text*           Textures**         Brushwork***

* Arial Rounded MT Bold; blending mode: normal; text layer duplicated 2 times: base layer (70% fill), second layer (40% fill), third layer (20% fill); all layers use the Bold setting from the Character panel (Window -> Character).
** Grunge texture from Hybrid Genesis, set to Multiply, with some parts manually erased.
*** Default Photoshop CS2 paintbrush-type brush, master diameter of 17px, 52% Opacity, Sharpen filter used once on the brushwork layer, which was then set to 70% Fill.

Tutorial written by Olivia. No part may be reproduced or redistributed. Please link to it instead. Red Dragon © respective owners.