Samantha | Slowest angel in the garrison. (absolutelybatty) wrote in icons_concrit,
Samantha | Slowest angel in the garrison.

ConCrit Meme #01

Welcome to the first regular concrit meme of 2015 and of this community's revival! I'm looking forward to seeing you guys go crazy in the comments!

- Anyone of any skill level may participate.
- Makers must submit a minimum of two icons per meme; there is no longer any maximum. Feel free to comment more than once with new icons throughout the fortnight to make the most out of the meme!
- All makers who submit icons for concrit must offer feedback for at least two other makers, with concrit for at least one of their icons. Hopefully you'll be inspired to offer more but that's the minimum requirement.
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- This meme will close on February 15, 2015 at which point a new meme will open. MEME CLOSED. NEW MEME HERE.
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A little late, but that's what you get for putting a post in the queue.

(no problem, I'll just move this comment down a bit)

This is a pretty good selection of what I've been doing lately that has been more-or-less working. I'm happy with #1, dissatisfied with #2 for no reason I can put my finger on, kind of lucked into #3 and #4 with the caps, and #5... I don't like the shine on her shoulder (on the right), but going without it didn't improve things enough for me to take it out.



February 1 2015, 01:18:17 UTC 3 years ago Edited:  February 1 2015, 03:34:41 UTC

Aw, you didn't have to move your comment! It was totally fine where it was. I figured some people would get to the post before I managed to get online today. But thank you anyway! Aaaand at some point today, I'll be in to reply properly to your comment. :)


*cracks knuckles* Okay, I haven't done this in awhile so I'm probably rusty, but let's see what I can come up with, shall we?

I'm not sure what program you're using, but I'm a Photoshop user so most of my advice will be slanted toward the tools and specifications of that program. If you're using something else, please let me know, and I'll see what I can dig up on the old Google to help translate any PS-only stuff I suggest below.

I'm going to start with #5 since you've been most specific about your frustrations regarding that icon.

My first suggestion would be layer masks (good tutorials on how to use those if you need them: here, here, and here). This can be really helpful because it'll allow you to erase from certain sections like the shoulder while maintaining the shine/texture elsewhere, but also because it'll allow you to control the opacity in certain areas while keeping full opacity elsewhere. So using a grey brush instead of a fully black one will allow you to reduce opacity just in the shoulder area. That way you could, theoretically, keep the shine but at a reduced capacity which might suit you better.

My second suggestion would be to clean up and strengthen your blacks because, from my view, one of the reasons the shine looks...perhaps lower in quality is because it invades the blacks and makes them look washed out and grey. There are a few ways you can do this: try a soft light layer to up the contrast, a vibrance layer would have a similar effect while also strengthening the colors a fair bit which might also be nice depending on what you're aiming for, levels or curves, etc. But my favorite trick would be to use Selective Coloring, go into the 'Blacks' channel, and then up the 'blacks' slider until you're happy with the level of black in the icon. I've taken a bit of liberty here and used the icon in question (hope you don't mind) to illustrate the ways these fixes might look:

with soft light | with levels | with selective coloring | with vibrance set to soft light

I would recommend combining one of these techniques with a layer mask that reduces opacity because it still does look like the shine on her shoulder is a bit too much, but that'd be up to you in this icon and in any future ones using the same sort of technique. (continued in part two)
(part 2)
My third suggestion would be that some of the issue might just be coming with the crop/composition. The crop itself is quote close in on her figure, so much so that it almost cuts off the top of her head and definitely does cut off her other shoulder. That combined with the hectic texture of the background, the super bright, warm coloring, and the shine on her shoulder is a lot for the small space provided. So you could just opt for a different composition/crop all together.

I think something with a bit more space might free you up to do more with the light or the "shine", and so extracting Joan from her background and then making her a bit smaller so that she is surrounded by negative space might work here. The space will allow for more intense lighting and coloring because there's nothing else competing with it to make the space seem overwhelmed or claustrophobic. Again I'm taking liberties with your icon, but I'm also going to include some further inspiration for this type of technique and the .psd of the edits I made to your icon for further investigation if you wish to do so!

So what I've done is eliminated the distracting background which de-clutters the icon. I've also made Joan a bit smaller so the crop is no longer closing the space in and making the canvas seem a bit overwhelmed. I've also used a soft light layer and a levels layer as described earlier to pump up contrast and increase the darkness of the blacks in the icon. I've also gone ahead and pumped up the color on the "shine" shoulder to make it bolder and more comprehensive. Instead of sticking out, now, it blends more seamlessly with the rest of the icon and you don't necessarily notice it the same way anymore. Aaaaand I've just done a few more lighting things which are obvious in the .psd file because I literally cannot help myself. Speaking of the .psd file, here it is in case you want to have a look.

And as for the inspiration regarding this technique, here you are:

naginis | adriftingsea | misstress_tink | rebel | youwatchusrun | petite_tomate

Now it does occur to me that, perhaps, that textured background is what drew you to the cap, and also that I am biased towards background extraction because I think it's fun. So...if the background is what you love about it then two possibilities arise:

(continued in part three, jfc, I am sorry)


February 1 2015, 03:35:14 UTC 3 years ago Edited:  February 1 2015, 03:52:54 UTC

(part three)
1. Go for the background extraction and negative space route, but instead of just going for lighting, find a fun texture and use it as the new background!
or 2. Keep the original background and just go for a wider crop.

Aaaand before I forget, I should probably link some background/subject extraction tutorials so here we go:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.

In these links, you'll find a myriad of different ways to do extraction, and you can go with whatever works best for you if you decide it's something you want to explore further!!

And to wrap up this long spiel on one single icon, I also want to link some fun textures just in case! I've created an album for you here. All the textures were made by scoobyatemysnax at burnedbreads in case you like them and want some more. ;)

eta: (again) I also just remembered that this guide which talks about light textures and stuff might be useful regarding the shine on her shoulder! It talks about how to build up your light textures (or brushes or whatever you're using) so make them blend in with the subject a bit more. So you might have a look at that if you felt like it!


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February 3 2015, 17:06:16 UTC 3 years ago Edited:  February 3 2015, 17:10:44 UTC

I'm really trying to focus on iconing this year and actively working to improve my skills so here goes.
I hope it's okay that I linked quite a number of icons in here, I'll take some out if need, but I welcome all the concrit I can get!
This is all stuff I did last year, I may come back with some of my more recent stuff for concrit but I don't want to overload the comment.

These are some of my go to simple icon style?
Cap + colouring + playing with crops or background + lighting vs dark + screened colour layer or texture.

#1 and #2 are playing with blending two caps. I quite like them both although I could use concrit on both.
#3, #4 and #5 are good examples of how I work with textures... #5 is also one of my first attempts with muted colouring, prior to this I've been very much a bright colours kind of icon maker.
#6 is pretty much the only blocking work I did last year???

My text work! I love using text and I like to think it's one of my stronger skills?
#1 and #2 are my absolute favourite icons from last year. I especially love the combination of lighting + lyrics for #2.
#2, #3 and #5 are working with muted colouring again, which I'd really appreciate concrit on.
#5 and #6 are trying to play with putting text between the background + subject of the cap and I'd really love some tips on that too.


February 6 2015, 04:02:29 UTC 3 years ago Edited:  February 6 2015, 04:02:53 UTC

Hello! Thanks for participating! Unless the meme instructions say otherwise, feel free to put up as many icons as you like. You might not get feedback on every icon individually, but a nice selection will make general comments easier anyway. So it's no problem! :)

But now on to the concrit:

As I said, a larger selection of icons makes it easier for people (me, in this case, haha) to make more general comments, and in the case of your work here two main things are jumping out at me.

The first of these things is contrast or, rather, how your high contrast/super bright white approach seems to over expose parts of the icon. The end result is sharper, jagged lines and a lower quality icon overall. It also, naturally, reduces visibility in your icons. Icons where I can see this at play include: (starting with the cross legged sitting icon as 1) #1, #2, #3, #5, #7, #12, and #14. The areas that are white, which in most of these cases seems to be the skin of whoever your subject is, are washed out to the point that you lose a lot of the details that make it what it is. Note: There may be some difference between your monitor and mine, but the discrepancy is highly unlikely to vary overly much.

There are a few ways you can work on this area in the future if you like. The easiest is probably just dialing back on whatever method you use to brighten your images. One less screen layer, a little less on the brightness/contrast sliders, a smaller Curves arc, etc. You could also play around more with the capacities of these layers to reduces the over exposure and increase the overall quality of your finished product.

I would also recommend using layer masks in abundance because those are great for working with targeted areas. If you need any tutorials or links for layer masks, let me know and I'll shoot some your way!

There's also the White selective coloring channel which, depending on what you're doing could be useful for lessening the over exposed type of effect. But this solution really is only useful in certain situations.

And just to make sure I'm being clear, VISUAL DEMONSTRATION TIME! \o/

The first image is the base. So that's just the screencap cropped down, nothing else going on with it. The second image is the icon I made out of it. The third image is that icon with an extra layer of Brightness/Contrast that cranks the brightness up a fair bit. This image is the over exposed one. You can see that her face and areas around her hair are all really bright now in a way that gives her a sharper quality around the edges while obscuring details of her facial structure and her hair. So to avoid/fix that I just used the layer mask attached to the Brightness/Contrast layer to mask away the parts that were overly bright which gave me the last image. So you still get a bright icon, but you don't lose quality through that over exposure.

So in the second of your text examples, if you masked away some of the brightness from the right side of Regina's face, you'd improve detail and quality there and also probably reduce the sharpness on that side of her face which would result in a smoother icon in the end, you know?

(continued in part 2!)
The second thing that really jumps out at me is that you don't seem to be choosing any one particular direction with any of your coloring? I mean, I know you say you usually play with bright coloring and that a couple of these examples are you trying out muted coloring, but mostly I'm just getting an in between vibe from your coloring right now.

And, honestly, there's nothing really wrong with not knowing your coloring style right now, and I'm also definitely not saying you have to choose only one style at all. I think it's just...for each individual icon, you need to decide what you're going to do and really commit to it.

For instance, in that first Robin Hood icon, he's not really pale/pastel but he's also not really vibrant or anything either. As a result, he doesn't really pop. There's nothing to draw my eye in and make me interested in this icon. But if you chose which way you really wanted the icon to go and really emphasized it, you could get my attention. So for instance, if you wanted to go vibrant, you might choose to really go for broke with the duo-toned thing on either side of his face. Or if you wanted to go more muted, maybe you'd really capitalize on the intense kind of lighting you might be able to pull out of that!

Like so:

(excuse my really quick, poor man's edit on this icon!)

This is actually what I like best about the last two icons you've chosen in your comment. The first one, which I think I nominated at bestof, really capitalizes on the cool muted tones and nifty light work you can do with muted coloring when you're using it to the best of its advantage, and the last icon really pops and draws the eye because the vibrant colors are really pulled out and emphasized.

Even with a simple crop and color type of icon, you need to give the viewer something to interest them.

second_love | akilah92 | john_scorpy | gisbournes | monstersinyou

A vibrant background, an intense crop and intense vibrant coloring, some super intense shadows, or even just pumping up whatever coloring style you're going for in an attention grabbing way (the yellows of Emma's hair and the red of her jacket or just the subtle washed out light on Alison).

I'm not sure if I'm really making sense here, but I've blathered on enough that you probably get the point.

(continued in part 3, aka the fun part where we talk about text!)
Text wise...I think that's shaping up to be your strong suit, really, which makes me super happy because ALL THE TEXT ON ALL THE THINGS!! \o/

I think your text placement is generally quite good. There's probably a bit you could have done to tighten up the text in the second example, but, honestly, I think that comes done to personal preference because there's nothing really wrong or necessarily out of place about it. I think I would've tried to place it closer to the main area of focus which is usually going to be the brighter half of the icon. And maybe less leading between the lines? But that'd be nitpicking.

Some of the smaller fonts you've used look a little pixellated which could be for a number of reasons. If you sharpen after you've added text, you might want to try masking some of it off the text to smooth it out. You might also check your anti-aliasing settings and going for something like 'smooth' if you aren't using that setting already. You might also try duplicating text layers when you're using thinner, less bold text because it can get a little thin color wise which can make it difficult to read (as it is in the second on your text examples and a little bit in the first and fourth as well).

Regarding putting your text behind the seem to be doing really well with that. The last two examples are, in my opinion, two of the best icons in this lot. I can definitely come back with tips, if you like, but I'm not sure exactly what sort of tips you're looking for. So let me know, yeah?

Aaaand for now I'll shut up. ;D


3 years ago

I'm not nearly as good at this as absolutelybatty, but I'll try my best.

First off, I think your cropping is really, really good. You mentioned liking to play around with crops, which has clearly paid off.

I was surprised when you said that you usually work with bright colors, because most of these fall somewhere between the "natural" and "muted" end of the coloring spectrum, at least on my monitor. And you specifically talked about wanting some critique on using muted colors. So I'm going to talk about some techniques for color in general.

My favorite muted coloring tutorial

One of the things mentioned in that tutorial is using a white layer set to 'Saturation' and lowering the opacity of that layer. At 100% opacity, the icon is completely in black and white; at 0% saturation, the colors are all fully there. I often play with this when I'm considering whether I want to mute the colors on an icon or saturate them more. (I often don't really know what will work best with a particular cap until I'm in the midst of it.)

Another thing I've found very useful in that tutorial is the use of the 'multiply' setting for layers. It's good for brightly colored icons, too, because it intensifies colors. It also allows you to add more color to specific parts of an icon, if you mask out everything but the section you want.

One of the reasons I find 'multiply' so useful is that most of the ways we use layers adds to the brightness of the icon -- and can cause lighter parts to look washed-out, especially around people's faces. (I agree with absolutelybatty's comments above about your problems with too much brightness in places.) 'Multiply' tends to darken the icon, which gives more freedom to add 'screen' and 'soft light' layers without having the same washing-out problem.

I don't know how you usually go about adding color to icons -- whether you paint on layers or use textures or some combination. I have about a million saved textures (my favorite set by lookslikerain) that I smudge or blur or mask as I go. If you prefer painting, there's a great painting tutorial by absolutelybatty here.

I think playing around with more vibrant colors will give you more confidence with your muted ones, as well. I really love your muted + text icons (#2, #3, and #5), especially #3. I love the softness of the coloring and the intimacy of the crop, they work together with the text very well.


3 years ago

Hey! So, I'm going to focus on #1 on the blending. I really like the concept but the background (with elsa's head) seems pixelated and Elsa seems unsharpened.

So, I basically cleaned up the hair, blurred the background and sharpened up elsa.  But, you could definitely find a balance between crazy sharpened elsa and your kinda blurred elsa.

Step by Step:
First, I blurred her hairline.
-> step-1

Then, I added a texture to make the bg more uniform.
step-1 + texture-by-lookslikerain this texture by lookslikerain set to soft light 54% -> step-2

Then I stamped the layers ( ctl+shift+alt+e) and set it to Soft light @ 52%
step-2-> step-3

So, now I've kinda finished but then, I decided that I lost the small Elsa's clarity. So, I cut out original Elsa from your icon. Then, I duplicated the cut-out and set it to multiply @ 13%
step-3 + step-whatever+ step-whatever-multiply-18->  step-5

I added a paint daubs layer to the stamped copy of the icon.  I set all fields to 1.  Then, I erased out the background with the pale Elsa.
step-5 +paint-daubs-1-1-normal-> FINALLL


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ugh my icons... they're sometimes good but then, they can be bad!

1. I don't really like #1 since I picked a really LQ cap (here) and I know I picked an LQ cap but I wanted to icon that so badly!  But anyway, I'm happy with the coloring but the only problem is the sharpening. PS died on me as I finished the icon and was starting on another so I don't have a psd.
2. IDK.  It just bothers me and I don't know why.
3. Again, maybe it's the coloring since I like natural coloring and this icon clearly isn't that but it just looks odd.
4. I was playing around with text and idk again.  I like some parts but again, I suck at text usage and this icon was an experiment.
5. It's something about the coloring.  Rachel's eyes look rather dark but I think I made the icon for inspired20in20's trick or treat round and I wanted it to look dark at that point but now I'm not so sure about it.
I'm going to talk a little bit about #1, since you mention that it was a low-quality cap but you wanted to work with it anyway. I know how you feel! Sometimes I find a particular picture I want to use and don't want to take the time to hunt down a HQ screencap of it (especially if I have no idea what episode it's from).

There are some good tutorials out there -- wickdshy's Guide to Working with Less Than Ideal Caps, naginis's Sharpening Guide, and tinebrella's Sharpening Workshop come to mind.

My experience with these is that it can be very hard to cut the image out from its background perfectly. On your icon, I can see some lighter bits around the figure that don't merge into the background. For some reason, I find these to stand out much more with LQ caps than with higher-quality ones.

If you use a layer mask to cut the figure out, there is a trick you can use to cut down on those lighter bits, even with low-quality caps. (For this explanation, I'm assuming that you have a black and white layer mask, with the white part on top of the figure and the black part on top of the background you want to get rid of.) Take the smudging tool and smudge along the edges of the white part of the layer mask everywhere that the background still shows -- be sure you smudge from the black toward the white, so that you push the black a little bit inward. This softens the edge of the layer mask, so that when you resize the icon, you don't get those obvious outlines.

You might also think about adding a light layer to the icon that follows the light in the original cap. Right now, you can see that the shoulder on the right side of the icon is brighter, and the one on the left side of the icon is darker. But the background doesn't have a similar shift, which adds to the way that the figure doesn't quite seem to belong there. I know you don't want to add a lot of light layers to a LQ cap, but even a small shift in the background light would help them merge better, and you can always mask her out of it if it shifts the colors on her more than you want.


3 years ago


February 8 2015, 21:06:36 UTC 3 years ago Edited:  February 8 2015, 21:10:00 UTC

I haven't been able to figure out how to get the Topaz plug-ins for PS so I have a bit of a weird workaround for getting the same effect on LQ caps than some of the tutorials teaotter linked you, but I've had a fair amount of luck with it so I figure I'd share it with you.

The first thing I do is I take the cap and then go:
Filters > Stylize > Diffuse > make sure diffuse is set to Anisotropic. (You can zoom out within the preview to see what the icon will look at a smaller size.)
Then Smart Sharpen (500%, 0.4px you can fiddle with that a bit but I was suggested those settings by a friend and they've mostly worked well so far.)

Which gives you these, which aren't the loveliest I agree.
step1 step2

But, once you resize it to 100x100 and colour, can look like this:

I've also used this technique to get a smoother/painted look and I suppose I generally try to mimic what Topaz does with it. It all depends at which size the cap is when you decide to use the technique. Sometimes sharpen, then diffuse, then sharpen again works better. Play around with it!
I used this technique in both of these icons:

As for #4, I think what could have fixed the icon is if the "always" of the quote was smaller so as to still have her neck and the top of her shoulders visible. The fact that she is just peering over top of the text makes it look cramped and busy. Repositioning it away from from her neck would make it feel like the text is the focus of the icon, which I believe is what you were going for, rather than like the text is overpowering and almost strangling her.


3 years ago


February 17 2015, 03:29:08 UTC 3 years ago Edited:  February 17 2015, 03:33:50 UTC