Making icons: what to keep in mind

After the not-so-professional and extremely short survey a while ago, the people have decided they want more icon-related stuff from me. [/cocky] I was happy to oblige since this guide/tutorial/whatever you want to call it was already in the works and, like always, I just needed a little push to finish it c: Also, I've noticed my writing's getting too formal so I've loosened the tie for this guide; let's sit back and enjoy the clusterfuck of text explanations and pictures!

Some explanations before we begin:
- this guide was written with coloring black & white manga scans in mind;
- "blending modes" will be shortened to "BMs" because I'm too lazy to c/p (see?);
- the coloring method I use for outlines is: base image layer above all others and set to Multiply.
- guide best enjoyed with John Ozila's "Funky Boogie" in the background.

Let's get it started, then!

External Image

1. Selective Color and other color and light tricks
Feel like the colors just don't look that great or you just want to give your image an extra "oomph"? Try Selective Color today and get one batch of icons FREE![/sales pitch] Jokes aside, SC really does provide your image with that "extra oomph" and, while it's not always obvious, it makes for a pretty nifty detail.

When I color manga images, I generally follow a pattern of "shading = base color on Multiply". However, that doesn't always look good, especially on light colors where you can even set the shading to Linear Burn and you'll still have to squint to see it. This is where additional meddling comes in.

There are three tools I normally use these tools to edit already placed colors: Selective Color, Hue/Saturation and Levels (and Curves, they're very similar). Here's a small rundown of what you can expect from each:

Selective Color allows for a more complex modification of colors. You can control precisely if you want your reds to be more on the "red" or cyan side, or your whites to be darker or lighter.

Hue/Saturation deserves a monument because it does three big things in one small window. You can edit the hue, saturation and lightness of the layer you're working on or the entire image, depending on which link you follow (the one from Edit -> Adjustments allows you to adjust only the selected layer, while the one from the Layers window affects all the layers under the selected one - including that one). I use this on skin shading mostly, to correct colors: using Saturation and Lightness together (the Edit type) returns excellent results.

Tip: if you use the Multiply method of adding shadows and correct the shadows with Saturation and Lightness, you'll notice your shade color will be gray when the layer BM is set to normal.

Levels and Curves are very good for fleshing out outlines and generally dealing with contrast. I recommend Levels because you have control over the shadows, highlights and midtones, while Curves are more random (but can also yield surprisingly good results). Count on Levels for certainty and on Curves if you're feeling lucky or want something different.

2. Puny text
There's not much to mention here, but tiny text helps with adding small details. Since it's too small to be readable, I don't bother to write something coherent whenever I use this effect, just what's on my mind at the moment. If you're ever in a pinch because you can't find something good enough to write, just head over here and copy/paste away - that's what it's for!

Also, here is my "recipe" for puny text. Of course, it's not the only way you can get this effect, but it's the most convenient for me after having done lots of experimenting with fonts and settings. The BMs I use are Multiply and Screen, for black text against a white background and viceversa.

Naturally, tiny text isn't restricted solely to icons and looks good on cards as well: one, two, three, four, five.

Now let's talk about external stuff, more specifically brushes and textures.