CharlieMC (charliemc) wrote,
CharlieMC
charliemc

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Reflections on Icon Making...

So, recently I posted THIS ENTRY and THIS ENTRY. In both entries I shared icons I'd created that included characters Bruce Wayne with Tony Stark -- something that's never happened in any given movie to date, nor is ever likely to happen.

As I told Marilyn mistressmarilyn afterward, this could just as easily be icons with two characters who appear in the same movie, but aren't seen standing close together. So it's not necessarily about combining characters who are never seen together -- it's about showing two people together that you want seen closely aligned, but can't necessarily find in any screencaps.

I've thought it over several times since, because to do it well involves a number of steps that are more difficult than might occur to most people. Here are the steps I personally use:

  1. First, I have to locate two photos I want to use.
  2. Second, I usually have to carefully cut around one -- or both -- of these images.
  3. Then I have to resize these so that they're close to the same size. I personally do this by changing the size of only one of the two photos -- and rarely try to change both, which is far more complicated. This step can take ages, sizing and resizing to get it 'just right.' I rarely get it to be perfect, but I can often come pretty close. Then I often have to sharpen the resized image, because it loses definition during sizing...
  4. Next I have to work on the color, which is probably the most difficult step. This will require color tweaking of both photos, until the colors finally match up as closely as possible. (By the way, I often see what are called 'manips' where this is done poorly -- and it's the part of a manip that can make you say 'fail' more quickly than any other aspect.
  5. Sometimes the easiest way around color issues is to change the image to black and white, or re-tint with one color. These can really look great, too, so there's nothing wrong with that as a next step. (I admit I like to try and use color, simply because it's a challenge to get to a shade that looks 'real' with two or more faces...)
  6. The next step is to play with light source, trying to make both faces have light on the same side. It's tricky, and I won't pretend I'm all that great at it, although I was getting better as I did it several times for the above-linked icons. (smile)
  7. Then I need to play with shadows, the exact opposite of light source. It's done somewhat in the same fashion, though, and is equally tricky.
And that's pretty much it!

I tend to also like to try artistic effects with the final product, which means doing interesting colorization techniques and so on -- a lot of fun! And, no -- I have no idea how long it takes me to manage just one icon. Happily, I've never kept track of the actual time involved, as it might be scary. (grin) I just recall years ago when I was really active at various Paint Shop Pro communities that I'd have people ask 'how' certain things were done. They wanted to know what 'shortcuts' we were using to get to a final product -- such as I just described. And the answer? There is no shortcut. If you want to get a good finished product, it takes a lot of time and work. Period. End of story.

The funny thing is that early on I used to want 'shortcuts,' too! I didn't get it any better than anyone else did. (smile) No one really explained all of the steps above to me at that point, and if they had, I'd have probably been terribly daunted to hear it. However, I really wish someone had been candid about what was required for the final effect. But that's neither here nor there. More often they'd offer to 'help' me make what I needed, rather than tell me how I could do it myself. This goes back to people guarding their secrets of how-to, as I've seen so often all through my life. I always tend to be someone who shares HOW something is done -- both in my private life, and at work, so I guess I'll never understand those who prefer not to share. That's just how I am.

The cool thing? There is no TRICK to doing this. Anyone -- and I do mean anyone -- can learn how. It just takes time and practice. And believe me, I'm FAR from being all that good at it! The main thing I have going for me is that I love to share the end product with other people and I love trying to reason out the 'problem' of how it can be done. I don't really have enough free time to become accomplished at any manips, but I've had some minor successes that have even come in handy when doing my graphic work -- and there's nothing more exciting than using recreational art to create work-related art. Oh, yeah -- manips are art, so that's another aspect I should have mentioned. No two are ever the same, and that's why...

Well, having thought all of this over for a couple days (since January 1), I'm glad I finally put it into words, if only for myself. I do have a number of friends here who do AMAZING manips, by the way -- and I can't say how impressed I am by the quality of their work! I might appreciate the end result even more than the average viewer, simply because I do know what they've gone through to get to the art they've produced.

It might just seem like slapping two photos together to make one, but it's... um... a little more complicated than that, in the end. (grin) And, no, the software doesn't do the work for you. It helps, of course. But what I also used to hear is 'you need PhotoShop' for a given effect -- and Paint Shop Pro couldn't be used. That only challenged me to TRY to reason out how to do something with PSP, and I discovered that CAN'T is a relative thing! Of course you can do it, if you're willing to add a step or two...

And while this is far from a rant, there are rant-type elements here -- mostly because I don't get why people won't share more with those who want to learn. Of course most people don't care and won't want to bother learning how, but it's about those who want to -- and being willing to let them know what you know. And I'm never going to be the one pretending I'm better than anyone else, because it's just not true! Hell, many of you are better at this than me -- and many of you have the potential to be far better. And I happen to LOVE that! So go for it, please do. And I'm happy if somewhere along the line I helped you just a tiny bit to be really good at it.

ETA (edited to add): Sorry this is so long! I had no clue. I also corrected some mistakes in the entry that I didn't catch before posting (my bad).
Tags: 2010, art, icons, january-2010, manips, marilyn, paint-shop-pro
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