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03 March 2007 @ 06:57 pm
Icon Redux, a discussion...  
nemo_88 did something really lovely over at her journal, and I thought I'd try it.  This is the first of hopefully three posts - icons, manips, banners, where I'm going to post my very first graphics and describe why I shudder at them and what I could've done better, if I knew then what I know now (or something like that).

hopefully it'll be interesting for someone other than me, but even if it's not, it's kind of scary/interesting to know where i've been...


Buffy/Giles icon is apparently the first icon I'd ever made.  (I say apparently, because I'm not 100% sure about that, but it's what the file data says)

What's so wrong with it?  Hmm, let me count the ways.  *grin*  it's not as hideous as some later things that I've inflicted on people (getting to that below), but there are a number of issues.  Even though Buffy and Giles are from the same picture, and even though they were sitting on a couch the same distance away from the camera, Giles' head is way too big for this remixed shot of them.  Also, instead of resizing him, I chose to stick him on his own layer and set the percentage to like 70%, which just confuses the eye, because the way I repositioned him they're supposed to be looking into each other's eyes.  Also, like many of my icons in those days, there's a border.  BLEH.  Not that borders are 100% bad, but 90% of the time, they just close down the icon in a way that it doesn't need.  It's already 100x100 pixels.  I've learned that creates plenty of border on it's own.  Finally, the thing that bothers me the most (and text i'm going to save for another icon, although this text is pretty boring) is that I didn't know how to use the mask option yet, so these are both hand erased and then smoothed, and I can still see where the smoothing went a little overboard on Buffy's shoulder and the top of Giles' head.


Buffy icon was one of my favorite early icons, made about a month after the one above.

what's so wrong with it? What isn't?  No, kidding.  But can you tell I'd learned the joys of sharpening?  I can!  It was one of the things that tons of icon tutorials suggest one does with one's icon.  I'll tell you a secret: 90% of the time, icons are oversharpened for me.  And if you really want to get a crisp look in an icon, you cannot sharpen after you've resized to 100x100.  You can do it beforehand, but judiciously.  Or, at least, that's what icon makers who are far better than I seem to do.  Anyway, getting back to the sex and the dead... my other problem?  I tried to fit a huge quote on there and used a serifed text - so wrong.  all those scalloped edges just make it harder to read.  Much better if i'd used something like ariel.  However, I hated ariel back then.  Also, in order to make the last part stand out, I put both a drop shadow and a glow - talk about overkill!  overkill that doesn't actually help, but instead makes the edges of the text really blurry.  And the text competes with Buffy, or Buffy competes with the text - either way, it's a bad scene.  BAD.


Spike is one of the scary texture ones. 

what's wrong with this one?  Ok, so, first off, i'd tried this really cool set of filters to get Spike's face looking all shadowy like that.  Sadly, the shadow/light balance is actually pretty horrid, and ends up emphasizing his forehead wrinkles more than his cheekbones or anything else cool.  The cropping is pretty terrifying, considering he takes up just over half the vertical frame and yet 9/10ths of the horizontal... if i was doing it now i'd be shifting him either into the upper quadrant, or backing off of the close crop.  There's a tiny bit of grey in the corner that i think might be shoulder, but should've either been masked out or defined better.  It's just sitting over there.  And now we come to the worst part - the grid.  I was *in love* with this grid for a while - LOVE I tell you!  Seriously, I thought it made such a pretty effect.  The problem with it here (as in others of my icons) is that it doesn't work with the lines in Spikes face - more like against him!  And the text?  *shudder* what was I thinking cutting it across his forehead like that?  Text should not obscure features, and if one has to put it on someone's face, it should actually go... somewhere that makes sense.  Not... where it is, that's for sure.  Most of the time it shouldn't be put on someone's face at all.


Giles icon is ...

what's wrong with it?  oh god, it's another example of what NOT to do with textures.  I thought it looked like it was icy at the time.  Now I know... it just looks bad.  The nature of the texture I'd put over Giles' face ends up actually making him look *much* older than the original cap.  Not only that, but the texture runs in a contrary direction in certain places, so his hair in the upper corner is really dark and his chin looks like there's something ... hanging off of it.  And the text running up the side?  *shudder* yeah.  It's baaaaad.  Also, if i was recropping this, I'd make his head at least a little bit smaller, too, because having him be cropped out of the top and the bottom of the frame is a little too big.


Xander icon is made in the same month as the Spike one above, but it's a little better.

what's so wrong with it?  Well, it's actually a little better because the lighting really does draw attention to the places I want you to look on Xander's face.  Sadly, it cuts off his forehead (poor Xander!  He has no forehead), it has this creepy red border that cuts the image down, and the text could be *much* better.  Since the emphasis is on the word kissable, it's the one that should be in cursive, whereas the other two should be in a serif so they can be smaller and yet easier to read.  And yes, the little stripe ... well, it's not horrible, but it doesn't really add anything either.

Finally, this:

Anya icon is from a set of pictures that I absolutely ADORE.  She looks incredible in them. 

so what's so wrong with it?  Well, you can't tell Anya looks incredible from this icon, because I was totally infatuated with doing a color/white gradient and setting it to screen.  That's how you can sorta maybe just a little see the text at the bottom (again, text? oy it's bad.  spacing's ok, serif is ok, but ... the text is so thin that you can't read it, it's at the bottom, creating a weird sort of bottom border instead of doing something cool, and ... it's pink.  what in the heck was I thinking?  Oh, i know, i wanted to match the colors in the pic - yes, that makes sense.  But it doesn't make sense if the picture is so faded because I stuck a glowing thing at the center that washed it out... because then the text looks like it's about to wash out too!).  But the problem with this white gradient layer set to screen thing is that it just ... removes all of the magnificent color from the picture and turns it pretty bland.

So that's it - some of my more painful icons... from the beginning.

And just because that was fairly painful (especially since those icons are still hosted at my website), here, some newer ones:
/ /
/ /

isn't that much better?  yeah, i agree.
Mireillemireille719 on March 3rd, 2007 09:53 pm (UTC)
I actually feel kind of comforted, because those icons? The "bad" ones? Those are the ones I can make now.

So, you know, there's potential for me not to suck, in future. ;)
Mireillemireille719 on March 3rd, 2007 09:54 pm (UTC)
Er, let me reiterate that yours don't *suck*--but icons that look like that are not my *first* icons, either, they're after, like, three years of tinkering. So, yes, "suckage" is what *I* was working up from. *g*
my monkied brain: x/c - *snuggle*katekat1010 on March 3rd, 2007 10:11 pm (UTC)
lol - i wasn't taking it at all that way! Or, well, not in the offended kind of way.

and if it helps any, i'd been tinkering around with photoshop and other graphics programs for at least two years or so before i'd ever made an icon - so i was kind of acquainted with some of the tricks (not many, but some) already.
my monkied brainkatekat1010 on March 3rd, 2007 10:10 pm (UTC)
there's *always* potential! never lose hope lady!

my best advice is to hunt the 'elite' icon sites for icons you want to try to copy, and to ignore about 1/2 the tutorials on icon tutorial (but listen to people like awmpdotnet because they know about photoshop itself, not just how to make one thing, ya know?
EB: Queen of the Social Lepers: dawn hot multi blocks by kateelizabuffy on March 3rd, 2007 09:59 pm (UTC)
I love you. A lot. I think that's apparent in the fact that I really liked those icons when you first made them.

Suffice it to say, you've improved. a lot. I adore that faith fic *drool*. I really need to replace my icons with some of your new stuff, but I am nothing if not lazy *grin*

my monkied brain: EB Rockskatekat1010 on March 3rd, 2007 10:13 pm (UTC)
heee! weren't we young and naive about icons then? you've been along with me for the whole ride, cutest girl, and i wouldn't have it any other way. But man i'm glad there is a difference between the old and the new. Not that i still don't make some stinkers, but they don't have the same problems :D
(Deleted comment)
my monkied brain: glory - evil incarnatekatekat1010 on March 3rd, 2007 10:15 pm (UTC)
yay! glad you liked - it's actually a funny exercise for me, too, because often i know i don't like an icon i've made, but i don't know *why*. So trying to put my finger on it has definitely been part of the fun.

And your Xander icon is one of the ones i'm really proud of! And look - Xander!forehead! I'm really really glad he's crept into your favorites, though, because... well, ok, yes, i did tell you i was trying to take over the flist through their icons, right? it's sorta my evil-villian plan, but, you know, in a nice pretty way.
Nemo: BtVS - The Soulnemo_88 on March 3rd, 2007 10:11 pm (UTC)
I love you for doing this! And you're way more articulate than me! *lol* It is so awesome to get your view on art and your early stuff. Especially since I know nothing about making icons (which might sound weird, but yeah) *lol*

And the icons you've listed isn't as horrible to me as they probably are to you, I think some of them are quite okay! I kind of like the Xander one *g* It's really interesting to hear you speak of every detail in them and I'm able to see it. Your new ones though? Stunning!

You're an amaizng artist and although I haven't been around long enough to see it, you've evolved incredibly. ♥

Oh, and if anyone wants to lurk and feeling interested in my post, I've unlocked it and it's over here
my monkied brain: x/c - *snuggle*katekat1010 on March 3rd, 2007 10:18 pm (UTC)
I love you for doing it first! Really, I think we need more of this kind of stuff around - it seems like I make some of the same mistakes over and over, and I might not if I was looking a little more at my own impulses, you know? and ... god if i can convince just one person not to sharpen as much, it would make my day!

And you unlocked! *goes to edit my post so it links to yours* yay!

(btw, i'm totally blushing about how sweet you are about both the old and the new icons - THANK YOU for the awesomest compliments! I know I have room to grow, but .. your compliments are really appreciated *snuggles*)
Nemonemo_88 on March 3rd, 2007 10:28 pm (UTC)
Aww ♥ you know you're awesome Kate, right? I don't have to tell you. *g* You can never get too many compliments, you and your art deserves it.

And I'm totally with you about the sharpening! *lol* hurts my eyes! xD

Btw, when did you change layout? *gasp* It's so goregous and I hadn't even noticed! Faith is so much love.
my monkied brain: x/c - *snuggle*katekat1010 on March 6th, 2007 02:21 am (UTC)
(belatedly responding to comments)


Btw, when did you change layout? *gasp* It's so goregous and I hadn't even noticed! Faith is so much love.

hee - i changed it a couple of weeks ago - i adore miss faith, she's so sultry. *snuggles you* i'm glad you like!
Purple: Icons--judgepsychoadept on March 3rd, 2007 11:02 pm (UTC)
Cool! That's really interesting, actually.

I don't really have enough perspective on my icons to do it, I think. I mean, there were a few icons that I made, back in the day, that were so horrible they're not even on my harddrive anymore. They were just cropped pictures with blocky text, the sort of thing I tend to cringe when I see now. And for a while I just couldn't for the life of me figure out how to sharpen an image correctly. I'm not sure what I was thinking, because now it seems obvious that you sharpen sparingly, if at all.

But since I've started seriously "making icons"... I can find flaws in them, but mostly I think they're pretty damn good.
my monkied brainkatekat1010 on March 6th, 2007 02:26 am (UTC)
i'm glad you liked sweetie. It is a different experience making graphics for everybody. I know for me I always feel like I have more to learn. Still looking to make the perfect icon... someday! :D
Muriellemurielle on March 4th, 2007 12:13 am (UTC)
I know so little about icons. That's one of the reasons I don't have any. To me, they are all interesting and lovely: pretties I don't have. That said, I must say I found your reflections as fascinating as your icons.
my monkied brain: _Mekatekat1010 on March 6th, 2007 02:28 am (UTC)
you know, i would've never thought that i'd be so fascinated with them before I got onto LJ, but part of this whole journal experience has been learning what is possible with a 100x100 square - it turns out, quite a lot. *grin*

and you're probably better off admiring from afar - i know the moment i made the decision to buy myself the extra userpics was the moment my fascination turned a little silly. But it's all in good fun, so I don't mind too much.

And thank you for the lovely compliment! I hope the next two posts are as interesting for you as this one :D
Muriellemurielle on March 6th, 2007 03:34 pm (UTC)
"and you're probably better off admiring from afar"

You are so right! I used to do OZ inspired artsy things on my computer years ago and it's compulsive. I'd start something and end up staying up all night ... obsessed I was.
beraht: Jayne (Hat)beraht on March 4th, 2007 02:45 am (UTC)
While I don't particularly like any of the icons you posted (except for Xander, naturally :p), I don't think any of them are all that bad except for the mummified Giles one. Egads, that one is the stuff that nightmares are made of.
my monkied brain: giles - laugh...katekat1010 on March 6th, 2007 02:30 am (UTC)
HEE - no zombie giles for you then?

and i actually don't think they're that bad either. Also, looking at my most recent sets of icons, although i like them more, there are ones in those that I could write about in the same vein as these... but that's part of the fun. They're just bits of data so i can leave them out there and they don't really take up room. :D
literate and stylish: purplebuffysexygoodnessmishloran on March 4th, 2007 10:18 pm (UTC)
They're all better than anything I could make/have made ;) But I agree, your newer ones are *so much* better. So there might be hope for me one day making icons to the newbie icon maker standard you had when you first started out!
my monkied brain: buffywill - *glomp*katekat1010 on March 6th, 2007 02:32 am (UTC)
There will totally be hope for you!! There is hope for you now! Thanks darling woman - i think i've come a long way, but they're all also educated flukes these days too. ;)