my monkied brain (katekat1010) wrote,
my monkied brain

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.
Tags: meta, my graphics

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