i'm not really a waitress... (raiindust) wrote in aintafairytale,
i'm not really a waitress...

2013 - guide: composition

Requested by: wellhalesbells

As a preface I will note that personally I don't see myself as any sort of composition wizard. I may enjoy the occasional adventure into my subconscious to see what crazy creative delights are waiting patiently to become realtiy, but truthfully I am much more of a crop, colour & texture to add simple texture kind of girl. Which quite possibly presents me with the most perfect platform to begin this guide - anyone can be a composition wizard. The only thing stopping you (yes, you) is [insert own answer here].

In all seriousness - this guide is a shambled mix match of suggested possibilities of places you may go to explore composition. The true key is simple: explore. Yes, go on, explore. See what magical mayhem you can create when you push something to an extreme. You may find yourself coming out on the side of fabulous rather than failure. This guide is also a 'hover to find information' kind of guide. When it comes to visuals examples, some will have extra information about the texture maker, the blend mode or opacity that occurred, or anything else of relevance. So keep that in as you woooosh through the examples.

01. Textures and textures and textures, oh my!

Two things when playing with textures to create composition: the bigger, the better, and the larger the better. Meaning bigger textures and larger canvases. For me at least. This is where I come to love, adore and appreciate tumblr - it gave me a whole new world of texture of pretend to explore. And occasionally I did. For some reason tumblr textures just beg to be used for composition. Maybe it's the fact they are all shapes and landscapes and objects just waiting for a home. However icon-sized textures are not to be discounted when it comes to composition. They are just as accessible (although there are less landscapes and more light textures) but they can still work a treat. Anything with edges (or something that could be made an edge), boxed areas or decorative accents such as frames can help out with icon composition. Texture maker recommendations, for both larger textures and icon-sized textures that are generally fabulous.

Individual texture makers:

Resource Sharing:

What I love when it comes to using textures for composition purposes is that there are no right or wrong answers. You can pick as many textures as you like and try them on for size - see which ones fit, see which ones don't. With larger textures, you can crop different areas of the texture to see if they work as well - or simply move it around your canvas till you reach something that satisfies you. Then you have the ability to invert the textures at your disposal as well; just because textures come to you in one way doesn't necessarily mean they need to remain that way. Explore the ways in which textures can be used to help composition along, or create a composition itself.

Other tips:
  • Filters are your friends. Don't discount what filters can do for you if you're looking to add something else to your icon. Cutout, paint daubs, patchwork, stained glass can all add character to your icon without needing to find a texture.
  • Fill layers rock. In the case of the Skins example, I was required to have a certain colour be clear in the icon. So I simply added a new layer, selected an area with my rectangular marquee tool, and filled the layer with the colour I needed. Sometimes texture work can be of your own making.

  • Visual Guide: Adding Textures
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    [Example Icons: Textures]
    Example Icons: Textures

    02. Ye ol' layer blend.

    A composition trick not necessarily limited to screen, all other layer modes are viable options for creating composition using more than one image. Generally when I go out of my way to blend images with this particular method I actually have a plan as to what I want the icon to look like. This thinking tends to give you an advantage when looking into blending for composition wizardry, because you can look for caps that may blend in an easier manner.

    When looking to create this style of composition, I tend to search for caps with large areas of darkness alongside caps with prominent areas of lightness work beautifully together to create a nice screen or soft light blend. Alternatively caps with strong colours can be used to work with a base texture or fill layer and set to soft light, hard light or overlay to achieve monochromatic tones. It comes down to being exploratory with your chosen caps, and figuring out what may work with the layer blend modes available to you.

    Other tips:
  • Masking is magic. A layer mask can turn damaged into doable. Sometimes there are areas that, having played with your adjustment layers, aren't given justice - a layer mask erasing areas that are hiding visibility (by removing completely or lowering the opacity with a lower strength brush) works wonders to fix any potential problem areas.
  • Try painting instead. Masking can be awesome in some situations to help you blend images together, but you can also create a new layer and paint (roughly if need be) around the image you want to blend. The added bonus here is that you can pick the colour of the fill layer to match the potential colour scheme of your icon; or explore other colours as you explore other blend modes.

  • Visual Guide: Layer Blend
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    [Example Icons: Layer Blend]
    Example Icons: Layer Blend

    03. Block and Rotate.

    For the most part blocking and I come to be friends out of sheer necessity rather than anything else. I've made an icon that followed my hearts content - but I still find myself feeling as though it's not finished. So I duplicate the layer and play around with a variety of boxed in blocking until I find myself liking the result. Please note that this doesn't happen often. On the other hand, when I'm working with two caps and plan on rotating one, it generally means I have a plan. Together the caps could symbolise something (generally the case) or they work well in contrast.

    There is nothing to say you can't choose to rotate or block your icon at any stage through the icon process. When I plan to rotate my images, sometimes I will work with caps separately (when the colours are distinctly different) and then add them together towards the end of the process. Other times I will rotate the caps and block them together before doing anything else (when the colours are similar or the same). When it comes to blocking, generally I will have finished the general tone of the icon before I even begin - then I play with size and levels, negative space and positioning to see what I can come up with.

    Other tips:
  • Use what you were given, if all else fails. Within an image, landscape or background movement may very well help you with blocking or composition. Don't feel the need to crop your icon instantly from your image. Play with it as a full screencap (perhaps resized) and see what pops out at you from there.
  • Textures & fill layers are always fun. Use both to help with your blocking. Fill layers can help with cutting images off (or boxing them in) while textures themselves can be used as natural blocking tools, helping you distinguish where images may work best.

  • Visual Guide: Blocking & Rotation
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    [Example Icons: Block and Rotate]
    Example Icons: Block and Rotate

    04. Sweet simplicity.

    Composition isn't always about blocking, rotating, textures or blending. Less is more should never be disregarded as a legit composition technique. A stunning crop, rich bold colour, strong light and shadow or delicate muted tones can all be used to create an icon with that represents simple, but no less effective composition. The key here is to avoid overwhelming the icon at all costs. Pick an aspect to focus on and nail that - then step away and add nothing else. Let that singular aspect be what draws the eye to the icon, because that is in essence what composition is truly about.

    [Example Icons: Sweet Simplicity]
    Example Icons: Sweet Simplicity

    05. Tips & Tricks

    Font as a decorative accent. Decorative fonts may be terrifying to use in the small space of an icon, however a tip I picked up from fuuurs from reading this flawless tutorial was to consider using fonts as decorative accents rather than for text itself.
    Custom shapes. If you are looking for some decorative accents to add a little bit of oomph to your icon, I recommend checking out the Custom Shape tool [the little star shaped tool among all the 'shape' tools]. It has arrows, frames, hearts, stars, jigsaw pieces to name a few, as well as lots of other weird and wonderful decorative accents that could be used to liven up your icon.
    Brushes. Something I haven't really explored beyond the role they play in texture making, but the brushes already available in Photoshop, as well as those available to download can also be used to add a little bit of decoration to your composition.
    Symbolic Images. And if those options don't work, the symbolic symbol is always available for you to try on for size. Find an image of something that has a symbolic relationship with the character you are iconing (or the icon itself) and see how that can add a little flair to your composition.

    [Example Icons: Tips & Tricks]
    Example Icons: Tips & Tricks

    And with that, young wizards, this rambled guide comes to a close. If you have any questions or queries they are most welcome to be directed here or at my original ask the maker comment.
    Tags: .guide, .tutorial

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