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Old December 25th, 2012 (08:30 PM). Edited February 18th, 2015 by Fairy.
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derozio derozio is offline
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Join Date: May 2009
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The Way of the Graphic Artist

Dear A&D Members,
Figured this section needed a resource + tutorials thread. Our super moderator Abnegation made a really useful thread some time ago which deals with almost every basic element and teaches you almost everything you need to know to get you started on the road to become a truly awe-inspiring graphic artist. The thread had plenty of awesome resources, to boot! So yeah, bringing it back!

Original Thread can be found here. I've made some changes in this one.
1) Got rid of dead links
2) Have rid the thread of PSP resources and tutorials because honestly, I don't see anyone use anything other than GIMP and Photoshop. :p
3) Have posted the final images of the tutorials so that you guys see what the output of the tutorial you're gonna follow is beforehand.
4) Added details on certain aspects like Color Adjustments.

Of course, I can't be lazy and just rehash a thread and be done with it. I'll update this thread time and time again. Hopefully, it'll be of help. What you read from now onwards is mostly what Gavin wrote in his previous thread so most of the credit goes to him. :]

Oh, and before you go on further, do check out the following:

Important Links
Everything an artist may need

Artist's Guide To Traditional And Digital Drawing -
Found underneath this post; contains everything you need to master the basics of traditional as well as digital art!
Feelin' chatty? Come and talk your heart out over here!
Check this out to ensure a trouble-free stay in A&D. :)
Do not have enough examples to make a gallery? Fret not; post in this thread where other users will provide you with quality feedback!

Hope you have fun!

Regards, Derozio

Okay, well I've been getting a few requests as to where to begin with graphics and graphic design and how I got to the level I'm at, which incidentally isn't a very high one but nonetheless I'm here to share my story and how I got to being able to make half decent icons, tags and large pieces. This is going to be the new tutorials and resource thread. The old one can be found here.

You may discuss what is in this thread, submit tutorials recommend things that could be added to the first post etc.

The Theory

Now I guess I best go through some terms for starters. I know some people looking here will probably be a little more advanced and won't need to read all this stuff, so you guys can skip on through!

Tags are small works intended to fit into signatures. They're often rather small in height and somewhat wide in comparison. Tags were a big internet fad for a while, or at least they were on forums and boards alike, but had died down with the popularity of larger pieces. An example of a tag would be this. Tags are always a good place to start for aspiring graphic artists as they allow you to learn about the functions of photoshop, apply flow, work with renders and stocks and so much more. In reality, the thing that makes you money through graphic design is print work. This means that tags aren't exactly money makers when it comes down to it; though they most certainly provide good practice.

Icons again, are a fad and quite a popular one too. Though web designers would see icons as something of small graphics to indicate certain options or links, such as favicons or I guess you could say dock icons. The icons I'm speaking of now were started by LiveJornal. An icon is a small 100x100 piece of graphics and is often a good representation of a graphic artist's style. They're primarily used as avatars on boards, forums and blogs. They've also been used to make themes on boards or forums. An example of an icon would be this.

Large Pieces:
Are exactly that, large graphic art. In the graphic design world, people primarily work with larger pieces for print work and such. Think about posters, billboards and advertisements; that's what large pieces would be when brought into the world of graphic design. Large pieces vary a lot. This is an example of a large piece.

Some terms we here in GFX talk with:

Flow is when the focal points' natural "flow" or direction is also represented by the effects used in the artwork. It is often created by smudging, C4D's and pentooling.

The art of pentooling the outline of an image to trace or color an image.

This is what goes into a signature, this would include the render, the background, the stocks, C4D's used etc.

Is just that, a signature with no depth is what we call "flat" which is something we'd like to avoid. Depth is often made by the background using blurring, smudging, stocks or C4D's. A tag which has nailed depth looks MUCH better than one which is flat. Monochromatic (ones with a single or a single kind of colors) tags require more depth than others.

Focal Point:
This is the part of the signature/piece in which you should be focusing on, the part that stands out and in which the entire signature/piece is created around. This is the part which should draw the viewer's attention the most. It is usually made noticeable by sharpening it and blurring other parts relative to it.

Is the light in which is created by the focal. Often made by soft brushing or a lens flare (found in your filters). Some people prefer using gradient maps for lighting as well. But, as far as the honest opinion of Derozio goes, soft brush lighting is the easiest to work with so beginners should probably try that, rather than gradient map lighting.

Where you put your stock/render, this is important while making a piece, you've got to know how to make your stock/render work with the size of the piece and where it fits best. Tags with focals in their center should generally be avoided because they go against the rule of the thirds. You can read more about the rule here!

When a signature is the same hue, tint or colour the whole way through. This can be avoided by using many colours. Even B&W tags can avoid this.

A cut out of a stock used in tags quite a lot. Often features a character or person.

A full picture.

An effect made in Photoshop/Gimp using the smudge tool. It can make or break a signature.

A cinema 4 d image. Used for effects primarily. They are pretty common in usage. And easily available as well!

= Got my vote

= Low Quality

Next up we're gonna go through some of the things that go into making a great tag.


The way of the blur

Depth is a very important technique for all graphic artists and I've seen it missed by beginners more times than I can count. Depth is what makes a 2D banner turn into a seemingly 3D piece of art when done correctly. Depth is important in almost every sig.

This is an example of some smudging and blurring. When you plan to nail depth in a tag, you are supposed to think of how the render/stock would look in 3d. If the render is pushing forward and there's a clear indication that a specific part of the render is more forward than the rest of it; you should try blending (blurring/smudging) the back of the render with the background so that it adds that much more realism. What I've done here was make the render look like it's been swallowed by the background, this is why the arms are covered and that the head isn't so much. It's all used to create depth. Mainly what was done here was smudging. You can also add depth by blurring. You can go for any of them but blurring is, relatively, easier. Mostly because you apply whatever you see in real life. You know how stuff becomes comparatively more blurry with increase in distance from the eye, right? Just think of a tag as a real-life image which needs depth and you can do that by blurring parts which are away from the eye and sharpening the ones which are situated closer to it.

Notice how in this tag that the render's edges were blurred so that it felt as if it had been coming forward. Anything with action (meaning the render or stock looks as if it was moving and was freeze framed) always has the option to blur or smudge in the direction in which it is heading.
Depth can also be made using appropriate lighting. The lighting can either go behind or in front of the render. In this tag, the lighting behind the render creates a feeling that something is back there, behind him, which created depth in the sig. That, and the effects around him that lower in opacity as the get farther away from him.

Depth is something you should always ensure you have in abundance - it can never hurt a tag, honestly. You'll probably appreciate how useful depth can be if you view the following example:

This is the final version of the tag

This is how it looks raw. Without any kind of blurring/burning/dodging or sharpening.

Now I'll explain in short whatever changes have been made in there.

1) This is actually an area that has been darkened in order to fix the messed up lighting in the raw version. Notice how almost every part of the raw tag is bright, yeah? That's mostly a no-no. The parts illuminated by the light source are supposed to be bright. Other parts should be dark. So I have used a tool called the burn tool to burn or darken some areas of the tag which seemed unnecessarily bright. Think of a light bulb. Think of it being kept over the render's head. You'll probably imagine it illuminating a 'U' shaped or parabolic area with its light. By darkening certain parts, you are pretty much trying to simulate the light from a bulb here - except that the bulb is virtual and lighting is artificial. :p You'll also notice that area near the left '2' has been darkened as well. That was done to simulate the lighting of the tag by a real life light source too. Although I don't know how much I succeeded there, haha.

2) You can see these parts have been blurred, right? They are situated, according to me, a little further away from the focal and hence were blurred to increase depth.

3) The effects which have been encircled in here are actually situated near our eye when compared to the render. There is something called 'foreground effects' as well. Everything apart from the render ain't supposed to be blurry. If there are effects which are situated closer to your eye when compared to the focal, do not blur them. This whole blurring business is basically a simulation of depth of field that your eye provides in the real world. So yeah, stuff that's closer to the eye doesn't need blurring.


Go with the flow

Flow is the technique used to make the signature feel as if it's moving in the same direction throughout, or when everything works together (more so in composition). Flow is another important aspect of tag making.

Here the flow of the tag is represented by the arrows. It's always good to get the effects moving in the same direction as the render itself. I used this tag as it's got a clear indication of flow without using anything over complicated.


Let there be light

Lighting is another important aspect of a tag. However you must be careful with where you place it. You must place it in a place where the lighting is foremost created. It is often created by the stock or render. Have a look at where it most bright and imagine the light is coming from that area or from above it/behind it etc. depending on the angle. You can also create your own lighting using methods such as a soft brush and a lens flare. Let's take a look at this tag again:

See how the lighting is strong here? The render had a nice bright position on the arm so the lighting was intensified. But yeah, take care not to let the lighting mess up. Too much of a bright spot on a tag hurts it. So keep stuff balanced.

There are renders which have ambiguous lighting, though. You can, pretty much, induce a light source at more than one place in these kinds of stocks/renders. Example below:

As you can probably see, most of Dante's right half is being illuminated in this tag. You can conclude that you're supposed to place the light source on the right part of the tag since that's where most of the render is being illuminated from. But there are bright parts on the left side too. It would be better to position the light source so that it, in this case, looks as if it is illuminating the right part of the tag. But it works pretty well even if you place the light source on the left. Take a look!

So yes, you can experiment with almost every basic aspect of the tag and go against the conventions. But remember, going against the conventions too much might probably end up ruining your work. It works at times. Might not work most of the time.


Because everybody loves rainbows

It is really important for a tag to have good looking colors. Without proper color enhancements, any tag can look relatively dull. Colors are generally enhanced by using gradient maps and selective colors. These two are the most widely-used photoshop tools that enable graphic artists to alter the colors, and therefore the mood/atmosphere, of the tag to his/her liking. Gradient maps are used a lot more than selective colors, though. So I feel that the usefulness of selective colors needs to be emphasized a bit. Click the image below to see what I'm talking about.

See the difference? As for how to use selective colors - all it does is 'selectively' change colors, as the name implies. You can change the red in a tag to a pink without it affecting the rest of the colors of the tag. But there's no set of rules as to how to use these, tbqh. You can just mess around with them till you get the colors right. With time and some practise, you'll gain enough experience to know what to do with almost any tag you're working on. You won't need to 'think' about what to do next - you'll do it all automatically. This is coming from personal experience, so yeah. XD;

I'll add more to this. More about Placement coming soon! Also, if you still have any queries concerning lighting, depth or stuff like typography and flow, read this. Our own Zebra Thunderhead made a really useful post regarding all these so I'm pretty darn sure you'll find it really informative. Check it out! :]

PC Member Tutorial List

If you'd like your tutorial added to this list, feel free to post it in this thread or PM it to me.

Tag Tutorials:

Zoro Collab Tutorial
by BreD

Balmung Tutorial
by Zebra Thunderhead

Tears of Blood Tutorial
by Zebra Thunderhead

Wanted Tutorial
by Conman

Manga Style Tutorial
by Conman

Creative Sprite Tutorial
by Conman

Gunster Tag
by Color Me Evil

by Michii

Manga Tutorial
by Loki

timeSPLITTERS Tutorial
by Zebra Thunderhead

Stock Tutorial
by Loki

Sig Tutorial
by Chibi Phantom

Smudgetastic Tutorial
by Comic Tragedy

by Loki

Dukey Tutorial
by Dukey

Darkrai Tag Tutorial
by Nitrous Oxide

Ninja Sig Tutorial
by Renyui!

smudging tutorial
by Michii

Skater Tag Tutorial
by Reminiscing

Dante Tag Tutorial
by Derozio

Luffy Tag Tutorial Video
by Derozio

Tutorials that pertain to other things besides tags:

Rendering Tutorial by Loki
Sandro's Userbar Tutorial by Sandro™
Avatar Tutorial by Motoko
Smudge Tutorial by Comic Tragedy
Blending Effects Avatar Tutorial by Nitrous Oxide
Colour Splash Tutorial by Renyui!

Color Effects Tutorial
by Loki

by Zebra Thunderhead

I Know How Tutorial
by Abnegation

Resource Section

Here you will find a bunch of resources varying from brushes to C4D's.

Tutorial & Resource Thread #1 Resources


Please report any dead links, thanks.

Free Brushes
BioRust Brushes (need to register for free)
DeviantArt Brushes
Brush Listings
Another Brush Listings
*How to create your own brushes

Free Shapes, Patterns & Borders
DeviantArt Patterns
BioRust Patterns (need to register for free)
Shapes & Patterns Listings
BioRust Shapes (need to register for free)

Free Textures and Gradients
BioRust Gradients (need to register for free)
Big Textures by ransie3 - Some lovely stuff here. Light textures are really good. Suggested by TwilightBlade
Stocks, actions, textures by zummerfish - Good stock images. Mostly landscapes. Suggested by TwilightBlade
Various textures by 9 liters of art - A large variety of textures available here. Most are really good. Suggested by TwilightBlade.
Textures and actions by demeters - Check out the gallery folders on the left. :p Good bokeh textures. Suggested by TwilightBlade

Free Layer Styles
Layer Style Listings
BioRust Layer Styles (need to register for free)

New Resources

Websites / Communities

Fringe FX
- redirects to a forum now. But a great graphics spot. Great resources.
Planet Renders - Renders, good forum. Great resources.
Signature Stop - Great signature tutorials
Abduzeedo - For advanced users, has some great professional work and tutorials.
- Great site to start learning professional graphic design.
Gfxresources - As suggested by gir500. Looks like a good place to learn some new techniques.
SubtlePatterns - Suggested by TwilightBlade. Plenty of good looking textures. Especially for profile backgrounds or thread layouts.
Cherrybam - Some really nice patterns in there. Also suggested by TwilightBlade
Blue Vertigo - has TONS of links to stock sites. I haven't gone through them all, though.

Final Note

There is no trick to graphic design, there's so much diversity in this world that everyone is entitled to create their own style. Don't be stuck trying to be the graphic artist you see ahead of you because they get recognition or their work looks good. You can be at any level and create something astounding. Remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that your style; is the only one that should matter to you. If you want to be a great graphic artist, just practice, put your emotions into the things you do, plan before you start, have an idea of where you want to, but also don't be afraid of experimenting sometimes. If you make something you think is bad, don't give in and feel as if you'll never be good. Nothing great comes without perseverance. If you need help, just ask someone, don't be afraid to seek advice, criticism or any form of input. Cherish feedback, be it good or bad, make it your goal to impress people and most importantly, yourself. Lose your right hand brain in your graphic program and enjoy what you do.

If you have anything to add to this thread or if you'd like to comment on anything, please post, I do not mind general discussion, this is not a strict thread. I will say though, any grammar, coding, spelling mistakes can be PM'd to me or add them as a side note to a bigger post. We all make mistakes but be sure you don't look like you're spamming.

As always, I'm here to help if you need to seek advice on your work. Thread shall be updated regularly.

Credit of this thread goes to abnegation and myself, derozio. Contact me if you have any queries. Don't worry, I don't bite. ;]
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