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Civilization V-style Icons with Gimp

Discussion in 'Civ5 - Modding Tutorials & Reference' started by DJSHenninger, Sep 25, 2014.

  1. DJSHenninger

    DJSHenninger Megas Basileus

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    In this guide you may learn how to make your civilization V icons more like the Civilization V style with Gimp 2.8 using existing images. NOTE: This is not the perfect way; I simply wish to share the features I have ‘discovered’ which may allow you to make those icons yourself. If you lack artistic skills like I and depend on existing images for your art, and you don’t have Photoshop, then this may be the guide for you.

    Example icon:


    Here's are two videos, the first is rather messy and fuzzy, but might still be helpful. Recommended to watch the second after at least watching the first one from 5:30 to 9:54. The second one addresses the use of two colours for the background image:



    I’ll try to use this image of Muhammad Ali Pasha of Egypt to make a leader icon:
    Spoiler :

    First of all, use the free select tool and set ‘Feather’ to, say, 2. This to make sure the edges are a bit smoother. Tool options are important. Double click on a tool to see them. You should zoom in, depending on the size of the image. If they’re not too big, 400% will do (bottom of the screen). Now select the guy or whatever, and perhaps a bit of the surroundings as well (in this case the chair he’s sitting on).

    Now, open a new Gimp image; for convenience I always make the background transparent (right click -> colors -> color to alpha OR when creating the new image, set background to ‘transparent’). You should paste the cut image and save it in case you want to change something later.
    Spoiler :

    Now right click -> filters -> blur and choose ‘selective Gaussian blur’. You should experiment with the values, although I always end up with a max. delta value of ca. 10 or 20 and a blur radius of 5, 10 or 20. I apply this effect multiple times with different values; this time:
    Max. delta: 10
    Blur radius: 12
    And a second time:
    Max. delta 10:
    Blur radius: 6
    Spoiler :

    This effect removes some of the details and make it look simpler, yet smoother. However, it also makes the edges rather blurry. If you continue on like this, the image will blur too much. If you zoom in, it may still contain irregularities:
    Spoiler :

    Now, if this is used for an icon, you may ignore it, as it is barely visible. However, if used for a leaderscreen, it should be removed. There are multiple ways to do this. Select the color picker tool and click on a color close to the irregularity. Now choose the Airbrush tool and decrease its opacity. You may want to work with an opacity as low as 30, or as high as 80. If it’s 100, then it probably looks ugly. Size, Flow and Rate may be of interest as well. You should find out what works best for you. Now brush away the irregularity with the airbrush. Don’t forget to zoom in.
    You may also try to select more specific areas and reapply the Selective Gaussian Blur effect so that you don’t blur the edges. This may look rather strange, though.
    Spoiler :

    Now, there are still a lot of irregularities since I’m lazy and this is just for an icon ;)

    There are a couple of other effects which may be applied in any order.
    The colors of an image may look rather dull. To change this, right click -> colors -> Hue/Saturation:
    Change the saturation (move it to the right). Don’t overdo it. I set it to 15:
    Spoiler :

    Another effect: Right click -> Filters -> Enhance -> Unsharp Mask
    Now, I usually apply it in two ways:
    - 1) A low amount (ca. 0,15); and a relatively high radius (ca. 35) and threshold (ca. 20)
    Spoiler :

    - 2) A high amount (ca. 0,35) and the lowest possible radius and threshold
    Spoiler :

    Now, the latter sharpens the edges. What is the former doing? Beats me, but it looks better to me. It kind of enhances the shadow/light contrast.

    The next effect is also edge-related. It really depends on the image if this is of any use. Right click -> Filters -> Edge-detect -> Edge..
    There are multiple effects to choose from. I don’t why or what, but I usually start with Sobel (the default option). I lower the value a bit, to 1,5. The most important thing is it try out different options. I use the others as well. I usually use multiple effects. Now you applied the effect and it looks super ugly. But you’re not finished. Now: Right click -> Edit -> Fade edge..
    Again there are multiple effects to choose from. Start with lowering the opacity first (again, experiment with it). The effects I use the most are: addition, overlay, difference, subtract.

    I started with subtract set at 10,7:
    Spoiler :

    Then differential (1,5) and subtract again at 9,7:
    Spoiler :

    Now, it’s a bit dark. Time for the Dodge/Burn tool. I usually change the size, depending on the image size and lower the Exposure. I also lower the opacity. Again, experiment. I usually apply Dodge/midtones to make the image lighter altogether, Dodge/highlights to make lighter parts shiny, Burn/midtones to increase the light/shadow contrast and Burn/shadows as well.. for.. something ..
    Spoiler :

    Now you need to create the background. You can choose a simple single-color background or actually an environment of some sort. Let’s start with the former. Create a new square image and fill the background with the desired color. Use the Ellipse Select Tool to make a circle out of it. If you use this single-color background, make some radial rays/a sunburst. Note that you could also add a background first by copy/pasting it with lowered opacity before adding the rays. There are multiple ways to add a sunburst, but I usually end up with the following method:
    1) Choose the Free Select Tool and set ‘Feather’ to ca. 3.0 or whatever you like. Just try out different options.
    2) Manually draw the sunburst. It’s probably a good idea to check where you want the leader to be, so copy/paste and resize the leader image you just made and try to fit it. Undo these changes again with the Undo History Dialog (right click -> edit):
    Spoiler :

    3) Select the Dodge/Burn tool, lower the opacity, increase size etc. I usually set it to Dodge/Midtones first, followed by Dodge/Highlights. You’ll end up with a sunburst similar to those found in the Palace icon and more. Following image with just Dodge/Midtones (exposure 16, opacity 54, size 120); First I just went over the entire selected area, then I started in the middle of the sunburst and went over the entire area again, except near the end of the circle (so that it looks like the rays are fading somewhat):
    Spoiler :

    Following image with Dodge/Highlights after Dodge/Midtones and Burn/shadows near the edges of the circle:
    Spoiler :

    Now you need some kind of shiny core. Use Dodge/Midtones again at a higher size and perhaps even lower opacity and exposure and create this ‘core’, starting from the where the rays meet.
    Spoiler :

    The background isn’t totally finished yet, but first some shiny edges should be added to the leader image. I usually resize the leader image to fit the icon before I do this.

    Choose a color similar to the background, but somewhat different. Otherwise these shiny edges won’t be noticed.
    Choose the airbrush tool, lower the size to approx. 10 (depends on img size), lower the opacity somewhat (70?) as well. Now color the edges of the image, or the way you want it:
    Spoiler :

    You may also increase the size and lower the opacity significantly (30) and add a bit more color like this:
    Spoiler :

    Use the Dodge/Burn tool to make the edges shiny:
    Spoiler :

    You can also add some shiny edges in another way. Use the Free Select Tool with or without Feather (in the image with Feather set to 3):
    Spoiler :

    Color it with the Paintbrush tool with lowered opacity. Use the Dodge/Burn tool (Dodge/Midtones and especially Dodge/Highlights):
    Spoiler :

    Paste the leader image over the background and use the high and mighty Dodge/Burn tool set to Dodge/Highlights to lighten the ‘shiny core’, especially in places near the shiny edges. Don’t overdo it. Also use Dodge/Midtones to make it look the like the ‘shiny core’ actually shines on the leader.
    Spoiler :

    You may want to add that black edge as well. Choose the Ellipse Tool. (set feather to 4 for smoother edge, not applied in following pic)

    Use the Dodge/Burn tool, this time Burn/Highlights. But first, Select -> Invert (upper screen)
    Spoiler :

    This is probably not the best way to add that black edge, as I haven't done so until recently.

    Now, the environment background procedure is quite the same. Choose a background image:
    Spoiler :

    ..and apply effects similar as with the leader image. (Dodge/Burn, Unsharp Mask, Selective Gaussian Blur, Hue/Saturation, Edge.. Fade Edge etc.)
    Spoiler :

    Now, adding the sunburst the same way as before may not be such a great idea (IMO):
    Spoiler :

    Instead, try to use the Airbrush tool to add a faint layer of a certain color (or multiple colors) and draw the radial rays again:
    Spoiler :

    However, before you use the Dodge/burn tool, you may try to invert the selection first and Burn/shadows or Burn/Midtones the background to make sure you can see the radial rays better:
    Spoiler :

    Apply effects mentioned earlier (single-color background):
    Spoiler :


    Well, there you go. In my opinion the icon doesn't look that great because I didn't use particularly high-quality images. Still, I hope this may have helped you in some way. For a slightly different method, see post #3.
     
  2. Civitar

    Civitar Adventurer

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    I find that using Colors>Posterize at certain stages (which depend on the artist's perspective) can make the image look a bit more oily and/or using Filters>Artistic>Oilify on the largest possible version of the subject of the icon then scaling down can look pretty good.
     
  3. DJSHenninger

    DJSHenninger Megas Basileus

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    This time a slightly different way of making an icon:

    1) Choose a background, applying aforementioned effects. Select the Blend Tool, one or two colours and lower the opacity. Use it to cover the background. You may want to use the Radial shape:
    Spoiler :

    2) Use the Free Select Tool to create some Radial rays, depending on the actual object. (You should also use Burn: Shadows to make the background darker after selecting the rays):
    Spoiler :

    3) If the background used for the rays is rather complex, meaning a lot of different pixels, then you may want to use the Airbrush tool first to be able to apply Dodge/Burn effects more effectively:
    Spoiler :

    4) Use Dodge/Burn (Dodge: Midtones followed by Dodge: Highlights), starting from the point where the rays 'meet' or the 'source of the rays':
    Spoiler :

    5) Use the Eraser Tool with lowered opacity to apply a transparant effect:
    Spoiler :

    6) Paste the layers on the background:
    Spoiler :

    7) Choose one or two or more colours and use the Airbrush tool like this:
    Spoiler :

    8) Once again, use the Dodge/Burn tool (Dodge: Midtones followed by Dodge: Highlights) to create a 'shiny core':
    Spoiler :

    9) Paste the object:
    Spoiler :

    10) You may notice the rays aren't really shiny. Select the rays with the free select tool and burn/dodge them (same settings):
    Spoiler :

    11) Done!
    Spoiler :

    Notice how the transparency of the rays is sacrificed to make them shiny. You may not want to dodge as much as I did.
     
  4. Civitar

    Civitar Adventurer

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    Definitely not, it makes the image look less oily and more like a finger-painting on small images.
    I forgot to mention that with Posterize you should always use fairy high values.
     
  5. Kiang

    Kiang Eternally Tired

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    Thought I knew everything I could about icon-making in Gimp; boy, was I wrong. Picked up a few tips here and there that I'd never have thought of. Thanks for this! =)
     
  6. DJSHenninger

    DJSHenninger Megas Basileus

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    No problem, glad I could help in some way! :)
     
  7. COF

    COF Chieftain

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    Excellent guide!
     
  8. DJSHenninger

    DJSHenninger Megas Basileus

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    Thanks, hope it'll help :) If I discover more techniques, I'll update this guide (although I'm out of images :p).
     
  9. Hiram

    Hiram XML Plebian

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    Finally, a guide for creating icons with Gimp. I'll be sure to make use of this :D.
     
  10. DJSHenninger

    DJSHenninger Megas Basileus

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    Great! The guide is already a bit outdated, as I've used the same techniques in slightly other ways, as used in my avatar. I think I'll re-structure the OP so that less separate images are involved and I can expand the guide.

    EDIT: Turned the third post into an extention of the guide.
     
  11. GPuzzle

    GPuzzle Available in wax cylinder!

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    Uhm, sorry, but I'm having a problem with the icons - specifically, their size. IIRC you need a few exact sizes, yet I can't resize only the icon and not anything else. Any help?
     
  12. DJSHenninger

    DJSHenninger Megas Basileus

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    Can you elaborate a bit? You're trying to resize the icon but not anything else, what's anything else? I can't visualize the problem.
     
  13. GPuzzle

    GPuzzle Available in wax cylinder!

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    The entire image, that is. I have an Icon of a certain size that I made. However, by trying to resize the icon, the background area (which is set to being transparent) also gets resized, and I can't take the measure of "is the icon the size it is supposed to be?" which is needed IIRC.
     
  14. DJSHenninger

    DJSHenninger Megas Basileus

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    If I understand correctly, the problem is that the image gets resized when you only want to resize the icon. What I usually do is, I create a new image with a transparent background, then copy/paste my icon. This way the icon is in a separate layer. I can then choose Layers -> scale layer instead of resizing the entire image. This should resize just the icon while retaining the image size.

    Is this what you meant?
     
  15. Danmacsch

    Danmacsch Geheimekabinetsminister

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    If I understand you correctly, you're trying to resize the canvas to the size it's suppose to be, but instead you're entire image - including the icon - is being resized, right?
    IIRC, there's a resize canvas menu in GIMP (switched to Photoshop a while ago, so can't remember if that's the exact name). That doesn't change the size of the icon.

    EDIT: ninjaed [emoji14]
     
  16. GPuzzle

    GPuzzle Available in wax cylinder!

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    Yeah!

    God, I still need to figure out how do layers work in GIMP.
     
  17. Civitar

    Civitar Adventurer

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    Wow, finally tried using Dodge/Burn today... made these.:D


    Thanks for that tip!
     
  18. DJSHenninger

    DJSHenninger Megas Basileus

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    Great!

    Dodge/burn is magic :p

    You could also use airbrush with lowered opacity and a white-ish colour before you apply dodge/burns. Makes everything shiny :) It's especially useful if you use a more complicated image as a background, with more pixels.

     
  19. Civitar

    Civitar Adventurer

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    Certainly easier than the repeated Dodging I was doing to make it look shiny.:p I'll try it on the next one, thanks!
     
  20. Civitar

    Civitar Adventurer

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    ...How about this? I don't think it's the effect you meant but it certainly adds to the spookiness - after making the starburst and coloring the background, I airbrushed a greenish mist behind the skeleton...
     

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