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Old Feb 15, 2011   #1
4th Dan Black Belt
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 1,411

[Tutorial] The Sigmaking Handbook
Just because it never really got as much attention as I had initially intended it to in TAS (I guess I left it too long before releasing it), I figured I'd post it here. I didn't really want to let my hard work go to waste. I'd still like to add more to this.

The Sigmaking Handbook

1. What is a signature?
A signature is basically an image used to fill someoneís sig space. In recent times, itís sort of become its own unique art form.

2. How to act/behave.

Accept C+C when it is given to you. Never argue against those who are offering C+C, even if their C+C may not be that useful or are wrong, be thankful that they took the time to try and help you. Obviously, if the person is being a complete nonce and is saying that stuff is wrong with your piece without explaining what it is or how you can improve it then there isnít a need to be so thankful.
Always try to give C+C as well, especially if they have already commented on your piece. Most people try to return the favour if you offer them good C+C.
Try to create what is known as the C+C sandwich when C+Cíing something. This refers to telling them what the person has done well, what they have done wrong and how to improve. Try to not come across as being too harsh and never, ever, ever rate sigs out of 10. Itís pointless and nobody does it. Most gfx sites will only give ratings on sigs if it is asked for in what is known as a classing thread (Will be explained later).
A good example of C+C:

So anyways, the second one is probably my least favourite out of the three. Mainly due to the floating head syndrome!

Never, ever just use the head as a focal point, always show some neck or the rest of the body. Can't really remember why but it does look kind of strange.

The depth in that tag was also quite off. The focal looked really flat. I tend to try and keep all effects off the face of my focal.

The tag is also kind of bland, could have really used a few more effects and colours.

Loooove the third one. Really nice effect with the guitar.

However, you're kind of having the undefined focal problem again, mainly on the left side of his face. You're kind of over-blending if you get what I mean.

The lighting is also kind of off. The lightest part of the sig is on his right hand side but the lightest part of his face is on his left. Remember to make sure your lighting is as natural as possible.

This sig is also kind of bland but it does have a really nice feel to it. I hope you try experimenting with a few more effects eg, fractals, c4ds and keep playing with clipping masks. That effect on the last one is so hawt.

This says what is good about the sig and what is bad. It also gives tips on improving.
Bad C+C:

Too lazy to give proper c+c...
8/10 looks nice but there are a few parts that are wrong

If youíre to lazy to do it properly, donít do it at all. Always explain what is wrong and how to improve it. Never give a rating.
Your general attitude and mentality towards your art is also something that will make you a more respected sigmaker. If you just want to make sigs to make money, stop reading now. You do it because you enjoy it, not to make a quick buck. Always try to be helpful, if you see a guy whoís struggling, give him a hand. Write tutorials and share your knowledge with others.

3. Commonly used sigmaking terms.

Tag: Another name for a sig.
Flow: (credits to Glass)
Depth: (credits to Glass)
Lighting: (credits to Glass)
Render: A cut out image with a transparent background. Normally used as a focal point in many sigs.
Stock: An image that is made for people to use in their art. Often used as focals, background or used to create effects.
FHS (Floating head syndrome): When an artist only uses the head of a person in a sig. It kills depth and makes the sig look unnatural.
Smudge tag: A tag that makes use of the smudge tool eg:
C4D: An abstract 3D render commonly used to create effects in many sigs.
Pen tool: A tool in photoshop that is used to create vectors or to sometimes aid flow in some sigs. Otherwise known as the paths tool in gimp.
Focal point: The point at which the eyes are drawn to most in a sig.
Classing: A place where artists go to get their work rated. They are ranked as one of:
SOTW (Signature of the Week): A competition in which competitors design a sig with a certain theme. The one with the best sigs wins the title of ĎSignature of the Weekí. Very handy for growing your e-peen.

4. Learning

There are many resources at your disposal when learning to make sigs. Most sites have a tutorials section where you can easily find tutorials suited to your ability. When using tutorials, itís not normally best to do them exactly step by step as many people do. Take elements from tutorials, for instance, if you like the way in which the artist has created their lighting, take that. You can also download .psds or .xcf files. These allow you to see exactly how artists have created their sigs. Never, ever take any layer of any .psd and put it in your own work, this is considered ripping and you will be punished for it. Post your work in different places, try and get as much feedback as possible, it really does help. Also, look at the sigs of others, learn from those.
Some handy sites for you to use:

5. Making a Good Sig

-Blending, make sure that your sig blends together, donít make things stick out too much.
-Depth, Flow and lighting, read the tutorials by Glass that are in the glossary section.
-The rule of thirds, read the tutorial by Campeonamerica in the glossary section.
-Avoid Floating Head Syndrome
-Make sure your sigs arenít formulaic; never make two different sigs in the same way. It gets boring and youíll never get any better then you already are.
-Define a focal point; make sure there is a point in your sig where the viewer can rest their eyes. This point should stand out and your sig should work around it.
-Be different, donít always use the same effects. Try something original
-Vary your effects, experiment with clipping masks, C4Ds, smudges, fractals, stocks and whatever else you can get your hands on.
-Donít bother with toris, this one is mainly personal opinion, I suppose, but almost every tori is the same, there arenít many differences, so your sigs are always going to look exactly the same. No one in their right mind would keep using the same render/stock over and over again in their sigs.
-Keep the text small or none at all. Text is really hard to get right, it never blends properly and is always distracting. I recommend you to leave it out for your first few sigs at least. Obviously if a person requests it, then do it but otherwise, leave it out.
-Avoid layer styles, they donít look good in sigs. Blending modes are a must though, they are really useful for creating different effects. Experiment and see what happens.

6. Layer adjustments

These are probably the most important tools for creating good sigs, so they get their own section. Find the layer adjustments by going to layer>>new adjustment layer.

Brightness/contrast- I tend to use this one on almost all of my sigs. Itís fairly self explanatory, just slide the brightness bar up if you want your sig to be brighter and slide the contrast bar up if you need more contrast.
Levels- Never really used this myself. I think you use it to edit colours and stuff.
Curves- Useful for lighting and changing the brightness. If you think your sig is a little too light or dark at any time, itís normally good to use a curves adjustment. Tilting the curve downwards will darken, upwards will brighten.
Exposure- Never used. I believe itís more for photographers and stuff.
Vibrance- Didnít realise it existed until making this tut.
Hue/saturation- Never found it overly handy. Saturation is useful to fiddle with sometimes thought
Colour Balance- Handy for giving your sigís colours a nice tint. Shadows are the darker parts, highlights are the lighter parts and midtones are the bits in between.
Black & White- Useful if youíre looking to make a B/W tag.
Photo filter- I love this adjustment. Itís similar to colour balance, however, I find it a little easier to use. Always found it useful for creating a nice atmosphere in my tags.
Gradient Map- Gradient maps are the greatest things since sliced bread. Theyíre useful for everything. I recommend you experiment a lot with these as they are really handy. I often use these for creating some nice lighting effects or just to help the blending of my tag. If your sigís looking a little washed out, wack a gradient map over the top and your colours will instantly become more vivid.

7. C4D and fractal usage
C4Ds are probably the most used and abused effects on the earth. Everyone thinks when they start they are dead easy to use, however, you could not be further wrong. Itís not just about taking a C4D and plonking it behind a render, that takes no skill and looks hideous.
An example of bad C4D usage:

No effort to blend the C4D and just looks bad.
If you want to use C4Ds properly, make sure you attempt to blend them, play with blending modes, erase bits, smudge to blend and adjust colours. Do whatever you feel necessary to make it look good.

8. Smudging
Smudging is an effect raped almost as much as C4Ds and fractals, however most of my favourite tags are smudge ones. Thereís something so beautiful about smudging when done properly. Smudging is something that you have to experiment with, itís not really something that I can teach that easily. Practice with different shaped and sized brushes, play with different brush settings and try different techniques. Just donít use the default brush too much.

9. Shapes, vector and pen tool

The pen tool is another popular technique that Iíve never really got my head around so I canít really give you too much guidance with it. I wonít go into using the pen tool too much either as itís something that is really easy to find tutorials about, I just thought that this section might give you a few ideas.

10. Useful links - My favourite forum, cool people, great resources and sweet tutorials. - Another good forum. - Amazing tutorials. - Top quality resources. - Another sweet forum. - Great place to get resources and get critique. - Great place for stocks.
11. Making money
Even though Iíve already said that it isnít about the money, I know a lot of you have probably skipped to this section. Making money off sigs is hard due to the communityís poor view of what a good sig is. They all want generic toris and big ugly text. All they care about is if their tori is shown in a good light and that itís nice and big. Obviously, we canít change a personís opinion but Iíve found that a good sig will sell. Make sure that if youíre starting a shop that you have some nice banners and a good layout. Presentation is everything, take a look at Alphaís shop for example, the cutting edge and sleek design really sets it out from the rest. Starting a shop with someone who has a different style to you will also help, if youíre both getting requests then your shop will stay at the top of the board for longer, plus, you wonít be competing as your styles are completely different. When you start getting requests, donít do them just to make money. If the requester wants something that will look ugly then donít do it. Iíve done this before and I regret it now. Making crap sigs will lower your reputation and will affect future sales. Donít be afraid to turn requests down.
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Old Jun 6, 2011   #2
4th Dan Black Belt
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 1,411

Going to attempt to update this with some new stuff. I want to include some more on the individual techniques and I'm going to write some individual tutorials on how I made a lot of my sigs. I wanted lilmali/raiden to do the same but they're both dicks who don't save their psds!
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Old Jun 7, 2011   #3
Black Belt
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 2,646

I'll make a new one babe, maybe not as good, but a better one.
I bought a subscription to Wibbles so I think this quote is necessary,
"Be careful when gazing into the void, for it gazes back"
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Old Jun 19, 2011   #4
4th Dan Black Belt
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 1,411
surf is offline   Reply With Quote

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