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Old August 5th, 2010, 10:18 AM   #1
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Platinum Trophy Dynames' Signature Tutorial v2.0


This isn't so much Pro Tips but just things that everyone should know. I am not stating that I am a Professional Sig Creator because I am still learning new things and trying to apply it regularly to my work. I am simply sharing information and strategies I have learned and compiled them into one place. This is for anyone who needs general information on how to make Sigs. This should be useful for anyone and everyone. I will update this as I think of more information or techniques that I feel that anyone who wants to make Sigs should know. If anyone has any experience or strategies that I have not mentioned then please feel free to share. Feedback is encouraged.

Thank you and Enjoy the Read.

*All sigs featured here are all done by me at one point or another.

**Please note this tutorial is created with a PC User and Photoshop CS4 in mind.

Beginner Tips:

Canvas Size:

Before you are able to do anything, you need a canvas. The question is how big or how small. Generally a sig is longer than they are wide. 350 x 100 pixels, 400 x 150 pixels. they are bigger than an avatar which are usually 100x100 pixels but smaller than banner which start about 500 pixels in length.

For me personally, my sigs are typically 383 x 159 pixels.

You never want something too small, you will not have enough room to create a good flow, all your effects will be really tight together making everything look cluttered, and your focal will be small as well.

Too Small:

(350 x 65 pixels)

(350 x 70 pixels)

(400 x 80)

Focal is too small and the effects don't have enough room to get a flow. This is mostly caused by the lack of width to the sig.

You never want something too big either. You will have a lot of room to work but you are also going to have to fill that entire space up with effects, focals, text and what not. If you think you are just going to add a lot of content you are simply just going to create other graphics faux pas. Too many focals, text is too big, etc, etc. Even if you don't make everything large or add a lot of content, you are still going to have a lot of empty space.

Too Big:

(525 x 125 pixels)

(450 x 90 pixels)

(450 x 85 pixels)

There is a lot of empty space in these sigs. This is due the sig being too long in length

It's as they say, its not the size that counts but how you use it. For an ideal size, I would say, 250 px < X > 500 px in length and 100 < X > 200 in width. Unless you are going to make vertical sig which looks like:

(159 x 383 pixels)

You need to pick a size which you are comfortable with and know that you can fill the canvas without making focals, text, etc too large or making the effects too cluttered.

Canvas Size is a matter of preference more than everything else so this is a more of a guideline. There is no right or wrong but you need to be absolutely confident you can fill the canvas so everything meshes well.

Render Choice:

Try and using Renders and/or Stocks that have a Direction or as I call it "Flow", especially when first starting out.

Poor Render Choice:

Poor choice because the flow goes in 2 different directions: The sword points Left to Right and Rule 63 Dante is looking straight ahead. If she was turn to the right slightly and looking down the sword. This would be much better.

Proper Render Choice:

Proper choice because the flow goes in one direction. From Venom's eye down the pool cue.

Now this isn't absolute. It's possible to use a render with the flow going in multiple directions, its just a lot hard because one flow will always get in the way of the other. This contradiction makes it incredibly hard to adjust so the image works in the end.

Placement and Resizing:

Now that you have your render/stock in mind, now you need to consider where to place it on your canvas and re-size to the appropriate size. You want it big enough so the render stands out but you need to small enough so you will get enough of the render in the canvas so you don't end up with Floating Head Syndrome.

What is Floating Head Syndrome?

Just as it sounds, when you have a focal in your sig is just a head and no body.

Examples of Floating Head Syndrome:

How to avoid Floating Head Syndrome:

It's actually quite simple. How I avoid FHS (Lol, my high schools initials) is by simply making sure you get at least the upper part of the torso (neck, shoulders, upper part of the chest, etc.) as well as the head of your focal within the canvas.

All of these could have suffered from Floating Head Syndrome but since you see at least the upper part of the torso they don't suffer from it. As long as you get the upper part of the torso within the canvas, you're golden.

Also, not all sigs have to focus on someone's face, I've seen people do sig featuring a pair of Nike's. So be creative, if you want to do a sig of someone's hands you can do that...if you can make it work.

With stocks they tend to place themselves because you want to get the background along with the focal into the canvas.

But how to do you re-size the render/stock? The best way to re-size it is to re-size within the your sig's canvas.

1. Hit Control + A to select the entire render/stock at its original size.
2. Hit Control + C to copy the selection. (The doted lines around your image.)
3. Hit Control + V to paste the selection onto your sig canvas.
4. Press Control + T, you will notice a box appear around your render with squares at the corners and at the half way points around the square.
5. Click and Hold one of the corner squares, and hold shift (This will keep the image proportional.)
6. Drag it so it fits nicely into your sig's canvas.

Sometimes, you will have to shrink it down to the point of where it is tiny. It just depends on the focal.

Proper Stock Placement:

This placement is appropriate for renders as well. Just with stocks in you need to account for the background as well.

Focal Points:

Focal Points by definition is a central point of attention or interest; in lay man's terms something that pulls the eyes. This can include your Stock or Render or Text, depending on what you are doing. It's the main focus which you want your viewer to notice. The eye should land on the focal whether it's immediate or gradual. Only 1 focal point. I have never seen a good 2 focal sig from anyone and this isn't exclusive to 2 renders either. Text can also be considered a focal as well.

Poor Focal Examples:

(Text is very distracting here. Two seperate sets of text in each corner plus a Render, 3 focals: Very Bad)

(Text is too long and too far from the render, 2 focals: Also very bad)

(This has no focal what so ever aside from the text, but if the text is the focal then what's the point of everything else.)

A proper sig should only have one focal point. This is true for all art, it doesn't matter if it painting, drawing, or whatever. One focal. Go to any fine art class, they will tell you the same thing.

Last edited by Dynames; August 13th, 2010 at 04:18 PM.
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Old August 6th, 2010, 03:35 AM   #2
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Default Dynames' Signature Tutorial v2.0


This mostly applies to render sigs. You want your render to fit in the background so that way it doesn't look like the render was simply Copy & Pasted onto a background. You NEVER EVER use blending options on your focal. No Soft Light or Hard Light, no Lighten, or Multiply, NO BLENDING OPTIONS. To makes the Sig look ugly as hell and doesn't look natural.

Poor Blending Examples:

(Both examples have the focal incorrectly blended into the background. The problem with this is the focal doesn't stand out so it becomes flat and it takes anyway from the natural color of the focal.)

Proper Blending Examples:

(In both sigs, the renders were properly blended into the background, the renders become apart of the overall image but the image isn't flat. The renders still stand out.)

What you do this simply by erasing with a soft brush lightly around the edges of focal. That way the Focal blends with the background but still stands out.

*See Smudging and "Depth" for more information.*


You will probably see some stuff that is left over from blending in this section because how I blend is by smudging. Now you actually get to learn techniques as opposed to definitions. Smudging is a sort of manual distortion. I can't really explain it all that well so I will just show you.

Each layer is smudged individually. What you do is you take your render and duplicate a bunch of times (Control + J for a shortcut), get your smudge tool and smudge your layers one after another, reducing your smudging strength and the how much you smudge on each new layer.

Bottom layer = Really smudged @ 100% strength, Next Layer = very smudged @ 80%, next layer @ 60%, next layer @ 40%, next layer @ 20%, next layer @ 10%, top layer no smudging but soft brush erase around the outside edge of the top layer. The edges from the top layer will be replaced with the edges from the layers underneath it resulting in the nice blend.

Almost play with the blending options: soft light, hard light, overlay, whatever floats your boat and looks good on all your layers EXCEPT THE TOP LAYER! Play with the Opacity on each layer, and erase anything that looks bad.

This really helps get a background going for a render sig.

Example of Smudged + Blended Signatures


Just like a frame acts as a border for a photograph, Sigs need a border as well. You need to have that separation from your sig or any image in order for it stand out when placed on a page or a wall. The border needs to be noticeable but shouldn't be too thick. Borders are simple but you can do some different styles depending on your particular sig, color also comes into play as well.

My standard is a basic 2px border. I tend to stick with 2 px border because 3px looks too thick and 1px looks too thin and it fits well with most sigs. As shown in the following:

Proper Border Examples:

General rule of thumb is if you have a overall dark image, you want a light color border and vise versa. Dark <-> Light.

How I do my borders is actually really simple. Grab your Rectangular Marquee Tool (the doted box looking tool), from the top-left corner, go down 2 pixels and go right 2 pixels, click and drag all the way down to the bottom-right corner. Measure the same distance except it's now 2 pixels to the left and 2 pixels up and release your mouse button.

You will have a boxed selection within your sig, now go up the your tabs and click "Select" and go down to "Inverse". Click "Inverse" and your box that was within your sig will now be a 2 pixels border selection around your sig. Now just fill the selection, if you hit Alt + Backspace you will fill with your Foreground color or Control + Backspace will fill with your Background color.

There is also a Cinematic Border as well. Basically, you make the top and bottom parts of the border another pixel thicker and completely exclude the sides. Think of wide screen in a movie theater.

Simplicity works best. Nothing like this:

Intermediate Tips:


You are probably wonder why Text is Intermediate. Well, because surprisingly enough Text is one of those simple things that is capable of ruining a sig. The sig can be effing awesome but it have horrid text, you will eff it up...badly. That's why a lot of people disregard text because of its high risk factor. Text is High Risk/High Reward. If Text is done right, it makes a sig look infinitely better.

Text needs to stand out just enough that it's noticeable. No huge text because they stick out too much or weird fonts because they are very difficult to match a particular theme. Most of the time, your default fonts are going to be the best choices. If you sig has an flow to it then the text should follow that flow. You want your fonts to fit the overall theme of your sig. You don't want to cross themes or genres.

It's like if you use a fancy calligraphy font but your theme is more technology based. Those don't fit at all.

You want your fonts of choice to fit the theme of sig.

Halo theme > Halo font
Matrix theme > Matrix font

Use colors from your sig. If your sig is blue, you should not have red text.

The following link is also worth a read. Really good basics on text. I helped me a lot.

Finally a text basics tutorial! Written 4 you! - Graphic Design Forums

Proper Text Examples:

Poor Text Examples:


You want colors fit together but you want to have a variety of color so your image doesn't become monotone, meaning one overall color.

Poor Color Examples:

(These are examples of Monotone. The regardless of the different blues and reds that are included, those colors are still all blues and reds.)

You want a variety of colors but you don't want your sig to look like a Skittles commercial. You need to find a good middle ground. There isn't a set number of colors you are required to have or shouldn't have but you just have judge for yourself. You need colors that mesh well together.

Remember when you were in Kindergarten and you learned Red, Orange, and Yellow were Hot colors and Blue, Green, and Purple were Cool colors. That applies here too but there are different combinations as well.

That's what the Color Wheel is for.

Basic color schemes: Color Theory Introduction

Proper Color Examples:


Flow is determined on how the render is position, from the direction the body is leaning or which they are facing or where the focal's eye are looking at. Up and down Flow is tricky to work with but is doable when you understand how to implement it. I'm still have trouble using it.

Proper Flow Examples:

(Take these sigs for example. Notice the direction of the focal where it's facing or where its going. Now you use effects in order to enhance that flow. See the C4Ds and the brushing following the flow of the render.)

Poor Flow Examples:

(None of these have flow, they just apart of a image with some random brushing and effects but they don't have any direction. The human eye can't follow a path that enhances the focal.)

Now this isn't absolute. It's possible to use a render with the flow going in multiple directions, its just a lot hard because one flow will always get in the way of the other. This contradiction makes it incredibly hard to adjust so the image works in the end.

Sometimes, no flow can also work too. It just depends on your level of experience.

No Flow Examples

Last edited by Dynames; August 13th, 2010 at 04:38 PM.
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Old August 6th, 2010, 03:35 AM   #3
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Default Dynames' Signature Tutorial v2.0

Light Sources:

Very simple. The light has to come from somewhere. Most of the time it's determined by Flow but it's a very loose guideline, sometimes the the light source is already given in a particular render or stock so you can just use that but changing it is incredibly difficult if not impossible unless you blacken the light source in order to make your own but it tends not to look natural, at least in my eyes. As long as the light source makes sense then you're OK.

Poor Lighting Examples:

(There is no light source in this example. You have no relation between light and dark.)

(Shadows are all over the place but where is the light coming from? There are shadows where there shouldn't be shadows.)

However, with Light Sources, lighting in general needs to be addressed. Imagine turning on a lamb in a room. Around that lamb, it's very bright however, but the further the lamb is from something, the darker things become. If you have an object in the way then you have shadows to deal with.

Use your Burn Tool to darken areas and the Dodge Tool to lighten areas.
The dodge tool is used to brighten up individual areas that require brightening such as around the light source and on your focal. When using the dodge tool use slow light brushing. Each click will brighten up the area depending on the size of the brush. The opposite is true with the Burn Tool. You never want to over dodge or over burn something.

I keep my burn and dodge settings at 50% Exposure which is the default setting.

Sometimes, Filter > Render > Lighting Effects also works but sometimes it make things too dark or too light. If you decide to use Lighting Effects, it would be an good idea to adjust the Opacity.

Take my latest for example. Notice the light source in upper right corner and how everything around it is bright but as you get further it gradually gets darker and when you go past the focal, you have a lot of black and shadowy effects. This is something I was experimenting with as well so don't worry if you can't get it at first.


You really want an sig have Depth to it. So the view can tell the image has multiple layers. A noticeable Foreground and Background. This isn't as hard as it sounds but it will take some practice. The ultimate result is the image will not look flat.

Basically, you want your focal to stand out more than everything else. This is done by using a Sharpen Tool to sharpen areas and a Blur Tool to blur area of your sigs. Just like the Dodge and Burn Tool, you need to lightly brush. The Sharpen Tool is used to mostly sharpen your focal, areas around the focal, and some effects. You want those areas to stand out. You want to blur the empty space and areas far from the focal. Your focal needs to stand out more than anything else. Basically you want to blur the background and sharpen the foreground.

Proper Depth Examples:

(Notice how the focal and the effects around the focal are sharp and clear while the the outside and down in the corners are slightly blurred, not to the point that they are unrecognizable but enough that they don't draw attention.)

High Pass Layer is one of your best friends when it comes to depth as well.

New Layer > Image > Apply Image > Filter > Other > High Pass > Set to Soft Light.

Poor Depth Examples:

(Both of these images are flat and are not properly blended into in the background. The result is an overly unsatisfactory and unappealing image.)

You NEVER EVER blur your focal. The point of the focal is to having something which their eye can rest on. It needs to stand out. Blur will not make that happen, it will simply just make the focal harder to see and make the background come out. There's a reason why it's called a background and foreground.

Last edited by Dynames; August 14th, 2010 at 02:31 AM.
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Old August 6th, 2010, 03:35 AM   #4
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Default Dynames' Signature Tutorial v2.0


Last edited by Dynames; August 13th, 2010 at 04:38 PM.
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Old August 9th, 2010, 11:05 AM   #5
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YAY! It's looking great! Makes me want to work harder at my sigs!
I really like the one I'm wearing now though, I think I did a good job, lol.

I'm going to have to read ALL of this ... one day

Oh, BTW, I think the text in your header is super bad That's like stock "Snap", or whatever it is that comes standard with Windows.. Everything is so epic, apart from that darn text!

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Old August 9th, 2010, 11:15 AM   #6
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I never use weird or overall fancy text (It's Wide Latin btw) but you have given me an idea.

If I were you just read stuff in pieces. If you read the whole thing you won't be able to process it all at once.

And believe me, when you get better and look back at your old stuff compared to what you do in the future, you are going to say, "WTF was I thinking?", you may still like it but you'll like your new stuff more.
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Old August 9th, 2010, 12:49 PM   #7
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here bro u can use mine as a criticizing material if u want. its my first sig and render so i really dont care about it that much but went for a few different things.

yes the light source was fucked up youll probably see what i was going for but i was more concerned with a few other things when i did it so it kinda got lost. and when i added some shine i blew it out of the water but for some reason it still looked fine to me so i kept it.

its rather big but if you look closely at the back its been slightly obstructed but in a whole the pic has layers and sort of pops out to me and thats what i was going for. at the time there was a lot of in your face sigs so i went for something different. i too see heaps of flaws though but yeah for my first render and sig i am rather happy.

so yeah criticise away. glad to see u made this thread i told the missus to tell u to make one but she forgot good to see u did. ima see if i can rep on this site now that ive finally found something worthy

edit ive made another sig so i can hotlink the old if u like :P. actually ill put it in the spoiler do with it what u please

^^Second sig I've ever made^^
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Last edited by XD_JESTER_8; August 9th, 2010 at 04:15 PM.
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Old August 9th, 2010, 06:42 PM   #8
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Very useful, although I dont even know where too download a program for this, I wouldnt even bother touching it.. I would ask someone I know too make me a sig, but im happy with mine.
Random Crap Found Here:

Spoiler! (click here to reveal)

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Old August 9th, 2010, 08:18 PM   #9
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Nice guide, I must say... The only thought I had that are aimed as constructive critism and that is when a beginner will try to do it, it might be hard to blend or create the right depth, color and light in the picture so maybe you should add some good beginner tips? Like smudging, a quick tip for brushes and so on.

Great work though
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Old August 9th, 2010, 08:18 PM   #10
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This is useful and sexy.
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