Hey Mia! Sorry it's a bit late, but I'm here with your requested gallery critique!
First off, I want to say what an amazing start you have! Looking at your first banner compared to your last really shows how much you've improved like crazy since you started, which is always so good to see I'm going to run through some of the things you said were your weaknesses, and add in what I think you should work on.
Interesting compositions: Honestly, your comps are interesting! There's not one graphic in here that's identical in comp to another, which is the best thing. You're just starting out, so experimenting is key. Keep at it, keep trying new things while improving your basic skills. Now's the time to try all the different techniques!
Incorporating stock: I actually really like your stock use; in fact I feel like +this is one of the strongest graphics in your gallery! But stock can definitely be difficult, and a few important things to remember are: Flow. Make sure your background flows all the way along the graphic. Try to find pieces of stock that work together, and look like they're from the same background. You're trying to make it all look like one seamless landscape, so indoor stock, next to garden stock, next to lake stock wouldn't really flow. The banner I pointed out flows really nicely - just watch out for the blending of the ivy around the window. You want to try and make it look like the ivy is growing around the window, not semi transparently sitting over it.
Making characters fit: I totally get what you mean here. This was one of the things I found most difficult. But the key to making people fit nicely into your graphic, and not like they're just placed on top, is to do just that! Don't make your whole base, then slap the characters on top of it. Incorporate your characters into your base, inbetween the layers of the textures or the stock. I know some artists start with the people first on the canvas, and then build around them. You do whatever works best for you. Lighting textures are also a great way of blending your characters in. A couple of well places lighting textures can make all the difference!
Banners: They are a huge pain, trust me, I know, but I really like where you're at with your banners. The comp on +this is very creative (though careful with cutting off chins - it can look a little awkward). The main thing you can do is practice. The more you make different sizes of graphics, the more you'll get a feel for what kind of composition works for each one. The onsite tutorials are an amazing way to get an idea for this too - there are all sorts about building banners that you can look at!
Text: again, super difficult to master, and probably one of the final things that'll fall into place for you, as frustrating as that might be. A few pointers: try not to have all of your text horizontal. Try to find the natural lines in your base and make your text follow them. E.g. in +this banner, there's a thick white-ish line on the left of your character's head which is sloping upwards towards her. You can put your text on a soft upwards diagonal to follow that line. Also try not to use too much of the same font, especially if it's not a simple one. +This sig contains all the same font, which makes it look a little blocky. Try to limit larger, fancier fonts to one or two words, and then you can use simple fonts like calibri or tahoma for the longer quotes. Check out the Name That Font thread to get some ideas on how people use certain fonts. +This is a great example of the type of text you should be doing. Natural gradient, nice diagonal, not too overbearing with the fancy font. Perfect!
Other things to work on:
- Image Quality - Be suuuper careful about image quality, especially where animation is involved. Your characters in +this are pretty low quality, you can see the graininess that makes the colouring look patchy.
- Colouring - Overall, your colouring is actually really good! Just try and make it more bold, and match up the skin tones, like in +this CI - their skin tones are different shades. There are some great tutorials about colouring too!
- Comp - I'll say it again, experiment with comp! You've got a great start, and I want to see even more! And try incorporating your characters into your bases, and maybe venture into lighting textures.
I hope that was useful! If you have any questions about anything I've written then please ask! I look forward to seeing what you come up with in future