Hey there! I'm Aspen, here with your requested critique ^__^
Okay so, we'll start with your strengths.
I love the cuts you have with your icons. They're interesting and dynamic, and I love that not all of them are people. You have a shot of a flower or just a hand/arm, and you even add stuff to them instead of making them simple crops. That's REALLY good, and something higher ranking artists don't always do well. There are a few I would suggest taking out, though, to make the set as a whole better. I'll use a row/column format so you know which one I'm talking about.
Remove: R1C1, R2C2, R4C1, R4C3
Reasons (in order): not a fan of the text or texture on this one. I don't think the glowy blue color fits the icon or set very well, which (leading into the next icon I suggested you remove) is why I suggested the first two removals // this isn't bad, but it's too similar to R5C4. It's fantastic that you were so creative with only using one picture, but try not to have stuff that's too similar (like here where you just made the image a bit smaller) // I don't like the text or lines on this one. It takes the focal point away from the girl and is really distracting. Plus, again, not a fan of the glowy blue color. Oh, and I'll mention that I don't like the glowy blue brush in R2C4 either D: these icons are bringing the set as a whole down a notch.
Loves: R1C3, R2C3, R3C1, R4C2, R5C1, and the last three (D, E, S)
These are just absolutely fantastic, though my favorite is R1C3. That is without-a-doubt the best icon in the set; I just adore how you did it. They're interesting, creative, dynamic, and just beautiful. Each one has something different about it that sets it apart from every other icon, whether its the cut, the way you arranged the images like in R1C3 and R4C2, or just being simple and gorgeous, like the flower. The last three are unique in their own way, and they look just as amazing. Same pic as the above ones, but completely different look and coloring. They look AMAZING. These could stand alone as a set and look really good.
Overall critique on these: some of them really need to be sharpened D: I actually think I suggested removing each one that needed it, except R2C4. He's blurry. Most of them, however, are stunning, as I've mentioned. You really have an eye for unique cuts. If you're going to do that many icons from a single image again, I would suggest doing some zooming. For example, get a cut of just an eye, or lips.
(Continuation of strengths)
Blending: wow! I'm really impressed; you really have a good grasp on blending, whether it's hardcutting or soft blending. You see it most in your banners, but you're really fantastic at blending in all your graphics. Only thing I see wrong (and Im being nitpicky here) is that in your Obvious Future CI, the blending on his left (our right) arm is soft where it should be hardcut. It's alright for the soft blending where he meets that texture, but you started soft blending his arm too soon, on a part that isn't by the texture'd portion. So just watch that <3
Let's start with text. I'll just give you some basic tips and pointers. For starters, on smaller text, use capital letters. Anything else is distracting, and caps it just a lot smoother and cleaner looking (referring to your HP CI, animated skyscraper sig, and monster sig). Next, if you're using two "artistic" fonts (basically anything that isn't something like times new roman, arial, georgia...those types) then they need to compliment each other. In your 'dont give up baby' banner, the two fonts don't look good together. I like 'dont', but I dont like 'give up baby'. I would have done it in the same font you did the quote in. Also, quotes should almost always be in a "normal" font (the ones I mentioned earlier). The font in 'fake' looks distracting. It's the first thing I notice in the banner, which isn't what you want. If you had done a 9 point Times font, it would look really good and fit well with the banner. This is one of my favorites, by the way <3
Your best font use is in 'teach me how to love'. Everything works really well together =) You also have a good grasp of gradient overlays and the drop shadow/glow technique, though I would have used it to make 'monster' stand out in that sig.
OHOH just remembered something else. When rotating text in CS5, convert it to a shape layer. If you right click the layer, you'll see an option that says something like 'convert to shape'. Click it
then you can rotate your text without losing the quality. Took me ages to learn that, but it's super helpful!
Aaand now we get to image quality, lol. You...are kind of all over the place, my dear! Some of your stuff is severely undersharpened, and others oversharpened. I took a few of your pieces and just tried sharpening them, and in most cases that did the trick. It went from LQ to HQ just like that. Now, you won't want to sharpen JUST at the end, because some stuff will get oversharpened. Sharpen images as you put them onto your canvas. In order to avoid oversharpenning, copy the layer you're sharpening and then when you sharpen the one layer, lower the opacity until it's sharp without being TOO sharp. Sometimes you barely have to lower it, other times you need to do it a bit more.
Just play around with it and learn to notice when it starts to get pixelly--the main places you want to look are hair, eyes, and lips. Those get pixelly faster than other places, so pay extra attention to them. For example: in this+
banner, his hair is too sharp, and the girl on the right is oversharpened as well. The girl in the middle is perfect. This one+
: girl on the right is way too blurry, everything else is waaay oversharpened (and over filtered =P Im not sure what you did to the plants and stuff, but it looks really weird). For your blend, I sharpened it and the two girls on top (who look very blurry) looked perfect. I think that's your main image quality problem--just sharpening stuff to the right degree.
Another way to make sure your IQ stays good is to always save as a PNG. It doesn't lower the quality as much as JPG or other formats do. One more tip--download Topaz bundle pack at demonoid (i think you can google that site). Most artists on TDA have it so if you can't find it on there, ask one of them. Topaz has a lot of amazing effects that, if used in MODERATION--had to emphasize that =P--can make a graphic ten times better. My favorite one is Topaz Clean. It can really clean up a pixelly image by blurring it a bit, and...well, I think it can do other stuff, but that's what I use it for lol. It can smooth images out. Coloring is another thing that lowers image quality. Too many coloring/adjustment layers can really damage an image's quality, so just watch out for that.
Overall, you are off to a really fantastic start. I would say your strengths are/will be banners (once you get the image quality and text down pat) and icons. Possibly blends too, because I like the one you have. Just keep on working on the things I mentioned and you will be WELL on your way to earning a new shade of blue! If you have any questions, want to get critique on specific/new pieces, or just feel like chatting, don't hesitate to shoot me a PM or add me to msn. I have no life; I'm on all the time XD GOOD LUCK, DEAR <3
Edited by aspen_aureline, 19 September 2011 - 09:34 PM.