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Make Your Own Emoticons

step 1
First open up a new document, around the size of 64x64. If you start with a larger image, when it comes time to resize them to a small emoticon size, it is easier to work with. Also, it’s easier to see. Now develop some sort of idea of what you want your smiley faces to look like (it might be a good idea to sketch out what they will look like, and by “they” I mean your smiley’s different expressions). In this tutorial, I am going to be making froggy smiley faces. Once you have your idea(s), continue to Step 2. (I realize this may seem like a rather long tutorial, however it’s a quick read, so bare with me.)
step 2
Start by making the body of your smiley. Rename the only layer you should have to “body.” Select the elliptical marquee tool. Now based on what your idea(s) are, make a selection. If you want to make typical yellow smilies, hold down the Shift key so you make a perfect circle. Otherwise, play around a little. Now fill it in with a color (simply a color, do not worry about gradients or shading for now), yellow, green, blue, maybe, whatever floats your boat.
step 3
Deselect and zoom in a little bit. (Perhaps to 400%?) Create a new layer and call it “eye left.” Now select the elliptical marquee tool again (if it isn’t already chosen). We’re going to make some eyes for your smiley. If you are going for the typical yellow smiley face hold down the shift key and make a small selection inside of the smiley’s body. Otherwise, play around until you get something you like. Make only one selection, and fill it (most prefer a white for an eye color).
step 4
Once you have one eye made, it’s time to make the other one. Duplicate layer “eye left” and name it “eye right.” Choose the move tool and hold Shift and slide it to the right a little bit. Now chances are they won’t be even, and you may need to make the selection again. Don’t hesitate to start over; I’ve noticed that when you do little things like this over (now that you know what it should look like) it tends to be better, however don’t let this get out of hand. Maybe try this a few more times. And don’t be discouraged that you didn’t follow directions or something because you don’t see a grey background in your image as in the picture above. You don’t need to do this; I just added that in so you could see the whites of its eyes. (How cliché.)
step 5
Now it’s time for some styles. You should have three layers, “body,” “eye left,” and “eye right.” Select the layer “body.” Click on the “Add a layer style” icon in the Layer palette. We’re going to give it an inner shadow, an inner glow, and a stroke. Let’s do them in order. First go to inner shadow. Give it some settings like this. For an inner glow something like this. For a stroke maybe something like this. For the stroke you can play around a little bit, maybe change the color to a darker version of the color you used for the actual body, up the stroke weight, or keep the black but turn down the opacity so it looks like a grey or semi-transparent. Use whatever you think fits your smiley best (naturally).
step 6
Now select your layer “eye left.” Let’s give this layer an inner shadow, and inner glow, and a stroke, just as the body. Use values similar to that of the body. Here are some things to keep in mind about the eye’s style. If your eye goes out of the area of the body (like in my image above), try to keep the stroke on this layer equal in color and opacity to the stroke of the layer “body” so the image will flow. If your eye stays inside of the body area you don’t necessarily need a stroke on it (since the eye would generally be smaller since it has to fit inside of the smiley, the stroke might make it stand out too much, or may hide the eye altogether). Also keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to have an inner shadow. You could just keep a glow. (You might consider this if your eyes are smaller in size.)
step 7
Copy the layer style of the layer “eye left” (right click on the layer “eye left” in the Layer palette and choose Copy Layer Style). Paste the style onto the layer “eye right” (right click on the layer “eye right” in the Layer palette and choose Paste Layer Style). I do this just in case you make a human error while trying to duplicate the style exactly. (I wouldn’t blame you; I’d probably do it too.) Also it saves time.
step 8
Let’s make pupils for your smiley’s eyes (keep in mind the pupils of the eyes will vary in your smiley’s expression). If you’re going to make a typical smiley face, make a new layer (make sure it’s above the layers of your eyes) “pupil left,” and play around with the line tool. Typically the weight of the line would be 1 (that’s “one”) pixel (type in “1 px” in the Weight box). Over the left eye make a line down or a line across or whatever you think looks best. Again, feel free to try the Erase and Re-try method a couple times if you didn’t get the look you wanted the first time. Now duplicate this layer, “pupil left,” and call the new one “pupil right.” Again, hold down the Shift key and slide the pupil over on top of the right eye. Cool beans.
step 9
Zoom in a bit once more (I’m a personal fan of 400%). It’s time for fun with the pen tool. Now if you’ve ever messed around with Flash MX (or any other version of Macromedia Flash with the pen tool) and used the pen tool there, it’s very similar to Photoshop’s pen tool. Make a new layer and call it “mouth A.” (Just for a “heads-up” we’re going to be making the mouth now.) Create an anchor point inside your body area (or if you’re going for a wacky smiley look, make one wherever you want). Create another one on the other side of the body. Drag your mouse up and move it over to the right a little bit, and it should create a curve like a smile. Now select the move tool to end the pen tool creation. (Yes, there should be a black line connecting the two anchor points.
step 10
Here’s a bit of a tricky part. Duplicate layer “mouth A.” Call it “mouth B.” Wasn’t that hard? Just kidding, keep reading. Zoom out (or zoom to) 100%. (Yes it does matter that the zoom is at 100%. Make sure you’re at 100% zoom!) Now that you’re at 100% zoom (for the fourth time) select your layer “mouth B” and nudge it up one pixel (or one nudge... if that’s a unit of measure) by pressing the Up Arrow key once. Once? Yes, only once. Control click on layer “mouth B” (hold down the CTRL key and click on the layer “mouth B” in the layer palette) to load the layer’s selection. Now go to the Layer Palette and click on the layer “mouth A” (with your selection of layer “mouth B” still selected). Now click on the button “Add layer mask” at the bottom of the Layer Palette (with the layer “mouth A” highlighted in the Layer Palette). You should be, by default, on the layer mask of the layer “mouth A.” Hide the layer (be warned: this image animates– give it a second or two) “mouth B.” Hold the CTRL key and press the “I” key to invert the layer mask. Did it change? Hopefully it did. If not, you made a human error. Read this step over again a few times and try again. If you’re still having problems, email me.
step 11
Well, it’s all smooth sailing from here. You’ve got one smiley face, now go forth and conquer your smiley in other expressions. Mess around, make them with strange faces, it can be fun. Once you’re done, resize them (the big *.jpg versions, or the stroke will make the eyes bulge out and the body stand out too much) and resave them (as little *.jpg versions). Oh, one last thing, enjoy your new Photoshop skills, your new pimped up forum emoticons (or whatever you chose to use them for), and your stay at Pimp My Com. Peace.

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