This month, we sit down and chat with icon artist, 47songs, about what exactly is involved in how she creates her icon sets, how she got started skinning, and a look at some of the interesting icons she's currently working on.
How did you get your start in skinning?
I honestly don’t remember what brought me here, or how or why I navigated online to Wincustomize.com. But I do remember that once I found it, I couldn’t leave. Like most, I started customizing my desktop with the different components of OD. Reading through some of the individual program descriptions and tutorials, the first set of instructions that I understood and thought were simplistic enough for me to work with were the ones about making your own icons. ID proclaimed you could take most any small graphic and make an icon out of it. So, that I did. My first icon was the Martin guitar icon (I’ve played the guitar for many years).
Then came the real challenge. In a forum thread, Koasati suggested I make a guitar icon from scratch. I thought it would be a great idea, if only I knew how. But before I could attempt what I thought was so daunting a task, I knew I needed to learn how to design and make simple default windows icons. It took a year, but I eventually got the first of the Les Paul type replica icons made. (tutorial to come soon)
I thought that making something so small couldn’t possibly be all that difficult. Plus, at the time, the program had the shortest tutorials.
How long have you been doing icons?
About 2 years.
What tools do you use?
I use CorelDRAW and Axialis Iconworkshop. I use CorelDRAW mostly because, well, mormegil said to. And also, because after viewing his tutorials, I found that, because I’m a teacher, I could buy this program at a bargain "education" price of $99 (much easier on the purse than Photoshop). I’ve tried Photoshop and Illustrator, and of course they are everything the biggest top selling graphics standards should be. But what I quickly discovered that I liked more about CorelDRAW was that it had tools that let you work and create effects interactively right on the screen canvas. In Photoshop, you create those same effects with graphs, tables, and numbers. Being more a visual person rather than a math or science person, DRAW is much easier for me to work with.
At first I used ID to turn my bitmaps and pngs into icons, but eventually purchased Axialis Icon Workshop at the advice of a friend. It has more options, but one in particular that appeals to me is that Axialis Iconworkshop allows you to convert your pngs into Windows and/or Macintosh icons. Plus, the screenshots are basically just that, screenshots. The only way I know how to make a screenshot of a pack of icons that I put together myself is to use the icons themselves against a backdrop. However, using that method means having the sizes of the icons added to the screenshot. Some of the smaller skinning web sites cannot handle the large sized files that Wincustomize can, so making your own screenshots lessons your likelihood of being able to upload at those sites.
Are you working on anything new at the moment?
I’m working on a couple of new pack ideas. One I might consider for the GUI Championship, one for Christmas, and one for the spring! I’ve just finished up on the Nautical Mile pack, which took me a long time to do. I’m an administrator at Skinartistry.com, and I’m working with bones2112 on producing a newsletter for the site. It’s not as easy as it might seem! Plus, I have a new private business venture that I’m working on that includes graphic design. Since it deals with graphics, I’ll be introducing it to the various skinning sites when it’s ready.
Can you provide a screenshot, or any concept work for it?
In Velvet Shadows, I used blends on the face of the folder to give it a rounded look. But making blends produces multiple objects so it increases the size of each icon and ultimately, the entire pack. This new folder (and pack), which is very much in its beginning stages, has no blending. I’m trying to go for a sharper, more techno look. It has a deeper perspective and a more 3Dish look to it than the earlier packs. I have no name for it. Right now I’m just calling it "Red."
This is a peak at a spring pack I’m working on. I wanted to do something with flowers or plants, in a kind of vibrant coming to life color and style, although I’m not sure if that’s what I’ve actually come up with! I’ve also started this xmas pack, but since it is at this point still a convoluted mess, it seriously might not get finished until next xmas!
How do you go about planning an Icon set?
I like to come up with a concept or an idea first. With comPewter, I was doodling in CorelDRAW and accidently crossed two paths from opposite sides of a rectangle that overlapped each other. That accident produced an effect that I thought looked very much like pewter. I just continued to developed icons (starting with the folder) based on that effect. The name came later. I like being influenced by different entities. To me it allows for more diversity in creativity. The idea for my first pack was the result of an accident.
The Velvet Shadows suite was a collaboration with boopish and teddybearcholla. I was asked by boopish to make some icons to go with the Velvet Shadows WB. I was looking for something new to start anyways and I liked the fact that her style was different than mine. It’s one thing to design a skin by applying your own style and acquired techniques, but quite another to collaborate on a project that requires applying someone else’s. Working on this suite provided me an opportunity to unearth more of CorelDRAW and to discover more of it’s capabilities. I really enjoyed it!
The last one? After making a couple of darkish feeling IP’s, I wanted to do something light and summery (summer was coming). To me that meant the sun, the beach, the ocean, and boats. Teddybearcholla and I sent many an email back and forth discussing the direction to take with this. There was the pirate concept, the fishing concept (rusty can of worms for recycle bin), the mermaid concept (coral reef, seashells), the Jimmy Buffet concept (houseboat, wasting away in Margarita Ville), and there was even a suggestion of combining the mermaid/Buffet concepts into one ("some people say that there’s a woman to blame," could have been the mermaid! hehe!), but ultimately we decided on the sailing concept. Thus was born Nautical Mile. For my part, Nautical Mile took some research. I needed to find ideas for nautical objects that I could make into icons that would represent the default Windows icons. That took much more time than the other packs. We really wanted a summer release, but unfortunately, because of several setbacks, including illness, the suite wasn’t released until just two weeks ago.
Who would you say is your favorite skinner in the community right now?
Paul Boyer (mormegil – brilliant technique), Dario Arnaez (the 3d wizard), Jairo Boudewyn (impeccable design).
Thank you to 47songs for taking the time to answer my questions, and for providing the icon artwork included in this article.
Have someone you think should be Skinner of the Month? E-Mail me at mikec [at] stardock [dot] com with the subject "SOTM Recommendation"
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