I didn’t want to include this into a case study since it would only be one or maybe two paragraphs long. Instead I wanted to into my whole workflow process in creating a Twitch emoticon and what I think makes the best Twitch emoticons.
Step 1: The Twitch emoticon brief
It always start with some sort contact with a client be it over e-mail or maybe it’s an already existing client that message you on your agreed upon application. If you’re doing it yourself I would sit down and interview or at least write down the following things.
- What is the emotion/object conveyed?
- What is it needed for?
- In what situations will it be used?
- Reference images, please?
At least for me that’s all I ask for. If it’s a new client they’ve also gone through my contact from that have a bunch of questions that needs to be answered before I even consider working with them. Think of it as a way to filter out those that are a bad fit for me, there are no bad clients you’re bad if you’re take those type of clients on.
Step 2: Sketching a Twitch Emoticon
For those that have read my case studies know that I often do a moodboard. In this case I actually don’t since those 4 questions tend to cover everything to get on the same page. And if they know my art style they already know what to expect and if not it’s something you talk about during the reference stage. I used to do my sketching by hand before I got my Wacom Tablet. I actually didn’t even have a scanner back then and took a photo and pulled that up on my computer.
When sketching in Photoshop with a Wacom Tablet I like to set my stage to around 2500×2500 at 300DPI. I’m not really concerned about the size, since I’m going to bring it over to Illustrator anyway, but 1. I’m used to working at that size and 2. It’s easier to draw in 300DPI than with tiny tiny strokes, at least for me. Personally I like to use pretty small brush at around 5px to create the outlines and some rough shading. I also add a bit of color to get a better feel of the final look, but I’m also aware that a lot can/will change when I get it into Illustrator.
If you’re working on your own stuff. Think about the reference question as a way to figure out what type of style you want your Twitch emoticon or item should have. If it’s a picture of yourself then you can skip to Step 4 but if you want to add something to your picture then keep reading, it’s still kind of relevant. As whatever you’re going to add will probably either have a style or not have a style, if it does have a style then you need to research both that style and the thing you’re adding. Should the part you’re adding stand out or look like it’s part of the original? What will it add? etc, pretty much go over the questions in the brief. Then sketch.
Step 3: Illustrator
In Illustrator I create a square artboard, around 25cm x 25cm, that way it’s the same aspect ratio and it’s around the A4 size. Here you could import/place the sketch but personally I copy and paste from Photoshop directly, quick and dirty, but it works for our purpose. When that’s done I lower the opacity on the image and put it in it’s on layer that I then lock. The reason why I lock that layer is so I don’t accidentally move it around when working.
The reason why we do all of this is so we get a vector image. For those that don’t know a vector image is math and therefor can be re-sized into any size, that means we later can sell the print rights as well, that is if the stream one day want to do that, it also fits better into my work flow since I like to refine my line-art without having to do too many brush strokes. If you’re able to keep it down in Photoshop then this step might be a bit overkill, however in Photoshop we don’t get the vectors and if we ever wanted to do a print version this step would have had to be done anyway.
You don’t need to do any line art, it all depends on what style you’re going for. Some things look better with a outline and some don’t. Since this Twitch emoticon is a cartoon style cat having line art is the best solution, it will also better define certain things, since there are a lot of similar colors, in this specific Twitch emoticon. If you’re not using any line art then remember that you might have to do a bit more refining to get certain lines to look cleaner when we move back into Photoshop.
I have my own brush to get the line art looking more hand drawn. I make a oval that I then stretch out and add as a calligraphy brush with pen pressure enabled. That works since I do have a Wacom tablet. You can simulate it a little bit if you add more random elements and then you can use the mouse the add all of the line art. It will look about the same when we size it down, but will look a bit different if we would go to print with it, but again print is not the purpose right now.
I try to stay away from smaller details when making Twitch emoticon, if it’s also for print I do more details but it can also be added at a later stage. For the cat I added a bit of shading, all of that shading won’t really show up on the final version but some will, and the parts that don’t will add a nice soft edge to instead of making it a hard one.
When adding the color I lock the line art layer and add in big blocks with the pen tool, for me that goes faster. I then add the shading in another layer. Using the Pathfinder window I can cut out certain shapes that otherwise would be very hard to accomplish. In this case I did that for the highlights in the eyes and the pattern on the side of the cat.
Step 4: Back to Photoshop
Twitch uses three sizes for the Twitch emoticons 28px, 56px and 112px. I do directly for the 28px size when starting since that’s the one that will need the most work and is the one most will see, if I understand it correctly the bigger Twitch emoticons are for mobile and retina. That’s at least what I know, I might be wrong how exactly that works so please correct me if I’m wrong. You can do each size individually with the same process above and below.
When you copy and paste from Illustrator you will get the choice to past it as a Smart Object, Pixels and a few more. Here you pick pixels. As you can see when you paste that into the 28px artboard the image will be huge and needs to be re-sized. Before you do that check so you have Bicubic Sharp selected. How do you check that? After you either do Ctrl+T (to go the the transform tool) or Edit → Free Transform. This way we get harder lines when we size it down, it will preserve the line art better and more details will show up when we size down. Now I would say experiment with the others, the Nearest Neighbor works best if you’re going to make it bigger and want to retain the hard pixel edges but if you re-size it will most likely not give you a good result.
After that’s done it still looks a bit thin on the edges probably. The fastest way to adjust this, in my experience, is to duplicate the image 3-4 times and then merge those layers back into one. We now have a clear image that depending on outcome and what result we want is ready to be exported. This will give them a hard edge as well, you can do over it with the eraser if you feel it’s too much or perhaps not duplicating or doing it only once will work better in your workflow.
If you still think it needs a few more things added or removed there are 2 tools that we need to understand. First the Brush Tool, with the Brush tool we get a softer line and that works great when we want to add bigger things, it gives a bit of leeway since it’s such a small format. If you want to add details you want to use the Pencil Tool. The Pencil Tool is 1 pixel big, perfect for adding details but if you want to make bigger changes with you might have to work a lot more. Again that’s up to what you’re going for.
Step 5: Export emoticon to PNG
Either do Ctrl+Alt+Shift+S or File → “Save for Web…”, you will get a export screen. You can select the PNG-24 preset and you’re good to go. Save, upload and use.
My thoughts on Emoticons
There are a few different ways to decide on a Twitch emoticons. The most used ones are the ones that actually is a an expression. Since they work in more situations both in your chat and others chat. It’s always good to have at least one emoticon that is all you, that will probably be used if you ever get mentioned outside of your channel, it can actually work as a word of mouth promotion.
A lot of streamers like to have their own versions on Twitch emoticons like Kappa and Kreygasm. While it’s great for your chat, and will surely be used a lot. There’s a very small chance that they will be used outside of your chat. Reason being that it’s always not the original. Not really a bad thing but might not be something that you want in some cases depending on what you expect from a certain Twitch emoticon.
I really hope you enjoyed this guide. I’ve been making more Twitch emoticons lately and it feels great to have a process in place for it already. Having a process in place is always a good thing, it makes certain things less stressful and you can focus on the task at hand instead.
Follow me on Twitter @visiblespeech to get more Twitch emoticon news and tips, and also more Twitch info/tips that you can use for your stream.
Alright I have to prepare for a few things and answer a few e-mails before I have my evening workout.