Note: This tutorial will not work for all pictures. Sometimes it has weird contrasting issues and the colors just look awkward. That's why you should play around with the number settings rather than taking these exact ones. The general concept should work for any picture though.
I used this image from foto_decadent.
1. The first thing I do is fix the base up a little bit before I get started.
Image >> Adjustments >> Auto Contrast
Filter >> Sharpen >> Sharpen
You can see what my base ended up looking like here
2. Now we're going to add some contrast to the picture. With some pictures it's better to make the picture appear a bit washed out.
Note: I've found that with pictures that have more bluish tones it's better to just increase the contrast rather than make it washed out. Those with more greens, yellows, or reds work much better washed out. So really the only time you don't wash out the picture a tiny bit is if there are a majority of blues in the picture such as this one.
Go to Layer >> New Adjustment Layer >> Levels.
3. Time to add some color. Go to:
Layer >> New Adjustment Layers >> Color Balance.
Here is an image of the settings I used.
Before starting to play around, make sure that Preserve Luminosity is not checked.
Color Levels: +66, +19, +8
Color Levels: +100, +79, +6
Color Levels: +100, +7, +1
4. Create a new layer and flood fill it with #010725. Set to Exclusion.
5. Next go to Layer >> New Adjustment Layer >> Curves.
You're really going to have to play around with those settings. My curves just be nice to see to get you started.
6. Make a new layer and flood fill with #16CFAA. Set to Soft Light at 45% Opacity.
7. Create a new Color Balance Layer by going to
Image >> New Adjustment Layer >> Color Balance
You can see my settings here or here is just them typed out.
Color Levels: +61, +17, +18
Color Levels: +73, +17, +15
Color Levels: +22, +3, -5
8. Now I used Curves again.
Image >> New Adjustment Layer >> Curves
Again, play around with the curve settings.
9. Don't worry! We're almost done. All that is left is the cropping and a couple of touchups.
Next, I rotated the picture so that we were looking at it from a slight diagonal.
and then cropped it where I liked it and blurred the edges of her chin since they seemed a bit sharpened.
That's it! Here are some other icons I made using a similar method, but with different curve settings and such.
Feel free to ask any questions if something doesn't make sense.