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The Cropping Guide

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Jul. 22nd, 2013 | 02:21 am
posted by: amazingchi in bountiful_chi

So applepips16 presented me with the challenge of explaining my thoughts when cropping, which was interesting, considering I don't really have any. It's mostly trial and error. Though, there are those screencaps that just scream a certain crop. In the next several paragraph I will attempt to explain the mysteries of my cropping, and to be honest, I'm just as interested to learn as you are at this point. This should be fun!

The focus square thingy:

I've made it 300x300 to illustrate it better. The point of this is... well, I'm not entirely sure really. I remember in Photography Society they mentioned that you should line up focal points on the lines, or even better on the intersections. However, when it comes to icons and using this thing, I find that icons tend to have their focus situation neatly within any of the 3x1 horizontal or vertical sections... but sometimes breaking the 'rules' works just as well, so I don't really know what's going on here. However, the guide looked wrong without it.


Ah, the bog standard crop. There's not really much to be said about this except when all else fails it'll always be there to fall back on. Mostly used to let the character sit proudly squarely in the... well, centre. In terms of the diagram thing above, the centre crop utilises the central column. Yeah, that's about it, it's hard to go wrong with a centre crop.


This tends to be used with semi-close crops, and with the 'half face' (or 'one eye' as I've seen it dubbed) crop (like Natasha and Martha above). One thing about this and the following types is that I try to get whole facial features in the icon. The first icon, Natasha is at an angle so that allowed me to get her whole nose into but keep her eye out. For Martha, since she is practically vertical, splitting her in half works. Mouths are fine to cut off, noses are either whole or half and eyes must never be partially cut, whole integer numbers of eyes only or I think it looks weird. In the case of Bats there, I think the original aim was to put some text in the negative space but never found anything that worked and decided I liked the black more. That's also another main reason behind the left/right crop; the ability for room to have text without obscuring your subject.

Like this one.


The top/bottom crop follows much the same pattern as left/right for obvious reasons. Top crops lean towards a "no eye" approach to cropping, sometimes just a mouth and chin, like in Tony's case. That cap gave itself to a top crop as his helmet intersects the corners perfectly in such a way that meant none of his features were cut off weirdly. I've found that the bottom crop lends itself to less close crops than the top crop (as seen above). The top and bottom crop types give an even better platform for text place since you're now presented with a big horizontal block to work in, which is easier than the taller, thinner alternative the left/right provides.


Extreme is just of the above two dialled up to 11, I haven't really utilised this one as much and these were the only two I could find in my brief scour through my latest entries. As you can see, with the Tony one, it allowed a big space to fill with text but with Bats, I left the space alone for atmospheric reasons (does that even make sense?)


Tends to allow the scenery to play a part (like with Big Ben), almost always creates negative space and is often the "extreme" version of a centre crop. The Eleventh Doctor one was just one of those ones that screamed "make me negative space".


And the reverse. Unless you're literally a wizard, these are formed from caps that are already close ups. There's not much to say about this one other than it's hard to pull off unless you have friendly caps. When it comes to close cropping, you will come to love high quality screencaps. If you find a source, never let it go.

My Four Golden Rules:

  1. High Quality Screencaps rule, okay? Anything remotely close to a close crop falls down without decent quality images in the first place

  2. No weird bits of faces, try to get it cropped in such a way that you either split the face directly in half or crop out entire facial features. When in Free Transform, try rotating the icon slightly, that sometimes helps (I'm not sure but I think I did for the Natasha one up there)

  3. Lines. It's all about lines (as I'm about to give a specific example below). That rule of thirds thing is all about lines. The edges of faces, horizons, tables etc etc, stick them on the 'thirds' and 90% it looks awesome. The "far" 11 up there, the top of his head hits the bottom third for example. Clara's chin in the (Im)Possible icon hits the top third line for another example and so on. It doesn't have to be perfect, sometimes you have an awkward icon that would leave a weirdly fiddly bit and Rule 2 trumps Rule 3 so don't be afraid to fudge the line a bit which leads me to Rule 4...

  4. There are no rules. Sometimes you gotta ignore them and just go crazy.

I mentioned that left/right/top/bottom/anything but centre lends itself to easier text, but for those brave icon makers, sometimes you can get away with slapping text right over your subject.

This isn't a text guide, so I'm not going to go into that too much, I just wanted to clarify that a centre crop does not mean you can't have text.

Individual Icons:

This one got picked out in the brief. When I came to doing this set (the theme was Masquerade, which meant all the icons had to be obscured in some way, forcing interesting crops to reveal themselves) this screencap stood out. The way Coulson, unfocused in the foreground, covered Thor was tantalising. As for the crop itself, actually, I can use that diagram, Thor's eyes and mouth are almost following the horizontal splits. Also, something you may have spotted in my work is that I like lines that are intrinsic in the cap to hit the corners, in this case it's the line splitting Coulson and Thor, which hits the top left corner. There's also the natural line that follows across from Thor's mouth to where Coulson's collar hits the edge of the right side. (You'll also notice that Thor takes up roughly a third of the icon, too...).

If you want any more explanations of individual icons, I'll edit them in here.

As for the guide, I genuinely don't know what else to add, so I might as well stop rambling now. I don't know if any of this has been any help whatsoever, to me it seems fairly standard but I don't know haha. Well, it's been interesting, anyway, so thanks for the challenge! Also, crop no longer looks like a real word.

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Comments {4}


(no subject)

from: applepips16
date: Jul. 22nd, 2013 11:01 am (UTC)

SO FAST. *_*

Rule of thirds. I learnt that too. And I read it another tut too about applying it to your icons. I just tend to move the cap around however I want though or just stick to a center crop. WHICH YOU CANT GO WRONG WITH OKAY.

I like the idea about there being a dividing line though. Its interesting in that creating a clear demarcation in the icon, puts things in and out of focus. I must try that out. :D

Many thanks for putting this together so niftily and swiftly. I enjoyed reading it. :D

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(no subject)

from: amazingchi
date: Jul. 22nd, 2013 12:09 pm (UTC)

Nope, Centre Crop, my trusted friend...

I've added a bit that I felt was missing to the guide. That's what you get when you write one at 1am!

Like it says, any specific examples I'll edit into the end of the guide if you wanna know more :P

Cheers :D

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(no subject)

from: applepips16
date: Jul. 22nd, 2013 12:41 pm (UTC)

Aw man, thank you so much! :D You are awesome! :D

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(no subject)

from: amazingchi
date: Jul. 22nd, 2013 05:48 pm (UTC)

Happy to (attempt to) help! :P

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