These were created in Photoshop CS 8.0.
So I'm done my coloring/sharpening/etc. I'd like Harry to be centered at the bottom of this icon, but as you can see no matter which way I crop it, there isn't nearly enough sky.
I like to magnify my icons when I'm doing this kind of work. I suggest you make a duplicate of this layer just in case you end up damaging it beyond all repair and you want a fresh start if need be.
Now using the topmost layer, select the sky using the Rectangle Marquee tool. It's okay if you grab some of the treeline as well.
Use the Free Transform tool (Ctrl+T for Windows users, Command+T for Mac users) to stretch that sky all the way to the top of the icon.
Now using the Smudge Tool, (I'm using the size 13 regular old round brush), smudge the sky. Carefully push the blue of the sky back down into the treeline to make a more realistic skyline.
It is important to use SMALL smudge strokes. If you try and smudge this entire sky in one fell swoop, it will be too obvious that you smudged it. Tiny strokes! And change up the smudge tool if the one you're working with doesn't feel right. You can also change the opacity of the smudges to be less severe.
Don't worry about it looking perfect, just get it as even as possible. Imperfections are easily covered using textures and brushes.
Add a new layer. Using this texture: set on Multiply at 30%.
Add another new layer. Using this texture: set on Color Burn at 28%.
Now I'd just like to brighten up Harry's face a bit, so I'll use this texture: set on Screen at 53%.
Other examples of this technique:
For Those Who are a Bit More Daring:
Say you'd like to use this sky effect on a cap where the subject's head is cut off at the top. How do you fill in all that space? Especially when you're dealing with a textured background as opposed to one flat color?
Here is the original. Again, I've already finished my coloring/brightness/sharpening/etc.
First thing's first, I want Benry's little head out of here. So using the Rectangle Marquee tool, I select an area just past the head, and then using the Free Transform Tool I stretch it out.
(As I mentioned above, make a duplicate of the original before you start messing around with it in case you need to start over!)
Next, using the Eyedropper Tool, I find what I feel is the most prominent color of the background and then fill the empty space with that. This color will end up almost completely colored, so it doesn't need to be exact.
Now comes the tricky part. Using the Polygonal Lasso Tool, select a piece of the background. Make it an odd shape, make it big, make it small, whatever you think will work best. The weirder the shape, the better. Here I've taken a piece that looks like this:
Now copy and paste that piece as a new layer. Move it up a bit higher so you can see where it is, and find a nice new home for it.
Now is the time to get creative. Copy and paste that new piece as many times as it takes to cover the area you need to cover. Resize it, spin it into a different angle, anything to make it work. Cover up his whole head and erase just his face if you'd like.
Don't feel like your piece is working? Pick another piece and try again! This isn't an exact science.
Try putting different layers on different settings. Two of the most helpful here would be the either the "Darken" or "Lighten" settings. They blend two things seamlessly.
Here's what it looks like after I've added a few more copies of that piece:
And here is after a few more:
Some people may want to stop here, but I'd still like the image to be more cohesive, so I'll be using some textures to make it seem a little more put-together. Here is what it looks like zoomed out so far:
First we've got this texture: set on Color Burn at 15%.
Next we have this: set on Lighten at 100%.
Already, you can see how much more cohesive the icon is. It's not so much geometrical shapes now as it is a textured background.
And again this texture: set on Lighten at 100%.
And this texture: set on Lighten at 55%.
And finally this texture: set to Screen at 40%.
As a few finishing touches I use this brush:
...and the color #CD0D4C set to Soft Light at 100%.
And then again I use this texture: set on Screen at 10% over his face to brighten it up a little.
Other examples of this technique:
My resources are listed HERE. Many of these textures were altered to make this a bit easier to write, but if you'd like to know who made a certain texture, feel free to ask.
And of course if anything is unclear, just ask!
Feel free to Friend Me for updates.
Also, if you have a tutorial request, just ask! I'm more than happy to write one up for you! I hope this can help a few of you out :D