ER Season 1 icon - Doug and a kiddy.
For your reference, I'm going to assume you know the basics - i.e., get your image, resize it, crop it, bung it in a 100x100 square. Because if you don't already know that, then this might all be a bit beyond you.
So, in this case, what we have is this:
1. Sharpen! FILTER>SHARPEN>SHARPEN They was all blurrrr.
2. Duplicate that layer, and set the blending mode to SCREEN because it's kinda dark, especially if we're going to chuck a load of other stuff on top of it later.
3. Colouring. Now the fun starts! We're going to put a gradient map layer in. On the layer pallette, along the bottom are 6 little icons. Click on the black and white circle and select GRADIENT MAP from the menu that pops up.
You should get a box that looks like this:
Make sure you have 'Preview' selected so that you can see what effect each gradient has on your icon. Click on the drop down arrow next to the long, thin example of the gradient to get your loaded gradients. I selected this gradient, which is possibly by crumblingwalls:
Click OKAY even though it really doesn't look like it's okay at all. Now change the blending mode to COLOUR. That's more like it, eh? But it is a bit, um, weird, so lower the opacity to about 50%. I dropped this to 50% exactly, but it can vary depending on the original image colours.
4. Okay. Time to sort out that stupid white bit along the bottom where the image is too small. Cover it up! Create a new layer on top of everything else. Then use the RECTANGULAR MARQUEE TOOL (or, as I like to think of it, the dotted line square) and select a rectangular area along the bottom of the whole square. Take it as high was you want; at a guess I'd say mine is maybe 15 pixels high. Then flood fill the selected area with white. I personally do this by going to EDIT>FILL and selecting white from the drop down menu.
5. Look at the kiddy's face. Still kinda blurry huh? Time for mega-sharpening! Go back to the duplicate layer, imaginatively called Layer 1 Copy in my case. FILTER>SHARPEN>SHARPEN it. I know, it's a bit overly sharp now with pixelly bits all over the place and now you could cut yourself on their hair. We need to smooth out the skin. There's an excellent tutorial on this here, but I use a slightly different method.
Staying on the same layer, zoom in to 300% and use the BLUR tool with a small, round brush. I used it set on size 3. Set the strength to 30% and un-check 'Use All Layers'. Slowly, run the blur tool over the larger expanses of skin but try to steer clear of the features e.g. eyes, nose, ears, and any edges. If you're so inclined, try and follow any contours in the faces. I know it doesn't look like it's doing a whole lot at first, and when you're zoomed in. When you've gone over all the areas you want to once, select the original layer (Layer 1) and repeat the process again. Then zoom back to 100%.
6. It's looking a bit better, but the background is still all gritty because of the mega-sharpening. Still on the original layer, Layer 1, and still with the blur tool, change the brush size to 13 and the strength to 15%. Then go over the whole image. Ta daah!
7. Finishing touches now, a bit of incomprehensible text I feel. Make sure the top most layer is selected (should be the white box we made earlier) otherwise you won't be able to see what you're writing. Then pick the TEXT tool. I used a font called Kartika at size 3, but all sorts of fonts can work at this teeny weeny size. Write something that springs to mind on the white area. Personally, I'm usually listening to music so I write down a line from whatever song is on at that moment. If you're stumped for ideas, I have some words for icons here. Anyhoo, in this case I was listening to the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack, so I wrote, "Could we start again please?" adding an extra space between every letter because otherwise it really does look like an ant pooed across my icon.
Position the text where you want it, then go to FILTER>SHARPEN>SHARPEN. Some box will pop up asking about rasterizing - I've yet to be bothered to find out what exactly that is, so I just always say OKAY and then it sharpens my text.
8. Save. Um. Yeah, that's it.