If anything is confusing, or you just need to ask something, go ahead!
I almost always work with a 200x200 canvas, and since the psd's are saved as 100x100, I had to re-create the step by step images, but the outcome should be somewhat the same. :)
Let's start off with our base of the lovely Will Graham:
01. Because it's too dark, duplicate the layer and set it to screen 100%:
02. Make a new layer. I didn't like the background, so I picked the color #8e6a6e (I chose that color because I thought it complimented the blue/green color of his shirt and because this icon was for a "pastel" challenge. I think I used the eyedropper tool on his lips.) and a soft edged brush and painted over like this:
This might be a weird way of doing it, but it's just how I do it :P
03. Now add a layer mask (click on the tiny box with a circle in it at the bottom of the layer window).
Set the layer to 60% opacity so you can see where you need to erase. Pick a hard edged brush in smaller size and start erasing the parts covering Will. Zooming in helps a lot. :)
When you're done, set the layer setting to 100% opacity again.
04. Now one of my favorite things. Stamp the layers (ctrl+alt+shift+e) and go to filter>>blur>>gaussian blur 14 pixels.
Set the layer to soft light. See how it now has more contrast and glowiness? :3
05. This is one of my favorite textures (by mm3butterfly), because I love the depth (in lack of better words) it gives an icon. And you can use on pretty much anything! Add the texture to the icon, flip it horizontally and set it to soft light.
06. It's too dark again, so let's add a brightness/contrast layer:
07. It looks a bit bland, so I used Curves to add some contrast and more color:
RGB: point one: output 51, input 67
point two: output 186, input 181
RED: point one: op 184, ip 173
point two: op 59, ip 64
GREEN: op 189, ip 181
08. I would like more glow, so repeat step #04, but desaturate the blurred layer (otherwise the colors become too strong):
09. The blacks are a bit too dark for my taste, so I added this texture by mm3butterfly. The pink bar on the left didn't fit in, so I used the spot healing brush tool over it to remove it.
Set the layer to screen.
10. It's sharpening time! Stamp your layers and go to filter>>filter gallery>>artistic>>paint daubs, set both settings to 1 and brush type simple.
Now this only works if you're re-sizing later, because it would look too sharp otherwise. :)
Re-size your icon to 100x100:
11. Vibrance to make the colors pop: +63
If you don't have vibrance, you can just use hue/saturation with a lower setting.
12. His face is a bit too bright on the left side, but that's easy to fix with a soft edged brush and black color in a new layer and just paint over the bright part:
Set the layer to soft light.
13. The right part of the icon is a bit too dark, so add a new brightness/contrast layer:
Mask away the left side of the icon, where it is bright already.
14. The final step! phew. I want stronger colors, so add another vibrance layer with vibrance: +39
This one is super-long, I'm sorry D:
01. To make everything more interesting, as I like to say, add a new gradient fill with a black and white gradient. Set the angle to -5,19. Set the layer to soft light.
02. More brightness is needed!
Brightness/contrast: brightness +42
03. Add a vibrance layer for more colors, +100:
04. We need more contrast. Stamp the layers (ctrl+alt+shift+e) and set the layer to soft light 65%.
05. It looks a bit dull, so let's change that with a curves layer:
RGB: output 197, input 179
RED: point one: output 68, input 73
point two: output 206, input 179
GREEN: output 183, input 178
06. Now it's time to sharpen. Stamp your layers and go to filter>>filter gallery>>artistic>>paint daubs. Set both settings to 1 and brush type to simple.
Re-size your icon to 100x100px.
07. To get the monotone look of the icon, we need to use gradient maps. I looove gradient maps, because you can get all these cool and pretty color combos! Add a gradient map, make a gradient with color #231616 on the left and #e6a527 on the right.
08. I think it needs more sharpness. When you have added a gradient map, the icon can take more sharpening without looking to sharp, I've experienced. Now high pass is a funny way of sharpening! Stamp your layers, go to filter>>other>>high pass: radius 1,5. Set the layer to soft light. You can use hard light if you want it even sharper. :)
09. I wasn't too happy with the colors so I went to the wonderful world of variations. Stamp your layers, go to image>>adjustments>>variations: click once on magenta and once on blue.
10. It's a bit too dark. Add a new brightness/contrast layer with brightness +10.
11. It's time for another gradient map! Make a gradient with color #2d281e on the left and #fffbbf on the right.
12. Now we're adding the second image. I used this texture by planets-bend-between-us at tumblr. Re-size it and add it to the icon.
13. To get the pink color, make a new color fill layer with #ff88a7 and set it to multiply.
14. We need more brightness. Brightness/contrast: brightness: +37.
15. Now add this texture (re-size it to 130x130px) by planets-bend-between-us and set it to screen, drag it so you don't see the white parts.
16. Now add this texure by scoobyatemysnax, re-size it and set it to screen.
17. The contrast has disappeared a bit, to get it back stamp your layers and set it to soft light 80%.
18. I want it a teensy bit sharper, so go to filter>>sharpen>>sharpen. Set the layer opacity to 10%.
19. As I love gradients, I wanted to add more of them. :P Make a new gradient fill and make a gradient with #050202 to the left and #fff0e7 to the right. Set the angle to -175,2. Set the layer to soft light.
20. Duplicate the gradient layer, add a layer mask and erase over the right half of the icon with a soft edged brush.
21. It's a bit too dark again, so add another brightness/contrast layer with brightness: +7
Erase over the part where it's brightest in the lower left corner.
22. I think it's a bit too bright in the lower left corner, so make a new layer, pick a soft edged brush and a black color and paint over it. Set the layer to soft light 30%.
23. This is the final step! To get that harsh contrast, add a new gradient map with a black and white gradient. Set the layer to soft light 90%.