[Graphics] Sigging 101

So here’s a quick little tutorial that I promised just about every place that I go to that I’d do. This tutorial assumes you know at least the basics of photoshop (Brushes, color adjustment, layer modes, selection, and filters). Keep in mind that my sigs are a bit different then other sigs you would see on sites. While I can teach you what I do, I can’t teach you every style. The only way I can tell you how to learn those is by telling and most definitely urging you to look up tutorials. It is okay to mimick styles at first. However, eventually make things your own by combining elements from styles you like.

To spare you all confusion, I’m going to note this here:  This tutorial is not here to teach you how to make a specific sig. It’s simply here to guide you on how you should start off making sigs. This is most likely going to get pretty lengthy, but bare with me.

All of the information is under the cut. Click read more to read it. Please take this tutorial with a bit of humor. I realize in parts it may come off as rude, but I prefer to be blunt and flat out say things rather than pretend they’re good to satisfy a person when they’re not… I realize everyone has their own opinion, but let’s put that aside for right now and think of what’s good for sigs rather than what we personally think looks cool. I would rather lead you toward a standard for all sigs than a unique type of sig that only one person out there likes.

1: Programs you can use
Okay so first things first, as stated, this tutorial assumes you know the basics of photoshop. However, you do not necessarily need photoshop. GIMP is a free alternative if you have no means of purchasing photoshop. I’m sure there are others. Back when I started, I was using software that came with my old digital camera. Said software was Arcsoft’s Photostudio 4. It’s a very affordable program, about 44USD, but it is very basic. It’s a great way to learn the basics if you don’t want to deal with GIMP, but GIMP outclasses it easily. There is also the issue of piracy but I will state it once and once only: I will never provide any information how to pirate photoshop. Simply purchase it if you plan on doing anything with it, or download the free trial on the website (last I checked they had free 30 day trials).

For future reference: I use Adobe Photoshop CS2

2: Image sources
These are very very important. Make sure to have image sources to hi resolution images. If they are extracted is a completely other matter. Not all extractions are hires and not all extractions are well done. Keep this in mind. The bigger the image, the easier it is to work with. Of course that doesn’t mean that every sig requires you to have a 2000 pixel image. Choose image sizes appropriate for what you plan to work with. Sometimes you might have to sacrifice size.

3: Resources
Resources are the things you will need the most when it comes to sigging. Before you say anything, yes I realize programs have default tools in them that can be used well. NEVER EVER LIMIT YOURSELF TO JUST DEFAULTS THOUGH. It is the worst thing you could do. Meaning if you need heart brushes and you don’t have heart brushes already available, don’t just think “well I guess I can’t add them I’ll add the multicolored butterflies instead” because limiting yourself will ruin your sig. Google exists. Use it.
The type of resources you should keep on hand are:
Custom Brushes
Custom Textures
Custom Patterns
Custom Gradients
Custom Styles
Custom C4Ds & Fractals

Do not worry about custom fonts. Odds are if you’ll never use the font for regular typing, it is not worth installing. That means for all you kids out there who think putting the kingdom hearts font on your sig makes it totally cool, stop that shit. It is the gayest crap I’ve ever seen and it absolutely ruins a sig 99% of the time.

Now lets actually talk about making the sigs themselves.

As you know there are many types of styles of sigs, some of them are like the following (Yeah I have no clue what to call some of these styles):

“Abstract” sig

“Scenery” sig:

“Smudge” sig:

“Vector” Sig:

“Simple” Sig:

“C4D” Sig:

“Blend” Sig (The type I usually do)

Or you can combine styles to make your own unique thing

C4d & Blend:

C4d & Blend & Vector:

C4D & Vector:

Blend & Vector:

Simple & Blend:

There are many other styles that could be mentioned but this is simply examples out of my own library.

Each of these styles is unique and good in it’s own way, but it is not a style that makes a sig good. There are plenty of good sigs in styles I myself do not personally like (*cough*c4d*/cough*). However what makes a sig good is how it presents itself. Most sigs you should be able to look at and ask yourself this:

1: Does it flow?
2: Is it colored well?
3: Is it of decent quality?
4: Is the render placed well?
5: Is the render still visible among the effects?
6: Does the text work with it?
7: Is it not stupidly sized?
8: Does it have Hazama in it?

If you can answer yes to all of these then you are looking at a good sig. If not, then you need a bit of work…

Now lets go over everything.

1: Flow
I’m sure a lot of you are asking “What is flow?” Flow is basically the way in which your effects move. when it comes to drawing your eye to the main render in the sig. If you’re looking all over the sig and cannot tell what you should be focused on, then the sig does not flow. However if the effects draw you in and pull your eyes toward the render, then it flows. Now, I realize in some types of sig styles (more of the blend type sigs) things like flow are thrown out the window (because they kind of don’t matter in blends) but you should at least be able to look at one part of the sig and tell what the main focus is.

2: Coloring
Coloring is a very important part of sigging. It can be split up into two parts: Usage of coloring adjustment layers and usage of colors themselves.
Color adjustment layers should be used as a way to brighten and highlight your image, but cranking up the saturation all the way is not allways a good thing. For instance if you begin to see a serious distortion in your render to where it looks overly scaled, you need to tone it down. You may also need to turn it down if the characters features become overly blurred. For instance it would be very bad if your character’s mouth is extremely hard to see due to color adjustments.
The second thing to keep in mind with colors is how they match the render. Judge by the full image and not just the character. For instance, my favorite example is known for wearing dark black clothing and having bright green hair. Keeping that in mind, it would be good to use Black & Neon green in every Hazama sig right? Wrong. So very wrong. Coloring should be based on the source image and also play up on other things such as contrasting colors (for instance I’m known for using bright pinks in my Hazama sigs as well as the bright greens) “colors” like white and black should also be used sparingly. it is okay to have them there, but do not make them the main focus, especially black moreso than white. Instead, aim for neutrals (off black, off white)

3: Quality
Quality could refer to 2 things: The effort put into it, and the general state of the image after it is saved. Since the former is kind of an opinion thing, I am going to somewhat gloss over it but state one thing: It shows when you put in absolutely no effort. Try to avoid that. Onto the latter of the two. The quality of the image saved after it is finished should be the highest possible. Most of the times it would be a png but for those of you who prefer jpeg, put it at the maximum quality. Jpegs do not carry well on the internet and are lossy, therefore the size of the file becomes smaller, which distorts the quality. PNGs are larger file sizes, but carry well over the net and usually do not lessen in quality when uploaded on the net.

4: Render placement
Render placement is a very key element in sigging. Placing your render poorly can result in an awkward and rather empty sig at times, therefore it’s very important to use the rule of thirds. For sigs and most other images you can divide the image into 3 parts such as so:

I’ve labeled the image 1-5 with 1-3 being the divided sections and 4-5 being the lines.

Now the first thing I’m going to teach you is how to place in parts 1 and 3. They’re usually placements at the very corner. Now I’m sure you think “oh this is a great tip, I can place at the very corner and put my pretty effects in the middle.” However this is where I stop you and slap your shit for thinking that. While they sound good when you first think about it because your render is out of the way and you have space for things like brushes, this is definitely not how you want to go about making a sig. Why would you even do that or think that. Placing renders here will leave your sigs looking absolutely empty. Not to mention if you concentrate on effects and just stick a render ontop, you’ll end up looking likeyou slapped the render on at the end, which is never a good thing.

Now for part 2 placement. Part 2 placement must be good because it’s the very center right? Semi right. There’s a correct way to do it and an incorrect way to do it. Placing your render in the very very dead center and leaving 2 really huge gaps is a very bad idea. If you place your render in the center, make sure that it is filling the whole center up to where the lines for 4 and 5 are. The reason you want to do this is because it fills the sig and defines the focal point of the sig. A lot of times I see people zoom way out on a render in attempt to get the whole body in the render. This is not a good idea. It will never be a good idea. Focus on either the characters face or the characters chest or their ass or something. Do not try to get the whole body in. With sigs, a lot of the time, less is more and more is less. Therefore you should always zoom in on the character rather than zoom out.

Now, onto 4 and 5. 4 and 5 are the best places to place a render. It gives you room on either sides to do effects and doesn’t leave it feeling overly empty.

5: Render visibility
I’m sure some of you are thinking “well my render shouldn’t feel pased on so I should coat it with lots of effects” and some of you are thinking “well it’d be stupid to cover my render with lots of effects it should be the topmost layer.” Both of those assumptions are wrong. A sig is giving a render a background. Therefore it should be a part of that background, but not so much as to where you can’t really tell what the render is anymore. That’s why you do things like erase parts of textures and c4ds. Make it visible but not to where it is over visible. For instance if your sig has about 13 background effects, at least 2~5 of those effects should be overlapping the render.

6: Text

Text is a very important thing in sigs. A lot of times people prefer putting some sort of text and a lot of times people prefer not putting any text at all. Which is why I’ll bring this up: Text is a sometimes thing, it’s not an always thing and it’s not a never thing. Sometimes text can ruin a sig. Sometimes it can help it. From what I’ve seen personally, it’s best used when it’s used as an effect rather than text on it’s own. The best things to put for text are usually these things (usually separate, not together)
1: Your handle
2: Character/Person’s title or a notable phrase associated with a character
3: A NOTABLE quote from character/person
4: Character’s name.

I ordered them from best to worst. A lot of times people do shitty things like put a character’s theme or a rather vague quote from a character. Character themes just really suck as sig titles. I mean how many sigs out there are shittly adorned with the words “gluttony fang”? Too many to count (which is why you’ll never see me ever put that on one of my sigs children). At times the character’s name kinda doesn’t help either. The best bet is your own handle (I often adorn my favorites in my handle, Violent Incantation) or using a title a character has (‘The Golden Witch,’ ‘The Endless Sorcerer,’ ‘Digital Diva,’ I’m sure you could guess all these). Also quotes are not always well used. The reason for this is because you are suddenly cramping a lot of text into a small area. Some people like to do the corner text thing (which looks like shit btw) and suddenly everything is stupidly unreadable. If you’re going to quote someone be prepared to have to use bigger fontsizes and make it visible.

Placement of text is also just as important. Placing your text in the corner for no fucking reason is absolutely stupid and should not be done. Especially for those of you who put shit on your sig like “by xxx” and “do not rip” to “watermark” it. Watermarking a sig is an absolutely stupid thing and you should not do it under ANY CIRCUMSTANCE. Same for people who put their sn only and then hide it off in a corner. Nope. That should not be done. If you’re going to put text on it, then make it visible. Otherwise do not put it. It is as simple as that.

Font face is yet another very important part of sigging. Your font face should match the style of the sig, rather than matching the series the character is from or how dark n ebul they are. For this, I suggest knowing the fonts that come preinstalled in your computer. Why? Because, the basics are all you need. There are plenty of round fonts, regal fonts, bold fonts, fancy fonts, etc. Why download more onto your computer? It’s stupid and it slows your computer itself down. Now, don’t get me wrong, Using a customly made font every once in a while is okay, but you should not go out of your way to download a new font for every sig you make. Most fonts that people choose are stupid, weaboo looking unreadable shit that does not benefit a sig. Therefore leave your kingdom hearts, final fantasy, bleach and naruto fonts where they belong: off of your sig.

On a side note gracious japanese does not make your sig cool. Never really does. It’s okay if you do it every once in a while, like 1 out of 40 sigs, but do not abuse the whole japanese thing, nobody can read it, and we can already tell you’re a touhou fan just due to the fact you’re sigging it.

7: Sizes
Sizes are a very important part of a sig and should be decided the instant you go to make a sig. Naturally one wants to make a large sig that they could adorn on most sites correct? So how big is too big? Thats easy:
500 is the widest you should go for a regular sig, maybe 550 if you’re displaying some sort of information like you would see with MAL sigs, but I would not reccomend larger than 500. As for height, I’d say keep it under 175. The reason for this is if you have a sig that’s about 700 width and 250 pixels wide people have to scroll past it. Now lets say your sig is attached to every post you make, in an active forum, where you post constantly. Now people have to scroll past that shit. Which is why you should keep it short and simple. I usually do either 400×150 or 450×150. Some people prefer to go smaller than that. The smallest you should go? That’s up to you.

Now that I’ve gone over that, I’ll go over some more indepth things.

1: Choices in render/stock & how to choose a good one

Your choice in render/stock/image whatever you want to call it is very important to the sig. They are basically your focal point of your signature, which means that you should choose renders carefully. However, do not limit yourself to one type of image (aka default character art in one type of pose). Choose playful images, images with interesting expressions, poses, etc, otherwise your sigs will end up very stale, which is obviously never a good thing.

Also keep in mind the edges of the image. What I mean by this is where the image is cut off. For people who are advanced with masks and blending, a cutoff image is no problem, however for most beginners, it’s reccomended to start with a render that is not obstructed by edges (minus maybe the bottom) Images should make better examples of what I mean rather than words, so I’ll use examples:

Good images (which we will call 1,2, 3, 4, going from left to right)



These images are good for sigging because of how easy they are to use, poses are good, and amount of body shown is good. Individually

1 shows the whole body of the character, the pose is simple but makes a statement. You can easily put his upper body into a sig and take up the whole middle area of a sig with no issue.

2 may be cut off at the bottom, however that doesn’t matter because you can easily use only his upper body and still make a good sig.

3 features two characters, something I usually do not recommend for sigs, but notice how they are both on the same line of vision. You can easily put the both of them into the sig with no problems.

4: The image has a background and is cut off at the bottom, however once you get past the background part, the image is good for using, as both are on the same line

Bad images (1,2,3,4 from left to right):


First off I’d like to say what makes these images bad isn’t the way they are drawn. Just the way they can be used.

1 is cut off at all 4 sides of the images. Unless you blend her a lot, you probably won’t be able to use her.

2 is a good image if you are using them individually. However, since they can both be counted as the focal points of the image, you can’t use this in a horizontal sig very easily. A vertical sig is a whole other issue…

3 is boxed in at 3 sides. This is no problem because you have their upper bodies not boxed in. However, one of the reasons I would not recommend using an image like this is due to the way the colors clash very easily.

4 is not a good choice due to the quality of the image file itself. There is text over parts of them and due to the low resolution of the scan, redrawing it would not be very easy. Also, while the girls themselves aren’t cut off on any sides, their weapons/accessories are.  It would be very weird to have a Rachel sig where she isn’t holding Nago…

Image quality is another thing to definitely pay attention to. An image can be 500 pixels and be great quality and next to it can be a larger 1000 pixel version with jpeg artifacts. Which do you choose? Most people would say “oh well the artifacts don’t really matter so the 1000px is prefered.” Very wrong. When you shrink a jpeg artifact ridden image, the image will look awkward and scaled down, which is why it is not a good idea to do this. For the best results either use pre extracted and cleaned renders, cleaned hi resolution scans, vectored images (aka cleaned images redrawn with illustrator) or quality fanart that you would see on places such as pixiv, danbooru, etc. Do not use anime screencaps. They are the worst thing you could put in a sig. Most of them are low quality and grainy. They’re okay for icons, but never for sigging. So don’t think it.

2: When to extract an image

I’m pretty sure a lot of people have noticed that in my sig tutorials I usually skip right by the extracting and tell you to just set the image to multiply. This works sometimes, but not for all styles of signatures. Look at the type of sig you want to make and note what kind of resources people use for them in tutorials. For most sigs, you will have to extracth your image. However, for some, you are able to skip right by that. I bring this up because for most, the extraction of an image is the most annoying part.

3: Usage of layer effects/styles

I’m pretty sure everyone here knows how to achieve layer effects, but incase you don’t it’s the ‘f’ at the bottom of the layer’s window. Now I’m going to bring this up to make a very important point that a lot of people will not agree with: Use these VERY VERY VERY SPARINGLY. Most times, I myself use them on MAL sigs but nothing else. Why? Because I do it to stroke and give shadow to the entry rows and nothing else. Why nothing else you ask? Because things like outerglow are absolutely tacky. I have seen a LOT of people use outer glow to hide bad extraction or make text more visible. If you’re guilty of this, NEVER DO IT AGAIN. I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH. It does not help your sig. In fact, it ruins it.

4: Color balance

USE IT USE IT USE IT AND ABUSE IT. Most things look a bit better when the colors are tweaked. Don’t overuse it though. Altering the shadows and highlights just slightly usually does the trick.

I think that concludes this tutorial for now…

For those of you looking for resources for GFX hit up the obvious places:

Or you can visit my website and look at the credits section. I haven’t updated it in a while, sorry for that, but I do have alot of past links that are very good.

Anyways this should conclude most of what needs to be done to pull off a good sig. However this isn’t everything. It’s basically the really notable things that came to mind.


17 responses to “[Graphics] Sigging 101

  1. Hmm?
    By style do you mean…
    a repeated layer effect?
    If so then…kinda
    I use outer glow and/or inner glow with white (or a colour tat matches the outline) for images.
    I also use bevel for text and yeah…
    Kinda difficult to explain xP

    • By style I’m not referring to what’s used on the layers for effects. I’m referring to they type of sig being made (abstract, grunge, blend, vector, etc).

      Also I think you should overall ditch layer styles. They. Look. Like shit.

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