I wondered a lil if I should do this and decided that I'd do it.
Well I think we can call it "A lil signature guide for beginners." But maybe also some more advanced gfx makers can find it useful.
Well here goes.
Part I - The Basics
1.1. The Idea
Yes! You should have an image in your head what you would like to do. Without an idea you just force yourself to do something and that is not good. Forced action produce poor results, they lack the feeling and stuff like that. A great place to get ideas are "Signature of the Weeks" aka SOTWs. You can find them in any graphics forums. You don't even need to participate just take the theme and think of something and try to make something in that theme.
1.2 Take your time
Oh yes, this is very important. Rushing is never the answer. It also produces not over-thought results. It's not a competition you know so take it easy.
Part II - The Signature - Starting out
2.1 The Size
Once you have your idea it's time to start forming your signature. You should know that a standard size for a BANNER is 468x60 and the sizes for homepage header banners start around 200-300px height. I'm suggesting that you keep the signature size under 400px of width and 150px height. Signatures look better when they are not so big. Big signatures create the problem: How am I gonna fill that space? Also when the signatures are slightly smaller, you can be almost certain that it doesn't go over any forum's signature size limit.
2.2 The Render
Okay this is important. Please always look the quality of your render. If there is a picture you like but it's really small or has really bad JPG quality then better not take it. It will ruin your signature. No matter how moe the character on it is. Also, If you've just started out, better not use your own renders. I know that outta experience that the first renders you create are choppy and stuff like that. First when you've practiced some, you can start using your own renders. Try to rely on good quality renders. When you don't find the one you're looking for, you can always send your wish picture to me and I'll gladly render it.
*A tip on rendering. Fill a layer under your source picture with the basic blue color. It helps a lot since you can easily see light pixels that are too much on the edges of your render and that you'll never see with just the transparent background.
2.3 The Colors
This is also a very important step you need to consider carefully. Select colors that really go with the color choice of your render. They should be in harmony. Remember that. Also try to avoid using neon colors. Soft and not very bright colors are the best since, after all, the colors are the main part of the background so they are supposed to support the render and not overpower it.
Part III - The Signature - Putting it together
3.1 The Background
A nice feeling to a signature gives a gradient background. Make it from one color to the other, from black to color or a gradient sphere. Whatever you feel like. That should stay your very bottom layer. Then, we start adding some effects to the background. You can use your imagination here. You can smudge, put c4d's in use different brushes BUT remember, never go overboard with any of them. Using one single one of them looks very unprofessional. It's better to mix one with another and try new variations. It's all a matter of testing. Also I'd suggest to duplicate your effect layers and set them to different blending to get more interesting results just don't overdo it. Keep it clean and nice and specially so that it doesn't overpower the render.
3.2 The Render
Okay you have your render. You have to resize it probably. Try to keep the size not too big or not too small either. Somewhat smaller for smaller signatures and somewhat bigger for bigger signatures. Not the other way round. You don't want your whole signature to be covered with a face or leave it half empty with a too small resize result. Try to position it according to the pose of the render. Be creative here.
Once you're done with the positioning and everything, we need to blend it a bit into the signature so that it would look as a whole masterpiece not like something that's just two pieces of art. Take your eraser. The best choice is to choose a grunge brush or something that looks messy. Set the opacity of the eraser to 20% max and start clicking on the outer parts of the render. Be sure not to erase face because that just looks ugly. Other than that you can erase parts of anything, hair, clothes etc. Just be sure you don't erase TOO MUCH. Be careful. After you're satisfied with your result duplicate the render, add about 4 gaussian blur to it and change the blending to overlay. If this produces too dark/bright reduces, just reduce the opacity till it looks fine. Putting a blurred layer above the original render will give it a nice smooth and a lil dreamy effect.
3.3 The Text
Now when you're done with a background, put a render on top of it and are satisfied with the result, it's time to add a lil nice accessory or so to say to the whole thing. Text. NB! Please be sure that your text tool is set to something like soft edges or actually anything other than the NONE at the beginning (It's the lil drop menu that comes after the double a icon). Then write a nice quote and you can either put your name under or above the quote. Or you just write a name. Anyways, if you have two parts of text (name and quote) use different sizes on them. Bigger for that that you wanna bring out more. When putting someone else's name on the signature and still want to put your own name on it too, do it but make it more like a watermark since it's kinda like a signature and is not supposed to draw away attention from the main quote/name. After you're done with it, find a nice place for the text. Try to put it somewhere that it fits with the overall composition of the sig. Empty places are the best parts to be filled with text. Don't put text over the render, it ruins it.
3.4 The Border
Yes! It's like the stop at the end of a sentence or a point above the i. You don't have to do anything fancy but let's say a black solid 1 px border just completes your masterpiece. Of course you can use other colors as well but if you're really not sure you can almost always use the black one.
Always save your work twice. Once as a .psd so that you can later edit it and another as a .jpg with the quality of around 9-10.
Part IV - Useful Photoshop stuff
4.1Save For Web