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This is a brief guide aimed at people who have no experience at all in making avatars. It won't cover animation or anything advanced, just how to whip up a quick static avatar that doesn't look too bad.

What you need

First off you will need a program which can edit images. There are lots of these around, Photoshop is the most well known and probably the best in quality, but if you're short on money you can go with free alternatives like GIMP (it's better than it sounds!).

Getting started

Google Images is a great place to find artwork for your avatars. For this quick guide I decided to make an avatar based on Naruto (it's a cartoon if you're not familiar), so I entered "Naruto" into Google Images and found this:

Original image
    Getting the image into Photoshop
  1. Right-click on the image and choose Copy.
  2. Fire up Photoshop and choose File > New.
  3. Paste it in, by clicking Edit > Paste.

Now the image is open in Photoshop, but it's obviously too big. I like my avatars to be square shaped, so I use the Rectangular Marquee Marquee tool to make a square selection.

Marquee selection

The Info tab on the right hand side will tell you exactly how big your selection is, so there's no need for guesswork. I then chop off the excess by selecting Image > Crop. Now the image is perfectly square, as is typical for avatars.

    Scaling the image down to size
  1. Select Image > Image Size.
  2. Enter the width and height you want in the two boxes.
  3. Click OK.

My personal preferred size for avatars is 96 x 96 pixels, which makes the image look like this:

Sized down for avatar

Now, we could leave it there, it's a usable avatar, but I want to add some text. I hit Google Images again and search for "Naruto logo", which turns up a lot of images like this:

Original logo

Before we can use this in the avatar, we need to clear out the white background using the Magic Wand Magic Wand.

    Removing the background color
  1. Take the Magic Wand and set the Tolerance level to 20.
  2. Click on all the white parts of the background.
  3. Hit the delete key.

This should result in:

Transparent background

To finish off, give the logo a width of 96 pixels by choosing Image > Image Size. Over on the right hand panel, click on the logo's Layer and drag it on top of the avatar, to get this:

Finished avatar

Not too shabby right? Using the various effects and styles, minds more creative than mine will be able to do some great things. Here are some suggestions for things to play around with: