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The 'Mike Ryan' Signature Tutorial *Remake*

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The 'Mike Ryan' Signature Tutorial

Remake by Skully

This is a remake of a tutorial by Mike Ryan. I thought the original was overly complex and wanted to make a new one that beginners would understand. Keep in mind that this is my first tutorial so please point out any mistakes I made so I may learn from them. Enjoy the tutorial.

Oh, and PM me if any of the images are broken, please.

In this tutorial I will be teaching you to make something like this:


Plugins needed:

Alpha Mask

Gaussian Blur +

Drop Shadow

Part 1: Setting up your Work Environment

  1. Open up Paint.net and create a new image. Set the canvas size to 500 x 120.
  2. Press Ctrl + A to select the canvas and hit delete.
  3. Add a new layer :AddNewLayer: and name it Signature body

In other words, make it look like this:


Part 2: Constructing the body and making the Alpha Mask.

In this part we will be constructing the body or shape of the signature. For this part we will be using black to draw the basic shape and the eraser tool and / or white shapes to make it more interesting.

  1. Select the Rounded rectangle tool :RoundedRectangleTool: and set it to 'Draw filled shape' :ShapeInterior: in the toolbar. Now, with the black color selected, drag it from the upper left corner to the lower right corner as shown. If it isn't perfectly centered you can use the Align Object Plugin to center it.
  2. Take the eraser tool and erase some parts of your signature to make it more interesting. You can also add a new layer and brush with white color selected. You can even use the text tool or custom brushes.
    I will be using the Line tool and Eraser.
  3. When you're done, fill the Background layer with white using the Paint bucket tool. Select the top layer and flatten the image. Now invert colors (Ctrl + Shift + I). This will be the Alpha Mask you will use repeatedly in creating your sig. Go to file -> Save as... and save it as a .png file.


Part 3: Developing the Color schemes

In this part we will be developing the Color schemes of the signature.

I will be showing you two different ways.

Version 1

This is a color scheme made by Mike Ryan.

  1. Create a new image and use the same dimensions as before. Fill the canvas with any color you want.
    Note: You can always change it later with Color Tint [link]
    Go to effects -> Alpha Mask and select the mask you made before.
    If you did the previous steps correctly you should now have the shape you made earlier in whatever color you just chose.
    The rest should be transparent. Name this layer Primary signature color
  2. Duplicate the layer and select the lower one. Go to Adjustments -> Brightness/Contrast and turn the brightness down to about -100 . Name this layer Secondary signature color.
  3. Select Primary signature color layer. Now use BoltBait's Gaussian Blur+
    Set it to only blur the Alpha channel and set radius to about 35. Then deselect the area (Ctrl + d)
  4. Run Alpha Mask again and use the mask from before. Be sure to have "Mix Alpha" checked.

My result:


Version 2

Use this technique to use a stock as the color scheme.

  1. Create a new image and paste in your stock image. If it's bigger than the canvas, select "Maintain canvas size". Move it around so the part you want on the signature is in the canvas.
  2. Once again, run Alpha mask with the same mask as before.
  3. The rest is entirely up to you. Be creative :D

Part 5: Text and Glassy Highlights.

In this step we will be adding text and a glassy highlight.


  1. Create a new layer and name it "Text".

This is where I am suppose to let you go wild. However, I do have some guidelines for you to remember:

Use a readable font. If your font cannot be read, then what is even the use of the font?

Use a font colour similar to the Primary Signature Colour used. Usually, a darker version works best with glassy highlights we will be adding soon.

Use alignment. Usually, centred text (as in on the image itself) looks best. Use tools like Align Object or Layer Rotate/ Zoom for near perfect results

My result:


Glassy highlight

  1. Add a new layer. Select the Line/curve tool and make a curve as seen below.
  2. Select the Paint bucket tool and set the tolerance to 68-69%. Fill in the space above the line with white.
  3. Run Alpha Mask again with the same mask and make sure "Mix Alpha" is checked.
  4. Lower the transparency to whatever looks good to you. I used 40.

My result:


3D Effect and Shadow

In this step we will be using two effects to make the sig look more... better.

3D Effect

  1. Duplicate Secondary signature color and move it to the bottom. Run Gaussian Blur with radius set to 3. Name this layer "Blur". Duplicate the layer if you want the sig to look thicker.
    I decided to move the lower Blur layer a few pixels down and to the right. Then I erased parts I didn't want.

My result:



  1. Duplicate Secondary signature color and move it to the bottom. Name it "Shadow".
  2. Change your secondary color to fully transparent. Then go to image -> canvas size and increase height to about 140.
    You may want to change the canvas size again before the next step so you get a little more horizontal space for the shadow. See picture below.
  3. Run Drop shadow (effects-> object-> drop shadow). Uncheck "Keep original image" and set the shadow opacity to about 130. Set the rest to whatever you like. However, make sure the whole shadow is inside the canvas.
  4. Erase any parts you don't want. For example under transparent parts of Primary signature color.

My result:


Final Touches

Congratulations! You're almost done. Just crop the canvas to minimize empty space, flatten and save as .png. But make sure you keep the pdn file from before you flattened so you can change the sig later.

My Final Results



Thank you for using this tutorial. Please post your results below. Also, please post any faults or flaws in my tutorial (even spelling mistakes) and I will fix them asap.

Credit goes to Mike Ryan for making the original tutorial which I used as a guide (Here it is).

Edited by SkullSplitter
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I enjoyed your tutorial there were a couple of places where the instructions seemed to assume I knew how to do some things I had to puzzle out but it worked out great for me. Here are a couple of the results I got.



Thanks a lot for the tutorial.


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Feel free to ask about any steps you are unsure about. It will also help me improve the tutorial.

And thanks for posting your results. The second one looks good, however the 0 is a bit aliased. But it's very good for your first try. I recommend you continue from the "3D effect and Shadow" step on the blue one with the school bus.

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Thanks for the feedback. I tinkered with giving the Bus sig the glass look but it was late and I didn't like the way it looked so I passed on it.

Here is one of the lines I was unsure about:

"I decided to move the lower Blur layer a few pixels down and to the right. Then I erased parts I didn't want."

I don't know how to erase those parts. I see the emphatic notes about '...not asking questions...' so I'll just leave the feedback about the instructions.

I really appreciate your response. I find it encouraging.


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I don't know how to erase those parts.

Let's take for example the 0 in the orange signature you made. When you duplicate the blur layer and move it to the right there will be small shadow-like outline under a part of the 0.


Now, it actually looks pretty good there but if you don't like it you can go to the blur layer, select the eraser tool :EraserTool: and erase it without removing the outline of the edge of the sig.

I noticed that you saved the picture as JPEG. I recommend you save it as PNG. That will give you a higher quality image and you won't have that white background.

I hope this helps.

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You don't need to make lines. You can use whatever shapes you want :D Try adding a new layer over your black base and experiment with white shapes. Try using a weird font like "Wingdings". Then merge the layer down and continue the tut from step 3.

Although, a good trick for the lines is to hold shift while using the Line/curve tool so it snaps to certain angles. Just make one long line. Then copy it a few times and move them to corners of the sig. Then all the lines will be of the same angle. Pretty hard to explain but I hope you get it.

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I'm not completely sure which step you're stuck on. Are you still trying to make the lines? Remember, you can make your sig whatever shape you want. It doesn't have to have those line holes.

I can't make it because my damn hand is too shaky to make those straight lines

You're using the Line/Curve tool :LineCurveTool:, right?

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Hey, I'm here to help. On this step we are making the Alpha mask. That means a black and white picture which you use to cut out another picture, in this case the sig.

White represents opaque and black represents transparent. However we will be inverting the colors so black should represent opaque and white transparency up to step 3.

So, if you want to have a hole in the shape of a heartagram you should paste it on the mask in white because we invert the colors later.

Yes, it's a bit more confusing that way but that's how I wrote it in the tutorial.

Just do exactly what I say in the tutorial but instead of erasing in step 2, part 2 you paste in the heartagram in white.

Here are some useful tutorials on Alpha Masking: Alpha Masking tutorials by Crazy Man Dan - Frozen Text tutorial with a guide to Alpha Masks by m2lucky

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks for a really good tutorial. It was very helpful to this really new newbie.

Here are a few suggested additions. I realize some are obvious, but for someone like me you can never be too obvious. (In the digital world too many people are afraid of looking stupid, and thereafter getting flamed, so they simply struggle through. I'd rather look stupid than waste my time.)

1) Tell people where to get the plug-ins (these may all be available in one place, but after searching I found them at the indicated locations):

a) Drop shadow (http://users.telenet.be/krisvandermotten/). And note: the drop shadow doesn't work with version 3.10 of paint.net, which can still be downloaded (I know, because I did.)

B) Gaussian Blur Plus: viewtopic.php?f=16&t=22819

c) Alpha Mask: viewtopic.php?t=2178

2) If the "layers" toolbox isn't on your desktop, click on "layers" under "Window." (Too obvious? Not for me.)

3) Part 2, Item 3: "This will be the Alpha Mask you will use repeatedly in creating your sig."

4) "Glassy highlight, Item 2: "Fill in the space above the line with white." (Right?)

5) "Shadow," Item 2: Change your Secondary Signature Color layer to fully transparent. (I assume that's what you meant. Otherwise, you got some splainin' to do.)

6) "Shadow," Item 3: Remind the newbies the sig has to be selected before the drop shadow will work.

Again, thanks. It really was a terrific introduction to the tools.

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Thanks for the tips. I'm always happy to improve my tutorial and answer questions.

1) Actually, I did. It's right below the part where I show you what you're making.

Also, you should probably get the latest version of Paint.net. Otherwise you may not be able to follow some tutorials.

Please read rule number 7 here.

2) Most people always have that layers checked (or so I think). Layers are the key to most work.

3) Good point. I'm adding it right now.

4) Yes. I'll add that too.

5) No. You can change your primary and secondary color in the colors toolbox. There you can also adjust the transparency (Alpha). Change the transparency to 0 or fully transparent.

6) Actually, I don't quite understand what you mean there. You just have to have any Signature Color layer selected or a duplicate of one.

You are welcome and thanks for the compliment.

Though, I must direct you to this overview of Paint.net features which, I believe is the best place for a beginner to start.

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