step 1 - basics
the first couple of things I do with a cap are always the same. I size it down a bit (it's always something between 550px - 700px width) and add my first screen and softlight layer on top of the base. after fiddling with the opacities, I decide whether it needs a curves layer or not (I opt for it most of the time. my curves layers always look something like this) and add a neutral black to wite gradient on top set to softlight (if I already know what colours I wanna end up with in the end, I sometimes use a yellow/black or purple/black gradient). this ~should prevent the icon from looking too flat in the end :)
bonus tip: if your subject has dark hair though, try to erase the light part of the gradient that covers the subject's hair, as it often makes it look pixel-y otherwise.
step 2 - colouring
then comes the actual colouring part. I've never learned the art of colour fill layers, so all I use is colour balance and selective colouring. I thought the cap already looked pretty nice in itself, so I upped the yellows and oranges for her skin and some magenta for her dress. I'm pretty sure I did her skin and dress with two different colour balance layers and masked the background, so that the colours stayed somewhat muted. it made sookie and her dress pop out a lot more :D
step 3 - cropping
once satisfied with the colouring, I merged everything and dragged the downsized cap onto a 100x100px canvas. I'm not very creative with crops and almost always go for center crops, so that's what I did.
step 4 - adding textures, etc
once satisfied with the colouring and crop, I dublicate my new base and blur the hell out of it. I used gaussian blur at 5.0 and surface blur at ca 8/18. the result then looks something like this with the subject still vaguely recognizable.
bonus tip: you can simply drag it on top of your base layer, set to normal, and lower the opacity down to 9% - 15%. this gives your icon a nice, soft glow without altering the colours too much. it helps soften some hard edges :)
for this icon though, I set the blurred layer to softlight, opacity 59%, and erased the bottom right corner, because I wanted one point of the icon to be darker than the rest. THIS SOUNDS WEIRD IK, but I always feel like this keeps an icon well-balanced, what with light and dark parts alike? it doesn't turn flat that way.
so, I really loved the colour of her dress. it's what drew me to the cap in the first place. naturally, I wanted to pick some purple-ish textures to emphasize that :) first, I used this this texture (maker ???), put it between my base and the blurred base layer, and erased everything that wasn't her dress. I set it to screen, opacity 16%. on top of those layers, I then used this texture (maker ???) and set it to screen, opacity 61%. I loved the purple-ish glow it created on the left side of the icon. after that, I picked a third texture (maker ???) and set it to overlay, opacity 53%, fill 14% as a support of sorts. it darkened everything a tiny little bit. all in all, these 3 textures helped enhance all the purple :D
now, I'm not sure whether it is a texture I added or whether I used the screencap itself and just blurred it a hell of a lot. either way, this is what I dragged on top of everything else. I set it to normal, 38% and carefully masked a couple of parts (you can see my masks etc below). it gave the icon a nice, dreamy feel to it.
doing that, I lost a lot of contrast. I created a new, empty layer and drew a thin, black line with a soft brush on the left, set it to softlight, 20%. then I added a level adjustment layer (22, 1.00, 244), opacity 27%, and a selective colouring layer (whites - blacks, -56) to make the whites in the background pop a little more again.
basically, I was done with this icon. I sharpened the base layer (don't forget to then go to edit - fade sharpen, and lower it down to something between 25% and 30%) and saved it. BUT I felt like experimenting a bit, so I went browsing through my (messy) texture folder and found this (maker ???). to say I knew what I wanted to achieve with it would be a lie. all I knew was it had some purple/violet shades in it, as did my icon. I simply slapped it in between my texture layers and set it to softlight. the result was rather weird, but once I erased the top part it actually melted well with her dress and I left it that way!
this is it. here are my layers & masks (the base is called colour fill, because I always fill the canvas I drag my cap onto black to prevent white lines), in case anyone's interested. I hope this tutorial is helpful to someone :) thanks for reading!