How do I make my boxes stand out?
If you look at my boxes, they are all very plain and blah looking. There is nothing special about them, unlike the HoF boxes, and boxes from Yoshistar and many other popular artists on this site. My boxes are nothing more then a background found on the internet along with renders also found on internet all placed on the front. My backs of my boxes are all the same too. So, what can I do to spice up the style of my boxes? I have Gimp 2.8, if that helps.
Try being more original. Originality is really key. And try raising saturation and such to make the box pop a bit more, or sharpening.
I've been here for five years, and I've seen the exact thing that you talk about. I could make a box using the exact same renders as one of YoshiStar's boxes, or Jevangod's, or wasa-bi's, and it would look nothing like their work. The truth of the matter is, the renders and objects in the design are only part of what convert a good idea into a beautiful work. You also need to know how to effectively use Photoshop.
Here are a few techniques that can help transform a "blah" box into a "wow" box:
Filters: Experiment with them. Try out different layers of filters. It may only be a slight change in contrast or brightness, or it may change the entire image, but the layering of differently-filtered images can have a BIG impact on your design. Deathspawn11 told me when I was first starting on this site that he never made a box without adding a Soft Light filter layer to every image in some way, because it enhanced the contrast and color of the images and made them more professional. Other filters, like Multiply, can do amazing things to images, and can help blend images together. Try them all out until you know all of their effects by heart and you know instinctively which one to apply.
Patterns: YoshiStar and Jevangod both frequently use patterns other their backgrounds. Scanlines, honeycombs, grids, halftone circles... these patterns can add an extra dimension and depth to a design that simply would not exist otherwise. Combining these with the Filters I just mentioned can add a lot of extra flair to a design, especially sci-fi designs or those that are heavily based in technology. Any pattern can be used, however, even to add textures to images that would not otherwise be there. Photoshop even gives you the option of making your own patterns from any image you find online. It's a great resource.
Brushes: Don't leave home without them. There are hundreds of free Brush sites online that specialize in providing you with quality brushes. Even Deviantart users post them. By integrating them into Photoshop, you can add a wealth of variety to your design. Anything from fractal glow lines to heavy grass to snowflakes can be produced consistently and beautifully with a quality brush, and most can be scaled to fit any size. They are simple to download, easy to use, and incredibly fun to experiment with.
Rendering: I call it "rendering", but what I really mean is the act of combining different images to create a new one. YoshiStar uses the newest version of Photoshop to do this almost effortlessly, but I can accomplish similar results even in my version of Elements. Using the lasso, pen, and blending tools in Photoshop, you can easily cut and paste parts of images together to create something entirely new and unique. For games that have a large number of renders, such as Sonic or Mario, this can be not only effective, but recommended, since the traditional images are so widely seen, and thus less impressive.
These are some of my favorite techniques to use, the ones that have been most beneficial to me over the years. If you have any questions, feel free to pm me.