Do you know of any catalogs of different types of particle effects so I can learn how they are made ? I made a little engine and editor and the stuff I'm coming up with doesn't look very professional. I know it's a complex subject but I'm just trying to make cool looking stuff for an essentially 2D game, I'm not necessarily looking for realism either.
One thing I'm running into is the effects I make look decent on one colored background (like gold) but not another (like blue). The different levels in my game will have different colored backgrounds so this is disheartening.
Are you using your own home-made particle system code?
You could try downloading a free engine. like the UDK or Unity, and checking out their particle editors -- I'm not sure, but I would assume that these engines would come with some example particle files, so you could check out their examples for some inspiration.
Regarding your background colour problem -- if you post a picture, I might be able to give you some advice as to what's going wrong.