So this mat is based on a scene from the Naruto manga, even so I spent some time looking at various versions of it mainly to give me a better idea of the movement and action of the image and also partly because I have only watched two episodes of Shippuden and wanted to be more acquainted with the art style. The end result is therefore a bit of an amalgam of ideas from the manga and the anime.
One of the things I found interesting is that there isn’t a great deal of difference between the two characters outlines. As someone who hasn’t got to know them over the course of several volumes/episodes they are basically two guys with long black hair and red armour, most of the differences come from their accessories.
Making sure your characters can be easily identified by their outlines is one of the most important elements of the design process, if people can’t tell characters apart from their silhouettes then those characters need more work done on them, and if that means giving one of them a gunbai and the other a big scroll than thats just what you do. Its also why the Pokemon anime can do the whole ‘who’s that Pokemon’ thing because aside from the ball shaped Pokemon and the butterflies the vast majority are easy to tell apart, not an unimportant factor when you have 500+ to deal with and only a bunch of small sprites to render them (at least originally).
To alleviate the problem for people who don’t know them you place them on the correct sides of the image and have the backgrounds match whats going on in the top frame, I’ve also had element from the top image run into the lower ones, some of the trees for example and the way the fox’s tail follows the shape of the hair. I have also slightly exaggerated the style of the characters hair making the one on the right marginally more thin and pointy while on the left emphasising the curves
There are a number of things a mat does not like, any piece of art really for that mater, and the two biggest are direct sunlight and oils from human skin. Which is why you will find important paintings behind special glass and while thats a little unreasonable for a playmat there are a number of things you can do to alleviate things.
Originally my mats were au natural it would take the colours days to set, the blues especially with their higher pigment counts would take forever, there had to be a quicker way. So I just started experimenting, I had a relatively good idea of places to start but as you can imagine after spending time creating something using it for testing can make you slightly apprehensive.
The first layer of defence I added was therefore based on observation, it takes time to set the colour is there a way to speed that up? Thats all the reaction seal is really about, speeding up the drying time, it also has the added benefit of removing excess pigment that the mat couldn’t absorb.
Seal layer one got added at the beginning of this year, it adds some water resistance and UV absorption and acts generally as a stabiliser for the colours. don’t use hairspray though contrary to what teachers tell you that doesn’t actually do much and in this instance can damage the colours depending on your medium.
Seal layer 2 has only been used on two mats so far and was more of a gamble, you cant use lacquers or varnishes directly on the colour because depending on your medium they may melt it. Still I wanted something extra on top so whent for a product thats meant to add a sort of plastic layer to things. Again it adds to the water resistance and UV absorption, its also supposed to be a gloss finish but is a little hard to tell after adding the previous layer.
The mat and the colours themselves also have a element of water resistance built in, the only thing you should avoid is getting the mat wet and then rubbing it to hard.
In the end the main factor of the lifespan of a mat like any piece of art or clothing is how well you look after it, don’t leave it in direct sunlight to long, and try and avoid to much rubbing.
Next time, er, I dunno 2013 mat 10 I guess, and maybe i tell the story of how I number things.