Avengers Custom Playmat

Finally I can talk about a mat I created over two months ago, now I just need to remember what I wanted to say about it…
Lets start with the basics; Birthday present so basically top secret, luckily I had a pretty good idea of which characters they preferred which explains this particular lineup. I also knew that doing it in a similar style to the Batman mat was something they would prefer, and now we can have Marvel Vs DC when they play against each other.
On my side I knew I wanted to try something other than a black background and that I wanted to push the design further in other ways too although I wasn’t sure what they were yet. With all these things considered and after much research we skip past the initial sketch and go straight into looking at the production
1. Much like the Batman Mat I have used tape to mask off areas in order to lay the large red area down quickly, also like the batman mat I have to build a stencil to mask off the logo, except this time I have to be much more precise, which is tricky with masking tape especially the tight angles.
I have also started blocking in the general shapes with a pale pink, mostly on the red areas while in figure 2 i do the same with the rest. The advantage here is that if you make a mistake it doesn’t matter because the colours will be lost under the finished image anyway.
3. I start shading the red areas since red seems to be the most dominant colour in the image. Ideally you should probably lay down basic block colour for all the elements of the image before starting on the shading but I don’t know what the background is going to look like yet and also don’t feel like working on certain characters just yet.
In 4 and 5 I move on to the blues since there is also quite a few of them in the image, I skip Wolverine for much the same reason as the previous paragraph, typically if there is an element of the image I’m leaving until later its because I want to give myself more time to think about how to do it, and Wolverine’s costume and pose was one of the most time consuming parts of preproduction. I went through half a dozen different poses (remembering that they also had to work in the context of the small space he had to fit in) and several different styles before settling on this final one.
As we are woking on blue anyway at this point I figure I will also darken the reds while I am at it and add some purple to act as shadows, although I’m still not 100% on where the light source actually is yet.
6. I finally start on darkening and shading Wolverine, I’ve gone with his costume from the 80’s cartoon partly because its one of the more iconic ones but mainly because thats the version I grew up watching so its easiest to remember. Also because it felt he would look a little out of place if everyone else in the image is wearing their costumes and he was just wearing a leather jacket.
Aside from the fact Iron man was always in the middle the final layout came quite late. Thor was initially on the other side and Spiderman wasn’t always upside down. Having decided on the final layout of the characters I still had no idea what the background would look like however after working on the mat for a while I did know that i wanted the cells to be more integrated than the other mats. Part of that comes though in the way Hulk is trying to break out of his and Captain America is clearly in front of Scarlet Witch but I also wanted the background to cross the whole image as well.
7. In the end I decided to just wing it, Spiderman was clearly hanging from something he needs a building behind him, Scarlet Witch may as well share it since she is flying, lets just use the cell wall as a marker and draw parallel lines from that. We also have an image where the center character is at the bottom of a v shape so the other lines can run in that direction and then boom you have yourself your first building.
8. the rest of the background fell into place quite easily after that, many of the buildings are inspired by the skyline from the Avengers movie and I even managed to get Stark Tower and the Baxter building in there. The hardest part was maintaining the perspective, both sides had to work their way down to a vanishing point somewhere behind Iron Man’s head. And yes it is another orange sky, but there was no way I was doing a blue one when i had the opportunity to do skyscrapers with orange reflections.
9. Now the background was done and I have a better idea of where the light and shadows are going to be I start working on the areas I have left up to this point. Another thing this mat shares with the batman mat is that many of the characters are a blend of both the movie and comic versions, Iron Man’s reactor cover for example was triangular for a while but in the end I decided that I preferred the round one similarly Thor is mostly based on the movie version as is Captain America. That said I’m not all that fussed about exact costume accuracy, the most important thing for me is ‘can you look at the image from across the room and tell who these people are?’ After that you can get into the minutia of things if your that way inclined.
10. I’ve skipped ahead a bit because it was mostly finishing touches and colouring the logo but the important thing here is that after walking past the mat while letting it dry a great many times I came to the conclusion it wasn’t dark enough. Taking a major risk because my stock of remover was quite low I just went in with a black and started darkening things. A risky move to be sure but it worked out, the image definitely needed to be darker since the light is coming from behind the characters. Really they should be in even more shadow than this but then you just end up with a bunch of black cut outs so you have to take some liberties with physics.
11. I finish up the hands, start on the magic effects for the two casters and do some line work, I have also toned the black down a bit on Iron Man’s armour since I had a gold colour I decided to use that instead. Between this and 12 I add the eyes, do some shading with a bunch of different colours to tie everything in, and add while highlights and Thor’s hammer’s lighting effects
Finally here is a scan of the mat, It’s come up a bit darker than the real thing but between this and the image at the beginning you can get a good idea of how the real thing looks  as well as getting an idea of all the little details like the lightning on the hammer, the magic sparkles, or the fish scale effect on Captain Americas outfit (he’s got stubble as well but its more subtle)..
And thats how I assembled the Avengers, well mostly, theres probably another article just about the sketches but we have run long enough for now. I still have a number of other mats to catch up with before we start looking at newer ones again so look out for one of those next week, probably one including other beings that like thunder and lightning.
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