Blackflame Dragons Custom Playmat

This time we are going to look at a mat full of dragons, go through the general steps involved in this mats production .and go over the general Yugioh dragon style guides, but first.
An aside on the nature of mat relocation.
Before that however i must first note that the owner of this mat had it with them at YCS London this past weekend (October 2014) where it was stolen, while there are a number of my mats that I know of that have gone on to explore the world with people other then those who they were originally designed for, in this particular instance its obviously not an ideal situation so if anyone comes across it in their own travels I would be grateful if you let me know, either on FB or the contact form. 
Going forward in addition to the logo, date, and unique number on each mat i will most likely be adding this sites web address. As I have mentioned before i cant help thinking that it would be quite nice to have some way to track mats, even if its just a web form that people can fill in,  it occurs to me that had I known this when I was working on my final year project at university it would be the sort of thing that would be a relatively easy First, assuming of course you could get enough feedback.
And now back to our regularly scheduled program.
Musings on potential apps aside this mat called for the cramming of as many dragons of both Yugioh and Pokemon verities as possible into the space available, while simultaneously maintaing enough room for a complex background. As discussed last time theres a scale limit to how small you can go doing the Pendulum mat first definitely helped get me in the right frame of mind. Design wise Its relatively straightforward to take a group of characters and squeeze as many as possible into the available space, i have done it before myself with both the Vampire and another mat I don’t believe I’ve talked about yet. It’s mostly a process of Tetris-ing everyone until you find poses that look right and fit the correct scale while working within the golden ratio layout for example. On the other hand having to get sixteen characters to fit on a background that the viewer has to be able to parse mentally as an actual object is a tad more difficulty and requires slightly more in the way of design preparation
Your initial sketches are going to have to take into account things like how the creatures wings have a tendency to make them at least twice their body size and can obscure large parts of the background for minimal gain. theres a good reason a number of dragons are placed around the edges of the mat for example.
All the colours of the rainbow, well five anyway, if one of those is dragon.
Thumbnail sketches done the first thing I started on was the background. Strangely it felt a bit like I was working on a cycle of basic land for Magic the Gathering. Admittedly though that may have had something to do with both Yugioh and pokemon also having element systems and the fact that the background needed to feature a mountain with ice fire earth lightning and sky areas.
Even all the way back at the twilight mat you could say I have a particular style when it comes to drawing crumbling rock. The glacier, mountain, and lava areas on the other hand did require me to spend some time looking at actual reference material, the way the trees and grass on the lower slope gradually become more spares as the gradient increases or the way the snow and ice build up at the edges of the glacier are not just things I’ve made up but are actual physical phenomena that I have noticed looking at the world around me and reference images.
Most of the time when I’m doing mats these days I’ll work on the full scale sketch that includes everything in it and go from there. In this instance however I wanted to make sure I had a real place fully designed before I started adding the dragons. Doing it the other way could have meant large blank spaces opening up in the background if i suddenly decided that I didn’t like the placement of one thing or another which would have then needed filling back in and thats just more work, also you cant always guarantee you will get the same look.
After the jump we look at turning Pokemon into Yugioh dragons and finish going through the process of describing how I went about making this mat, theres pictures and everything.
What a big nose you have. All the better to impale you with.
With the background done the next task was to go through and Yugioh-ize the Pokemon. its actually a relatively easy process in some ways, at least when it comes to dragons because Yugioh’s particular brand tend to follow a pretty strict style guide which seems to read as follows, assuming the person who wrote it is mildly sarcastic:
If you have wings you will likely have some sort of bizarre protrusions from what on birds would be the wrist joint. It could be anything from spikes to engines and/or assorted gems or other paraphernalia. In addition the chances are quite high that the bones that make up the wings will be highly visible and/or made of metal even if your not a skeleton dragon.
Next up we come to the head area and if your a Yugioh dragon you can look forward to having either some sort of pointy nose protuberance or a large angular chin and/or some sort of spiky looking assemblage of horns or skull extensions. Like the wings chances are you will have at least one gem inset into your head somewhere.
In terms of the body chances are high that no mater if your made of metal, stone or some from of sentient plant you will have an overlapping armoured section somewhere about your person even if its just the tail. Theres also a high chance that this armour will cover your chest and again your likely to be covered in gems, or spikes or some sort of lined area that just so happens to be a complementary colour with the rest of your colour scheme.
Finally if your a fire monster you will either be literally made of fire or your background will make sure that concept is clearly apparent.

Sticking to these principles I worked my way though the Pokemon that would be on the mat. Gradually nudging them more into line with the style we are going for. This Tyranitar for example gets his normally rounded edges made angular with added spikes (1). The various holes in his body get adjusted slightly I wanted those on his legs to be more vent like (2). He already has lines on his chest so we can just extend that element all the way down and along the underside of the tail (3). Obligatory gem in the forehead, the head gets a slight shape change (think Blue Eyes White Dragon) which lets me add the ridges above the eyes (4). Finally we dd a pointy chin and fill the mouth full of needle like teeth (5).

When i was finally done with everyone I had a large pile of sketches that could be scanned in and added to the background design.
Gestalt mode.
The next phase was slightly complicated by, as you may have noted, the fact that the various combatants are mostly fighting within elemental groups, if your aligned with the ice element for example chances are your over in the glacial area mixing it up with other of your kind. It took some time to move things around scale and flip them until i was happy with how everything was looking, just play around in your image editor of choice moving layers about until you get things roughly how you want them. Next up we print the resulting image out and redraw the whole thing in an attempt to make sure the various characters looked as if they were in the space rather than pasted on top. which as it happens is the main downside to this approach.
A few more passes between the computer and physical sketching and finally I had the design laid out on the mat. I could finally start on the colouring.
You’ve got a point.
My comment about pointillism last time wasn’t just a throw away remark.After initial colour being applied to the background i spent a great deal of time drawing dots all over it to add an element of texture. The benefits are that you have more control of the flow of the materials if your only applying tiny dabs. On the other hand you do have to be a bit careful of RSI, not so much on individual projects but if pointillism is your whole deal then yeah get a wrist brace or something I guess. The trees were done in much the same way, darker dots were set down and then a lighter colour was applied over the top to give the impression of depth.
The design probably doesn’t need trees and houses but they help to tell the eye what the scale is, much like the Pokemon in the background work a bit like scale birds, the artist is trying to show the audience that something is big by showing them something they should know the size of to compare it against.The use of little dots also extends to the reflections in the water and some of the scale textures on the dragons themselves. I’m not sure of the likelihood of doing an entire mat this watt though.
Blue is the new orange.
For once we also have a blue sky, mainly due to the fact orange and green were off the table because of the colours I had already used in the image. The way it lightens towards the center is mainly an attempt to draw peoples attention inwards, while the creatures are roughly placed in a spiral the main layout is just a straight rule of thirds grid.
Once the main colouring is done I work on the spell effects which in this instance is mainly just the ice beam attacks so thats quite straightforward, even if it does seem a bit unfair Trishula gets three beams to everyone else’s one. all that done its time to seal it and we are done.
For a few dragons more.
If this mat doesn’t turn up i will likely be called on to create a second version which will be interesting since I don’t normally do repeats. Luckily I tend to keep all the working files and materials involved in a mats production so I wont have to start over from scratch. It will be interesting to discuss what changes and differences there are between the two images so that will be fun. As to why I call it the Blackflame mat thats mainly due to the fact Horus breathing fire seemed like he was one of the inspirations behind the who project.
Next time either skeletons or more Pokemon. Until then keep your style guides handy.

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