The Brotherhood Custom Playmat (Or) Time Management

Welcome to the 100 post, there was cake but we ate it all. 

I could have used this post as a retrospective but we already have three of those Here, Here, and Here, so instead today I’m going to talk about another aspect of entropy, time management. I’m going to continue where we started last time by discussing another instance of multiple copy’s of the same mat, in this case the three Brotherhood mats and how I went about making them within tight time limts.

Part Alpha: All the time in the world.

It usually takes me two weeks on average to create a mat especially the more complex designs. A great deal of that time is invested in research and sketching. This discovery phase is then followed by a phase devoted to upgrading the level of detail and generally polishing what will end up as the final one to one scale sketch. Lets say this combined section takes up a third of our production time how do we compress these phases if we are on a tight deadline?

The first option is to get become a better artist, we are on post 100 and there is a definite evolution from the posts at the beginning. Things that would have taken significant time before are now straightforward, ways of working I wouldn’t have though of back then have increased productivity, you do anything enough times your going to get better at it just keep practicing.

Have resources already available. I keep just about everything related to each project it all gets filed away just in case I do need it for whatever reason. In the case of the third Brotherhood mat this saved quite a bit of time since I didn’t have to go back and recreate content meaning I could just get on and start almost immediately on the real mat. 

Work smarter not harder. This one I find slightly more tricky. Know what your goals are and only do what needs to be done. The best example I can give of this is art coursework – Art being a subjective subject the only way you can be marked fairly against others is if you all have to cover the same points. You could make the most amazing piece of art in the world but if you don’t cover, forget, or ignore the requirements laid out in the documentation you could end up scoring lower than someone who puts in very little effort but covers all the bases.

In the case of the first pair of brotherhood mats I had two to three days to get them both done and posted knowing the design brief consisted of the words The Brotherhood on a blue background, and that I had a free reign on the pattern, the quickest and most detailed way to create the design was to do it digitally, the text will be sharper we can play with all the filters and any amendments based on feedback can be made quickly. 

Part Beta: No time like the present.

Having spent a third of our time designing, or in the case of these mats having cut that time right down to something closer to a twelfth or zero for the green one, we now move onto the actual mat phase. This will include applying the design to the material, coloring and line work possibly not all in that order. 

If you don’t have a good grasp on your schedule you can end up rushing this phase or at least parts of elements of it. the major time sink is that you have to work up from the light colours to the dark ones and if you rush you can end up losing the lightest areas. the time investment in this phase also depends on the syle your going for, realistic lighting is going to take longer and require more steps than flat shading, detailed line work done at the beginning may need some time allotted to fix up at the end.

When your doing multiple mats all this stuff increases exponentially. One of the reasons for the production line method outlined last time is that its actually quicker than finishing each separately since you always have the colours you need at hand and have to swap back and forth less.

Still, doing the first two mats I found that there was an awfully large area to cover and not a lot of time to do so which sent me down the path of using my secondary medium more than my primary. which was fine because it does cover more quickly but the time you have to leave between applications for it to dry adds up and if I hadn’t had two to do, one drying while I work on the other, then it would have worked out slower in the end.

for the third mat I stuck to my primary mostly for that reason and partly since I had quite a lot of green spare and could let it flow without worrying to much about running out. 

It definitely felt like the green mat was progressing faster than the original pair. Even with the tighter deadline, this time a day and a half, I found all I have learned in the intervening time speeding me along. 

The next question was, was it going to dry in time?

Part Gamma: Back to the Future.

On the plus side its not going to take as long as the first pair but we still have to dry the white tendrils and stars. this process can be sped up by using an iron it also helpfully locks in colour and evaporates any excess. This is the final phase of the process and can take anywhere from a few hours to a week, depending on how violent your feeling with the iron, so make sure you plan accordingly. 

This phase is finished with a quick application of protective spray, which again is left to dry, and then its all down to the postman or your own legs depending on the distance.

Taking all this into consideration we have these phases:  
Discovery -> Polishing -> Application -> Colouring -> Final Clean up.

Knowing the projects workflow means we can plan for the time available, cut detail to save time, add a month to discovery to spend in a library researching, spend two weeks painstakingly coloring chameleon scales, or whatever. In the end timescale is just as big a player in the design brief as any other detail, especially when you have to slot projects in next to or around each other and the rest of your life.

What it boils down to is weather or not you can accurately tell how long something is going to take, that’s a very useful skill to have. 

Part Epsilon: Like Clockwork.

I’ll finish this post with a brief look at the actual design of the mat. 

Much like the Without a Doubt mats the idea its to get them looking as close to the digital version as possible. we also need to make sure the text is as centered as possible so measure measure measure. For the blue pair I could apply thin layers working from the outside in to build up a gradient I also used far too much black grey and blue and could have saved time by removing the grey layer entirely. For the green mat not having to do the initial design again meant I could spend more time pushing the definition up, the fact I was sticking mainly to my primary medium also led to sharper lines. 

One of the main goals of the blue pair was to make them align when placed opposite each other. this is tricky since the ‘zones’ design runs diagonally and will be flipped when turned around. In the end I added a second set in the background for the other mat to line up their foreground with which gave the design a little more depth. 

The green mat is much the same design wise, as it would be, however there are a number of minor tweaks and improvements to the design many of which strangely came about due to having access to a T Square and drawing board. The plus side of working with the greens is they don’t overwrite each other like the blues do on the other hand I couldn’t go quite as dark so added some line work to the text.

Well that’s been a relatively standard post all things considered. There was going to be fireworks but rain stopped play, just one of those things you can’t plan for I suppose. 

And thats all the time was have for this week, until next time I’ll leave you with a reminder that there was a very good reason everyone thought Scotty from Star Trek was a miracle worker.


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