Super Sonic, DBZ, Bleach Custom Playmat (Or) Striking a Pose

So you want your image to have some dynamism, the characters to show a bit of movement, something that will be a more interesting than having them face forward and stare out of the image at you. Well today we are going to go though a number of ways I go about trying to achieve that while looking at the Super Sonic mat.

Lets start with Ichigo. The brief called for him to be wearing his final outfit so I need to go away and look at what that outfit actually looks like. After making sure I’m looking at the right one and noting things like the way X’s are worked into the design and how the under layer interacts with the top black layer I alsoI notice his sword is quite large so I’m going to have to keep that in mind if I want to get it all on the mat.

So now I know what Ichigo looks like the next thing I need to check is how do people hold swords? its all very well to look at the character your trying to depict but its best to check whats really possible especially if your working with a cartoon character. 

The first technique to improving your characters poses involves running an image search to bring up as many sword poses as possible, depending on the type of sword your tying to depict the search terms might require some finessing but there should be plenty of reference images out there. Take as much information in as possible then start drawing basic figures, stick people will do, just quickly trying out a variety of poses to get a better feel for them.

I’ve already found poses for Goku and Sonic that I’m reasonably happy with but Ichigo is proving more troublesome. Not because I designed them first or each character separately, everything was done on one sheet together all at once, but because sometimes you find an element or elements that just refuse to come together the way the rest of the image has.

If I’m going to stick to this design he’s going to have to fit in the space that is left which in this instance is an L shape.

I draw him charging forward, his head near the bottom of the image, fine but now there’s a huge gap at the the top of the page. Next I draw him sword ready to impale the others but now the whole mat is mostly taken up by weapon and Ichigos arms are off the edge. I work though pose after pose trying to find the one that works best but its still not coming together. 

One more quick look though the references I’ve gathered and I get the idea to flip the image, this gives more more options since now Ichigo’s main hand isn’t constantly getting in the way of other elements or generally causing me problems but I’m starting to think I need to try something else.

Part 2: In Which You Have To Be Fine Looking Slightly Silly.

I find a toy sword, a large mirror and start looking for poses that might both fit the space I have available and look cool and dynamic. The hard part is that the mirror isn’t in the same space I work in and holding a camera and a two handed sword is a rather tricky logistics problem.

What I’m alluding to is this: don’t underestimate the usefulness of props when your drawing and don’t be afraid to look silly. The internet might give you a general concept but you wouldn’t paint a still life without having placed it in front of you or done life drawing without s model so why would you try do any other painting just from memory? Doing the poses yourself also means you can get exactly what your looking for. Here for example after many silly samurai poses I’ve found a way of positioning Ichigo that fills the space practically perfectly.

Don’t have a full length mirror, selfie stick or friend you can talk into posing? All is not lost! It’s time to bring out the toys, i mean collectable action figures…

Unit Zero Struts his stuff.


Those little wooden guys you see in art shops are fine and all if you want a blank human-ish form to work from but I find that since they don’t stand up naturally, being as they are usually suspended in the air by a metal pole in the back, sometimes its easier to use action figures since they’re usually free standing. There are a wide variety of models you could use but the ones I tend to stick with I use because of their range of motion and the way their joints work.

Admittedly if your drawing people robot suits may not be the best choice for accurate limb lengths but this is just an example and Unit Zero here doesn’t get out much. We will be using him to get a feel for how foreshortening is going to affect the size of each body part as we move further away from the observer. He’s not exactly got the same proportions as Sonic so matching that pose is tricky, especially with massive shoulders, but its not like physics and the way our eyes work is going to be diffrent between them.

Got enough toys, I mean miniature non-living life models, why not set up the whole scene.  Or how about building it all in clay, card or whatever else you have on hand, I watched a program once where they explained how a landscape artist painted said landscapes based on models he built out of things he found around the garden with vegetable trees and the like,

What this all boils down to is that it’s much easier to draw something thats in front of you than to have to make everything up from memory. The old masters used to use camera obscures and other clever tools and techniques to accurately transfer a persons appearance to a canvas, admittedly they didn’t have distractions like the internet back then either so spent a great deal of time practising too but that’s the point I’ll be making in a moment the point right now is your brain has a nasty habit of asuming things or downright making stuff up, trust your eyes not what you think you may have seen.

Getting back to the mat. I’ve drawn Goku before, most notably here in the Scryed mat, having had some prior practice meant I could get his pose relatively easily. It did take a number of passes to figure out how his hair should fall weighing up the factors of anime logic vs wind resistance, gravity, and how the viewers brain thinks things should look. 

We want him to be showing effort, powering up or just about to launch into an attack, a large part of this is going to come from the face so naturally another technique has us spending time making funny faces in a mirror but hey that’s what animators at places like Disney do so lets not worry about the people looking at us slightly concerned.

Sonic’s pose was even simpler, I used to draw so many of my characters with one leg behind the other way back in the mists of time, Ie like 10+ years ago, you probably could’ve called it my art style. The tricky bit was getting the foreshortening right and we have Unit Zero to help us there. Sonic’s pose is a bit more linear than the others but we are hoping to add some dynamism to it though the slight twist of the body and the way he is reaching forward out of the image.

And Ichigo? Well in the end  I found that holding the sword like that kept it from covering all the other characters. The L shape I have to fit him in means he has ended up attempting to kick Goku, perhaps we could really have done with slightly more mat just to show where the legs are headed a bit more clearly but the upper body always takes precedence when working at this size. Finally while you cant always replicate how the character looks, I wasnt going to be modeling the outfit for example, we still want things to be realistic from experience we know the long fabric of his upper clothes will move in the opposite direction to the one in which he is traveling. 

And all getting the pose right took were a whole nunch of pictures of us posing we will save in a folder for possible later use, just hopefully not by others against us. 

Part 3: In Which I Talk About The Things That Aren’t Pose Related But In A Way Are.

The backgroud blends elements from all three charcters respective worlds. Primarily Green Hill zone with king kai’s planet and The castle from the ghost city in Bleach. The trick was to make something interesting that wouldn’t distract from the rest of the image.  The zone dips in the middle primarily to create a triangular negative space above it that’s meant to draw your eyes down from the top corners.

In terms fo the lighting I went really heavy on the highlights this time around. In part due to the fact I didn’t just want Ichigo to be a large area of flat black. This led to almost everything including the grass having a line of light running though it and a more realistic rendering of the characters than their typical anime style.

Which brings us to my final point: That above all else, the posing, the setting up scene with models, and all the research, the most important thing is to keep drawing people lots and lots of people, exemplified here by an image showing how the characters looked in two mats from some time ago and how they look now.


Look at the Goku at the top of the image. His pose is very vertically aligned. the line at the center of his chest makes this really obvious. Where as the Goku on on the Sonic mat is built around a S curve that takes that line curves it though the neck and into the left edge of the face. The Ichigo in the top image has a more dynamic pose than the top Goku but could do with one or two tweaks, looking back at him now it sort of feels like his body isn’t quite connected up the way it should be, obviously my understanding of anatomy wasn’t quite as good back then.

Yes in the end the reality is you gotta just keep drawing stuff, want better poses, draw stuff, more detail, draw stuff, and so on and so forth, it obviously works that last image proves it.

And on that sobering thought thats all I have time for today, next time, Um let me think about that.

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