Refreshing a Custom playmat : Inzektors

This mat might look familiar. Way back in the mists of time or 2012 to be exact I created this mat but it looked somewhat different. Today I’m going to look at the Inzektor mat and how it eneded up getting a shiny new look.

The original post for this mat along with a making of video can be found HERE

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There are a number of my mats that over the years for one reason or another I’ve ended up hanging on to. Mostly I’ve been using them as test subjects and while I’m pleased they have maintained their condition all this time occasionally I’ll walk past them and wonder if I should be doing more with them. Well the other week I walked past and thought since they are test subjects why not have a go at seeing if it was possible to remake them in some fashion, to answer questions like how easy would it be to update a mat? What areas would be the most difficult to change?

For this first test I decided to keep it simple. Update the characters in a way more in line with my current style and change any areas I wasn’t completely happy with the first time around. For these reasons I chose the Inzector mat since it’s a relatively straightforward design with a number of areas I would quite like to improve. It’s also the oldest in the group and didn’t have the protective layer later mats have gotten so it should be easier to alter.

The first thing to do is clean the mat. It’s been hanging in a high pedestrian traffic area for 3 years so I assume its probably picked up at least some dust. In the end I find its held up very well, the colours haven’t faded, the pegs holding it to the hanger haven’t caused any permanent depressions (in fact I don’t even have to iron it) and when I start cleaning it I find there is very little dust buildup. I did come away from the process thinking that perhaps in the future I could improve things further by putting them in clear plastic bags and connecting the haners to that.

If your going to clean one of these early mats I advise getting a soft damp cloth and just giving them a light wipe over then letting them dry naturally, they shouldnt be to bothered by water but heavy rubbing may damage them.

 …

Mat cleaned we can start on the refresh proper. The first thing I do in this instance is build a new lighting scheme. In the original there is left, right, and central lights but there’s a bit of a lack of consistency on my part which makes reading that quite tricky so I’m going to cut the central one and rework where many of the shadows and highlights are to make things more ovious and the shading sharper.

With a better Idea of where the light is coming from I can change from flat shaded with black outlines to a more realistic shading scheme where edges are defined by areas of light and darkness. Changing from one to the other does however throw up the first problem, the black lines are rather stubborn and in some cases almost imposible to get rid of fully we will see later how this also afects the design choices for the background.

One of the interesting things I discovered while working on this project was watching areas increase in detail. It was as if their clothes went from old school Standard Definition where creases were sort of implied but not really to modern High Definition where you could have seen the stitches, well if I drew them in I didn’t go quite that far. I guess its a similar phenomenon to how the sketches go though phases of level of detail increases before becoming the final design, but you know, three to four years apart.

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The next thing I wanted to do was get rid of the weapons in the background, no one uses those cards and they pull focus away from the characters. The thing was there’s quite a lot of line work going on in them and I would rather not have to do the entire background black just to obliterate them.Some experimentation later I found I could overwrite them with certain dark colours and then take the background back to light colours by applying them in vast quantity’s over the top of the new dark patches. the downside is that It uses a lot of resources I was just going to have to get creative and think up some other solutions.In the end I decided since I quite like the hex pattern in the background perhaps I could make more of that. We need to lose the oranges and yellows in the background anyway since we want to avoid using colours that are on the characters as much as possible so if we make the hex’s smaller we can use a bunch of blues and greens and any really stubborn lines can be hidden in darker hexes.

I’m still left with some lines that don’t stay in their hex’s though so the circuit pattern from the original scheme comes back to do double duty, add some depth to the background and change peoples perception of what they are looking at.

No those arnt lines from a previous design they are circuits. Sometimes it beter to change somethings meaning rather than the thing itself.

In terms of use of colour in the background other than the dark hex’s to cover things most are random except for the teal hex’s at the top and bottom which are very much placed deliberately to squish the other hex’s further back near the center of the image to create a feeling like they are in a round room with really odd wallpaper.

I also get to finally make it seem like they are standing on something rather than floating in the air which is not only a  big plus but gets rid of an aspect of the original that had been bugging me for a while.

I’m definitely much happier with the final peice after its facelift than I was before I think its a definite step in the right direction. With what I have lernt from this experiment I can start upgrading other mats confident that it is possible, although it does make me wonder if I still have the mat in another 3 years what will I think of it then?

Hopefully I can look back and think there’s so much that can still be improved. Because we should always be striving to improve our skills and learn new things.

Until next time. recolour the past.

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