Kill La Kill Custom Playmat Refresh

Last week I wrote about how I had begun to wonder if I could re-colour some of my older mats. MY FIRST test subject was the Inzektors mat and since I liked how it turned out I immediately set to work on a second re-colour. Today I’m going to Discuss the Kill la Kill mat and some of the main ways I have upgraded it.
Lets start things off by looking back at the original version:
For some reason the first time around I went quite subtle with the colour scheme its all really carefully blended together and then somewhat ruined by my decision to add black outlines around everything. Its not even that they are poorly executed or anything its just that looking back at it now it seems a strange mix of styles.
The other strange thing I didn’t really notice until after finishing the mat was that the contrast between the foreground and background probably wasn’t high enough. What I was aiming for was to have the eye be able to focus on the fiber background, Japanese text, or the image within the text as separate objects. However if the differences between each section weren’t strong enough things tended to run together and become difficult to read especially in busy areas like the section around the two main figures.
 Other than those two minor issues, both of which are based on an increases in knowledge and the passage of time, overall I quite liked this mat it has a neat concept and shows my first steps towards trying to use light and shadow as the main way of defining objects. That’s not to say I cant make some improvements and I will be keeping these two points in mind as I go about re-colouring the image.
 The first thing I did was increase the colour intensity of the sky. I’m not sure why it just seemed to be a sensible place to start and wouldn’t mess too much up if something did go wrong. In the original the really pale area starts quite low on the image that was fine but I’m looking to do a bit more with the sky this time so I start by pushing the darker colours up the page until there’s only a sliver of the pale yellow left at the top. The other reason to darken the sky is because the first time around I had the situation where I had a pale colour on a character then a black outline then a pale sky which isnt ideal for making things easy to see. Making the sky darker means I can keep the edges of the characters relatively light.
The next thing to do was darken the fiber background. The first time around I couldn’t get the black as dark as I would have liked so mixed in red and ended up with an interesting pastern but it still wasn’t as dark as it really needed to be. This time I knew the best ways to make sure the black stays black and on top of that I’m making sure all the edges are as crisp as possible. 
The threads also get an upgrade. Any that are causing major tangent issues with other parts of the image are removed and the rest get a colour boost. Originally just red lines I also decided to up the detail to make them a bit more thread like.
Things get a bit more tricky from here since what I really want to do is move to a much more realistic style but those black lines are going to be hard to shift. Luckly because of the style I’m going for I’m going to need a dark edge on on side of each object followed closely by a light area so I can keep some of the lines as they are. There are two choices here either keep the lines on the right or the ones on the left and I decide on left since that way the light should look as if it is behind them where it should be really since that’s where the sky is.
Also at some point during this process I also decide to add a white line around the edges of the text. This is another way of making the various sections of the image more obvious.  
Finally lets talk about some of the changes to the smaller details in the image.
One of the biggest changes is in Gamagori’s
face. There was always this sense that something wasn’t quite right and while making his chest much darker improved his overall look and helped make him look more loom’y (technical term) I wanted to make him look even more dangerous so changed his mouth. the blood is gone and now you can see his teath he’s gone from looking slightly beaten up to something of a shark.
This naturally lead to a slight change in head shape which made me realize that the angle of his hair was throwing off his pose slightly. Bringing down his hairline makes it appear we are looking at more of the top of his head and improves his menacing presence.
I could have kept his eyes but in the end decided that since I had gone so dark I may as well match them up with the stars on his chest (who knows maybe one day I’ll decide to add them back in). I also got rid of what might have been his ear, the gap between the two areas of the image has to be kept in mind when drawing the characters as it can cause the brain to make things up or draw conclusions you might not want it to and this was one of them that was throwing off how big his head should look.
When you look at the two images of the hand holding the sword you can see how the change from black outlines to shadows and highlights has taken an area that was reasonably well defined to start with and made the detail even more obvious. The best example being the red line on her arm is barely visible on the top image and in the lower one not only can you see it clearly but it also implies that its an object in its own right, a piece of material attached to the rest of her costume. Since I’m keeping the black lines on the right side of objects the left side of objects has to now have a corresponding light line and adding it here to the sword means I can imply the folds of the handle better which again adds to the sense that this thing is an actual object rather than just a picture of one.
I have mentioned before that there are certain scale restrictions on figures due to the materials I use. At the time these were probably the smallest charters I had even gotten onto a mat but looking back now they seem rather sketchy and undefined. 
The first thing that needs doing is deciding on an area that’s going to be in shadow to make it easier to see them and the most obvious choice is the fancy gold braided thing on her shoulder since that should have been in shadow anyway the first time around but then is was going for making her apear a tad more etherial. 
The way the dark area here in the lower image gives Gamagori’s gauntlet a sharp edge with hints of battle damage is one of the clearest examples of how the two styles differ, if I was to try and do the same thing with black outlines it could look good but not necessarily as convincing to the human brain. Anyway with this area darkened we can lighten the figures making it much more obvious from a distance what they are.
I’ve actually made a few more adjustments to the image since writing this post, there was something just not quite right about the white line on the left side of Gamagori’s arm which I couldn’t figure out until I started doing this review and realized it was because it shouldn’t be there at all – the highlight would have been on the blue area next to it not on the arm itself.
And thats the thing really, art is never totally finished, its just a case of putting down the brush at a certain point and them how long it is before you might pick it up again.
Until next time, our work is never over

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