Vaporeon Friendship is Magic Custom Playmat: A Look at Depth of Feild

Today I’m going to look at the Vaporeon Friendship is Magic Playmat and talk a bit about something I seem to have managed to avoid having to use on most of mat mats, depth of field.

Field zero:

The mat came out of nowhere and initially I was slightly sceptical, what was I going to do with a set of instructions like these?

  • Main focus Vaporeon – Ok fair enough, I can do Pokemon mats.
  • My Little Pony characters – Um, not where I was expecting this to go but ok.
  • Rainbows – I don’t think the weather conditions have ever been a requirement before.
  • Unicorns – ???
  • Pink, lots of it – I’m sensing a pattern here.
  • Its a present for someone under 10 – That explains a lot, ok so if it wasn’t obvious from the fact its a Pokemon mat lets keep things family friendly.

In my head I was drawing a blank, Vaporeon was there smiling at me but what were the ponies doing and how do you fit a load of rainbows in?

Rainbows, rainbows… well I can’t just have them appearing for no reason so how do they appear in real life? Rain obviously, and waterfalls, well Vaporeon is a water type so… hot springs episode?

Ok lets do this.

Field one: 

We will start things off just after drawing the final design onto the mat. In terms of the colour scheme I’m initially thinking pastels so lets start lightly shading the areas that are definitely going to be in shadow.

I’ve been doing much research lastly and one of the things I noticed was that I seem to have gotten away with not having to do much in the way of depth in my mats, especially the older ones or those with patterned backgrounds. While it wasn’t one of their requirements I have added:

Attempt to create a sense of depth.

To the list of project requirements. I’m going to do about that in two major ways the first comes at the design stage and explains the pink grid over this image.

The first thing we need to work out is were the horizon is, for the sake of simplicity lets say its the red horizontal line at the center of the picture but it could be at any height, if it was one of the lower red lines the it would seem like we were looking down at the scene conversely the higher the horizon the more it will seem like we are looking up. I would say the real horizon in the image is about where the shortest line just above the central one is we are almost looking straight on but not quite.

Next you want to find the vanishing point. It will be somewhere on the horizon the point in the image where all the diagonal lines converge. In this example its dead center but the actual images vanishing point is up slightly and to the left.

With those two things figured out you go about filling the scene, if you want an object to be closer to the observer make it big say Vaporeon herself since she is the main subject. Need to make it look like something is distant make a bunch of them getting progressively smaller as they get nearer the vanishing point, there are three sizes of tree in this image the large foreground blue ones the medium mid-ground orange ones and all the tiny ones in the background. This is how we trick the brain into thinking the objects in the image exist at different distances when really its all just a bunch of lines.

Field Two:

It’s not just scale the brain uses to work out distance it also relies on the intensity of the colours.

What would you say was closest to us in this image? The tree on the left and flowers on the right most likely. On the other hand the brain expects the stuff in the distance to be lighter more washed out or hazy.

Which is somewhat convenient for game developers when you think about it, imagine if they couldn’t get away with lowering the level of detail and texture quality as the distance from the player increased.

If your eyes are really good you might even notice that I’m halfway through colouring the image and have already drawn in everyones eyes. If I’m going to colour the image like this example though the pastel idea is somewhat out the window, but then I don’t really like leaving white space anyway.

Field Three:

Initially the blue trees all had quite stark white highlights but I’m gradually replacing them with light blues since the the closest objects should have the highest amount of colour in them anyway.

The trees aren’t just the foreground they also serve as a boarder one I have extended across the top of the image using a darker sky colour. The end goal being to give the impression of a tunnel or the sense your being draw inwards, we don’t want the eye escaping

Unconvinced by the blue of the sky it;s likely the next thing to be axed, well we do need more pink in the image after all. I’ve even managed to sneak a unicorn in, which may be surplus to requirements with two of the pony’s covering that base

The only thing that could sink this depth experiment at this point is twilight, she was fine in the sketch but no with the lake fully defined if I draw the water up to her chin its going to look like she’s at the same distance as the trees behind her, if I don’t I have to find something to so with her arms.

Finally for this section this may be a post about depth but that doesn’t mean there aren’t spirals in this image, at least two major ones but I’ll leave you to find them for yourselves.

Field Four:

Making the sky more dynamic had the added benefit of letting the mountains be slightly darker. Which in turn meant the waterfalls had to be filled in more, to be honest I think its better as it lets the white water around the rocks pop more, after that naturally the rainbows have to get brighter and one thing leads to another and you have a cascade of colour intensity upgrades radiating out across the image.

This has shrunk the space slightly, since the back of the image now seems smaller to us but I’ll trade that for more detail and a more vibrant image since we didn’t lose the sense of depth,

The Twilight conundrum in the end was an easy fix I just added a rubber ring. Ok she might have a bit of an issue getting it off but it gives her something to be doing with her pose that the initial sketch didn’t have.

The finishing touch was to make sure Vaporeon didn’t end up looking evil, a concern that had raised its head after revealing the initial sketch. All early evee’s have this issue its to do with the fact they don’t have whites of the eye. To avoid the issue I’ve increased the size of the eyes to give a sense of youth and also tried to blend in purples and greens to give them more depth. To really make sure I added massive highlights and flowers, perhaps all the pink was getting to me.

So I think thats about it for today, theres more to talk about but best to keep them for other posts, I think I met the goals I set out for this project, I definitely learner a lot along the way so hopefully going forward you will see more focus on depth.

Next time lightning strikes.

Until then it’s more of a mauve.

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