A place to explore the method to my madness.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sailor Moon Stars Poster

One of my favorite anime series of all time is Sailor Moon. And of all of the seasons, the Stars season was my favorite. Although it was never dubbed in English and I never saw it until about 7th or 8th grade, this season has some of the best animation and the most compelling story line.

Cel Animation

On a small tangent, I am fascinated with the process of cel animation for this series. Some of the most beautiful animation and most beautiful cels appear in this season. All of the elements in a scene are on different layers. The background has it's own layer, and character cels are placed on top. If there are multiple characters, they will each have their own layer, and moving parts of their body (such as the eyes or the mouth) will have their own layers as well.
Here is an example from SommerBommer on DeviantArt of some of the various types of cels that were used.
The following video is a short clip of the general process of the cel animation for the Sailor Moon series. Every cel is hand shaded, so imagine all the time it would take to create every one of the 200+ episodes and movies for this anime. I can see why the new Sailor Moon Crystal is digitally animated.

Poster Progress

I can go on forever about all of the reasons I love the Stars season of Sailor Moon, but this post is to show some of my progress on the poster I am working on.

Step 1: Line art for the 8 soldiers from our galaxy

Step 2: Line art for the Sailor Starlights

Step 3: Line art for the full body Sailor Moon
Composition is starting to come together, but not all of the elements are there yet. Add more? Why not. Let's make something super cool and interesting. Go big or go home.

Step 4: Line art for the 2nd version of Sailor Moon
At this point composition is really starting to be solidified. I had to add in a 50% gray background just to see the white line art of the 2nd version of Sailor Moon. I'm playing with doing different things with line art so let's see how this will work out.

Step 5: Painting the background
Digital painting of the Milky Way galaxy. This part will ultimately be visible through the 2nd version of Sailor Moon, so it has to look good.

Step 6: Color swatches for each character
Every character has their own distinct color palette. The bottom 2 color palettes are for 2 characters that I haven't done the line art for yet, but just think of it as a little preview for what's coming.

Step 7: Base color for the characters
Here I am applying general blocks of color. It looks like something is missing and it looks really flat, but this would be something that happened when painting the cels for the original animation.

Step 8: Highlights and shadows for the characters
Shading strictly in shapes is a new concept for me, but I think it's starting to look like the Sailor Moon characters. In traditional cell animation of the anime, shaping in the highlights and shadows would happen before the basic blocks of color. This is one of the things I find interesting about this type of animation; things have to be done backward.

Step 9: Put it against the background
Dark line art and dark shapes against a dark background create some really bad edge relationships that make this design seem flat. Lots of the different character's parts disappear, especially in the hair and dark uniforms of the Starlights. Something will have to be done to fix this.

Step 10: Coloring of 2nd Sailor Moon and edge effects for other characters
To fix my edge relationships, I played around with layer effects. Generally, I hate the use of Photoshop's layer effects and filters, but in this case, I think they actually saved the piece. Weird... As for the white lined Sailor Moon, I chose to do a more transparent type of shading so the background is still visible. Lot's of masking techniques were used here, but I think overall this style seems to help connect the characters to the background.

Step 11: Adding in 2 more characters on the bottom (some repositioning occurring)
The bottom looked boring but a giant Sailor Moon logo would almost be a cop-out for this poster. Since two of the most important characters in the series aren't making an appearance in the poster yet, it's time they did. And what better place to put them than a place that screams for attention.

Step 12: Adding base colors to the bottom characters
The bottom two characters need edge effects too, and of course they need to be colored. I'm using the same method here as I used to color the other characters, so the only thing happening here is the application of base colors.

Step 13: Adding shadows and highlights the two bottom characters. Nudged the two characters slightly to the right (almost imperceptible but it would have drove me crazy if I left it).

If I eliminate the base color layer, this is what my highlights and shadows coloring layer looks like.

Step 14: Creation of vector of the Sailor Moon Stars Japanese logo based on:

Step 15: My final logo from Adobe Illustrator

Step 16: Final placement and edits to logo.

Step 17: Creation of US Sailor Moon logo in Adobe Illustrator

After adding in the last logo and doing some final touches and clean up....

I then printed smaller test prints at about 21 in x 16 in, and then pulled the trigger and had it printed on my school's 44 in roll printer. Here is a look at the final hanging in my dorm room (with someone on the bed of course):

And in case you're interested in what the other half of my room looks like:

UPDATE: Because it was printed on a roll printer and was particularly curly when I hung it, the poster scared the crap out of me at 3:30 in the morning when it curled itself off the wall. It is now rehung with 2x the tape and hopefully will not fall off again while I'm sleeping any time soon.

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