I ran across a few threads recently about not knowing what to do with their video game maps. Well obviously the short answer is frame them. And it’s not hard. I frame literally everything we get. But I’m also really, really lazy about it. Since I was rehanging some stuff this weekend, I thought I’d share how I handle it.
Mat Boards and Mounting
Ideally for a nice piece you want to use a mat board between the picture and the glass front. It creates an air bubble so that the piece doesn’t stick to the glass and creates a nice outside border. Ink from photographs can stick if it gets damp while charcoal and pastels will smudge. You can see it here in these professionally framed signed game inserts.
It looks nice and it draws the eye.
Mat boards for big pieces, however, start getting expensive. Since most video game maps and posters are made pretty tough and they aren’t exactly, you know, Egyptian antiques, you don’t have to treat them with archival care. With these things in mind, top-mounting with a nice paper in the background is cheaper, easier, and just as nice looking, I think.
To see the difference a nice mat can make compare the thrown together Kalos map on the left that I just put in a poster frame without finishing the framing to the Province of Skyrim on a slightly off-white background on the right.
Now, the Skyrim map also looks nicer because I went with a fancier frame (that was still pretty inexpensive) in the right tonal range, but I’ll get into that more later.
You don’t have to go with just white, obviously.
This is a graphite piece by my brother-in-law. It’s not properly framed at the moment because it fell off the wall and it wasn’t put back together properly (by someone who wasn’t me and shall not be named), but, hopefully (even in the less than stellar picture) you can see how the red really makes the grayscale pop. It’s a cheap black poster frame and red wrapping paper. It goes with our living room and looks cool.
With this poster I went with black and blue because I didn’t like the way a white mat looked. It’s construction paper that I had up in the cabinet. Since the paper was A4, I was going to have to use more than one anyway, so I used multiple colors to hide the seams. I wish I had had a darker blue, but I think it came out pretty good
The frame is what REALLY amps up a simple poster though. Cheap frames look cheap, but there are shortcuts you can take. You don’t have to go fancy wood or expensive medal. Reference the Skyrim poster from above.
That’s a plastic frame, but it still looks nice and wasn’t expensive. The frame had to be cheap because I needed two. There’s another for Cyrodiil next to it on the same wall. I went with a beige because of the colors in the maps. There isn’t any black. It’s all shades of brown, khaki, and ecru. So picking the right color and style of frame makes a huge difference in a bachelor pad poster versus a semi-classy piece of art.
Check out my recently framed map from the Witcher 3 insert.
Now, this is a slightly nicer wooden frame with fake bronze leafing, but I got it on sale. Joanne’s is pretty much always having a frame sale. So does Hobby Lobby, but…you know….This frame, luckily, came with an ecru mat board, and I could have matted it properly. With the printing to the edge of the paper, however, I thought it looked better like this. The details in the frame make it look more ornate without pulling attention away from the art. The gold frame also blends well with the warm tones of the print making it all look cohesive.
And, obviously, you can go bolder.
I wanted something bright for this poster of our favorite Renn Faire performance group. There were a couple of colors to choose from in this brand (Prism from Joanne’s, which, truth be told, I won’t buy again), and I chose the red because it went with the color scheme in the living room where it was going to be hung. Having framed a couple of cartoon and comic book panels before this, I can attest that a thick black plastic frame looks really cool on prints kinda like this.
Things Other Than Posters
This was the most interesting thing I did recently.
I’m actually going to redo it with and actual shadowbox/jersey frame when I can justify dropping the $40 on it. For now it’s just an imperfect poster frame. It contains the shirt that my husband got when he was working Dragon Age:Origins as it’s centerpoint.
Then I included our other Dragon Age stuff.
The art card we got signed and the picture we took at Pax South.
The map of Ferelden that came with the Origins Deluxe Edition, and an added little corner decoration of Varric and Cassandra cut from the Game Informer that ran the first story on Inquisition. A couple of things have shifted inside the frame due to gravity, so I need to fix it. It’ll probably wait until I get the new frame, though.
So that’s the long and short of it.
I did our new ReCore poster today, and now it just needs to go up on whatever bit of spare wall we might have.
I’ve been working on this pattern for a few weeks, and I finally finished it. I just started laying it out last night, and I’m hoping to have it stitched up within a month. The pattern isn’t complicated, but it’s pretty big (about 12 in) across.
While I work on it on my time, I’m officially putting it into a sort of open beta. If you would like to give this pattern a try, scroll down for a bug list and the link to the pdf.
Current Bugs in the Pattern:
C-Stitch doesn’t understand the idea of white thread on black aida, so the above overall grid doesn’t show the white outline properly. The pattern itself is symbols, however, so no problems there. I have to go back and fix it in Illustrator.
I’m fairly certain I’m going to be including some gold metallic back-stitching, but I won’t make that decision until I finish it.
The colors I picked are a best guess as to what’s going to work, but when they’re actually stitched up, we’ll see if that’s the final color map.
I may end up including some half/quarter stitches to even out some of the roundness in the horns and face.
We finally went to the Renaissance Faire. While I was there I took some pictures of us in our garb. Permit me, if you will, to show you and discuss how I made it.
Husband is, by default, already a little bit of a wizard, so he doesn’t need much to go full mage.
Apart from the hat, this is actually his pirate garb. The pants and shirt are just old clothes from Goodwill modified. The black coat is a dress cut and re-hemmed. The hat I made from a wide-brimmed costume hat and fabric. The staff was a gift from our friends for his birthday last year and was made by our friend’s dad. It was his idea to put the red scarf on it, and it’s not bad.
There’s a lot going on with my garb because I don’t know what the hell I’m really doing. I’m going for vagabond mage with a jaunty hat, and I don’t know, it kinda works, I guess.
The brown robe was where I started. It’s actually a robe I made for Alex for his old wizard garb. I dyed it brown, undid the trim and re-hemmed it. Then I added the white cuffs to give it a little extra length. The purple-blue overshirt looks less impressive in photo form. It’s that color shifting fabric, so it shifts its hue depending on the light. It started life as a basic men’s dress shirt. I butchered the straight collar to give it a more pseudo-mandarin collar shape and removed the sleeves. The shirt itself was actually a size too small, but since I was wearing it open, that wasn’t really a concern. The rest is just tank top, leggings, and boots.
The gauntlet I discussed making a little while ago, and the staff is an older project using PVC pipe (that I thought I had already posted about, but maybe I didn’t). I simply changed out the bauble on top.
The jaunty hat was the surprisingly challenging part.
This was the inspiration.
This is a screengrab from Dragon Age: Inquisition.
Making my own that worked in real life was a little tricky, at first, but came together once all the parts were there. This is how it began life, an old straw hat from Goodwill.
I sewed up a quick hat band out of some scrap material.
I hand stitched it into place on one side.
A sprig was glued onto the side that would eventually get turned up. This was some stuff I had leftover from when I was planning out bouquets for my wedding a year and a half ago at this point. This is why you should never throw anything away. I then hand sewed the band into place.
Turned up the brim on the sprig side and slapped on a button I had laying around.
There are still a lot of little things I want to work on. I think I’d like to play with my makeup more. The day of I always end up giving up and giving in to a basic blah, but there’s more to it. This much I remember, at least, from my theatre days.
This weekend we were supposed to be at the spring Renaissance Festival. Then the ice-pocalypse swept through the southern US, and we were hit….sort of. Enough that it was just a little too chilly and just a little too wet for us to want to go. So we stayed home, and we’re going next weekend instead.
For the fall faire, if you’ve been with me that long, we play our pirate characters because we go with a big group. For spring faire, we have other characters that are a little more “us.” Husband has always been a spell caster, and last year I joined him in that venture, trying to mesh it with my traveling swordsman from years past. This resulted in what we called our “pop art” mages, and they were okay, I guess.
So, because “okay” is not acceptable, I ended up overhauling mine with a more solid vision. This means I made fourish new pieces. This is one of them.
Dragon scales are one of those funny things that can be as complicated or as easy as you want. No one knows what dragon scales look like. Whatever.
Start with these little wooden ice cream spoons. They’re a few dollars for a 100 count at my local store. My one gauntlet used about 50.
You will also need:
two contrasting colors
weathered wood crackle paint
Paint the color that you want to be the “cracks” in your scale as the first coat on both sides. I used a light buttercream color with the intention of putting a green over it, but a dark color under light works well, too.
Paint a thin layer of the weathered wood crackle paint on the side you want to be the top of the scale. It’s super important that you let it dry completely or the effect won’t work properly. Here’s a spoon turned to ever so slightly catch the light to show how that crackle medium dries. It works by creating sections that won’t hold the next layer of paint leaving the base coat peeking through.
Paint the top coat. I used a green mixed with just a little metallic gray. You can’t tell in pictures, but it gives it an extra bit of sparkle.
4. Paint the gloss varnish on top.
I went back and added a latte color on the underside as a personal taste thing because I thought the buttercream was too light but whatever you fancy.
Cut the handle of the spoon off leaving you with a bunch of little round scales.
Making the Gauntlet Base
Now, because this was intended to be a soft, non-articulated, mostly ornamental, magic gauntlet, I was satisfied to use a piece of fabric for the gauntlet base.
Here are some people who have made much more intricate patterns for more intricate gauntlets
Keep in mind that when it comes to small items I’m what I like to refer to as an “organic sewer” (i.e. patterns? what are those?). I make very broad, blocky plans, then work on the fly from there to fit the shape I’m looking for.
I plotted it out on newsprint then tried it on. After that I made adjustments as necessary. It was a little bulky around the wrist, so I ended up adjusting the shape at the top so that it cut around my pulse point and did a little trimming around the finger edge. Since I was planning to do a bias edge, I didn’t need to account for a hem allowance. After getting the shape down, I cut my fabric to match it.
The fabric I used is a faux suede with a wool backing. I didn’t want my gauntlet to be too hot, so I ripped the wool parts off but for a stripe down the middle. Then, I added a bias style edge to the part that was going to be the tied up edge.
Then it was time to put in grommets. If you’ve never done so, it’s super cathartic.
After putting in the grommets I did a bias edge on the bottom then an overcast stitch on the remaining raw edges.
Putting it All Together
Layering the scales is what makes the effect work. I knew that I only wanted strip of scales along the top, but the technique can be applied over any surface.
Plan it first. That’s important. When you fasten the scales you have to do it from the bottom up, so there’s not a lot of room for error.
Once it’s planned, start on the bottommost row, and work your way to the top. This particular fabric holds glue really well, so I used hot glue along the top edge of each scale. This gives it motion and flexibility.
Now, here’s tricky part, and that’s figuring out the unfinished edge. This is what I did.
Other things could be a ribbon or gemstones or some kind of floral element maybe?
Anyway, I also finished it off with a velcro band (yeah totally cheating) that goes around the palm part, and now it looks pretty cool with a wizard staff.
Yesterday we had the pleasure of going to PAX South. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a gaming convention. When we won the tickets, I considered the possibility of cosplaying. Then looked at my calendar. Nope. So I told Husband he was to wear his Mega Man shirt I made him. I just needed something to match. Our first thought was Protoman or Rush or Dr. Wily to fill out the franchise. Then I was like, nah. Mega Man may be one of his favorite games, but it’s not mine. Mine are Zelda, Bioware, and Elder Scrolls games. So, of course, I needed to make a Dragon Age shirt. Which means I needed to make a Dragon Age:Inquisition shirt.
I’ve always used wax paper for my bleach and painted shirts. However, in the past I’ve had a hard time getting crisp lines with the kind of stencil I was planning, so I thought to try a different material. The internet told me about plastic sheeting, and I balked. These were not things I was sure I wanted to spend money on. So I went investigating into various stores, feelings of hopeless seeping in to me. Then I came across an off-brand version of these at Walmart.
I paid $0.66 for a package of five. I thought, well, what the heck.
To get my stencil to adhere, I used a combination of regular old glue school glue stick and hairspray. Glue stick along the edges reduces bleed under, and hairspray keeps the rest down. The glue stick leaves a little bit of a residue, but it rinses out with just a little bit of cold water.
Lay down the stencil and adhere.
Dunk it in a water/peroxide bath.
After doing another rinse and dry, it’s ready to be inspected.
The tiny mistakes along the outside edge the stencil and on the ring finger are more likely user error than glitches in the stencil. It does look pretty nice though.
The second part of the design was a bright green overlay. I decided to try a spray fabric paint for the first time.
Stencil drawn and applied.
Not freaking bad, if I don’t say so myself.
I waited the requisite number of hours, then gave it it’s first wash.
There was significantly more fading from the green paint than I had expected. In certain lights you could barely see anything. I was not happy.
Now, I had two options: go with it, and hope it read better while out in the world or try again.
After a day of consideration, I decided that an event where thousands of people had the potential to see this shirt was a big enough deal that I needed to bring out my A-game. I live to impress, after all.
Back to the Drawing Board
I went darker, first off, opting for a navy blue instead. I had no idea what color I was going to end up with. I keep a list of what color certain shirt colors and brands bleach to, and this one wasn’t on it. Whatever it happened to be, though, I was pretty certain I would probably be able to make it work.
The Bleaching (again)
I had learned that my new stencils worked fairly well, already, so I was confident going into the bleaching for the second time.
Now that is a color I did not expect, but I kinda dig it. There are a few extra spots, but that’s cool.
The Paint (….sigh, again)
I went back to basics, relying on my usual fabric paint techniques.
I mixed up my color with yellow, green, white, and a little gold metallic paints. I initially was shooting for an apple or a lime green, saw that was just a little too bright to blend with the more subdued colors, so I backed off into a more minty green.
I applied the stencil as before, but without bothering to cover for overspray. Even using a sponge, the light color was still revealing a lot of brush strokes, so I used my meager painting ability to make the strokes look more intentional.
After peeling away this is what I have, and I like it even more than the original design that was living in my head. The colors go surprisingly well together, and it’s reminiscent of the tarot card motif found in the game’s artwork.
I did a little clean up work with some more paint and a navy dye pen to fix the rough spots, and it was ready to wear.
I love working with this new material. It’s cheap, effective, easy to cut, easy to clean, and surprisingly durable. Freezer paper still has its use in tear away stencils, but I’ll probably be sticking to this for a lot of projects.
I don’t know man. Reading online, some people seem to really like this spray stuff and it should be great in theory, but I wasn’t able to make it work for me for this project. You can only use it on light fabrics, you can’t mix colors to get the exact tone you want, and there’s a lot of excess spray. The 2.5 oz can only got me through two sprays, making the $4 price tag less than economically ideal. I think if one was painting large areas of a project that didn’t need to be washed often, this might be a good product. Not for me, though.
Now considering I went to a couple of Bioware panels and a signing and got to actually show real Bioware employees who worked on the game this shirt, I’m super glad I went back and redid it.