If you were around for the Halloween contests, you know I love Falkor. Despite the fact that he's an icon for '80's kids, there's surprisingly little merchandise out there celebrating him, or Never Ending Story in general for that matter. I wanted to make something Falcor I could wear casually, since putting on an entire dragon body is not very workplace friendly.
I've also been waiting to incorporate animation cel painting into an Ible for some time now, and this seemed like a good opportunity. I'll be painting the main component of the necklace (a cartoonified version of Falor) using the same techniques Disney, Warner Bros., and Filmation used to color your favorite childhood cartoons!
If you've ever wished you could have accessories featuring your favorite cult or cartoon characters (Ren & Stimpy earrings, a Sheera brooch, a Butthead x-mas ornament, etc), after reading this Ible you can!
Step 1: You Will Need....
1 sheet Crystal Clear Shrinky Dinks plastic
Ultra Fine Point Black Sharpie
Fine tip paint brush(es) and a cup of water for rinsing
Craft Acrylics (white, black, brown. Pink and lavender optional)
Access to a printer and Photoshop (or other drawing software)
Clear Acrylic Sealer (spray on or brush on)
Jewelry chain with clasps
Jump Rings that match your chain
Needle nose/ Jewelry Pliers
Step 2: Create a Template
Gather Reference Images. There actually aren't a lot of great full body images of the Falcor puppet. Past the rib cage, things get pretty ambiguous. For a project like this, the most important thing to get right is the face. You want your character to be clear and recognizable. The body can more or less be made up based on what you remember from the movie or can cobble together from multiple images.
Create a Photoshop document with extra room to work. I started with an 8.5 x 11 canvas even though I knew Falcor would not consume all of that. Give yourself extra space to place reference images or do side doodles.
Pull in your primary reference image and lower the opacity to 40%. The clearest full head reference I could find was this digital painting (artist unknown --thanks whoever you are). If your referance art happens to be the artwork of another person, be sure to make significant alterations so that the piece becomes your own and not just a rip-off.
Simplify as you trace. Do not attempt to get every little wrinkle or windblown hair. Utra tiny details will be very difficult to paint later on. Notice that I did not do every little tooth. Capture the most important lines and convey the features that really sell this character.
Based on your head size, draw out a long, serpentine body. For the purposes of hanging on a necklace, make sure the tip of the tail is approximately at the same height as the head. Think about making a very loose "W" shape. If you need additional reference to give you a starting point, you might look to artwork of Chinese dragons and sea serpents.
Re-size for Print. You want to print as large as possible since your shrinky dink will be only 1/3 the size of the original. The 11 inch canvas we started with is actually a good length. Select your line work and scale up to consume almost the whole length of your document. If you wish to crop out the excess document height, you may.
Marks for hanging.Make a dot at the base of the ear and another near the tip of the tail. Pull down PS ruler guides to ensure your dots are at the same height (so your necklace will hang level).
PRINT. If your printer dictates that you "fit to page", that's fine. Your image will still be over 10 inches and nice size for tracing. You can try overriding the "fit to page" suggestion and see what you get first.
Step 3: Image Transfer
Now that you have your fabulous Falcor printed out, we're going to transfer him to Shrinky Dinks plastic.
Secure template to a smooth drawing surface with removable tape.
Use "Crystal Clear" Shrinky Dinks,NOT white or frosted. You need a transparent surface in order to trace your design. You can see through frosted well enough to trace, but it will affect the appearance of your paint colors later.
Shrink Dinks sheets are only 8 x 10, so lay the plastic on top of your template diagonally to fit. Secure with removable tape.
Before you begin your work, you'll want to put on a cel painting glove.This can be made by cutting the first 3 fingers and thumb off a thin cotton glove. Your thumb and forefinger are then free to manipulate your drawing /painting tools, but your pinky remains covered to avoid smudging your work and leaving fingerprints on the cel or plastic.
Trace your template image onto the plastic using an Ultra Fine Point black Sharpie or a Micron pen. I like the opaque black ink of the Microns, but it can be more difficult to work with and easier to smudge. Sharpies will do a fine job for your shrunken final product even though they appear somewhat transparent on the initial trace.
* Work from one end to the other to avoid sticking your hand in your ink! If you're right handed, work L to R. If you're left handed, work R to L.
Remember to transfer the dots at the ear and tail that you marked for the hanging holes.
When you've finished tracing, lift the edge of your plastic to check for an accurate and complete trace. Go back and get any lines you may have missed, or go over anything that looks too thin. Do not remove your tape until you're sure you got everything the way you want it.
Step 4: Cutting and Punching
To free your artwork from the larger plastic sheet, we'll be doing a 2 step cutting process. You can go straight to scissors if you like, but I find that this 2 steps procedure minimizes unwanted tearing and jagged edges.
Using an X-acto knife, cut a path just outside your artwork.Generalize the shape-- don't try to mimic your line work exactly because this will likely result in unwanted cuts into the artwork itself.
Press firmly enough that you have good control of the blade, but not so firmly that you cut right through the plastic. Shrinky Dinks plastic is thick, and it would be tough to get all the way through with the knife and do a clean job.
Once you have made a complete path with the blade, go back in with small nail scissors and cut along the path. Your pre-cut should make this scissor work go very smoothly. The plastic should come away easily and with a clean edge. If your nail scissors are curved, try matching the curve of your scissors to the curve of the path for the best results. * Take special care in tight corners to avoid tearing. If you have a long piece of loose plastic trailing behind you, cut it away before going around a corner.*
You'll end up with a plastic replica of your template art, with a small invisible border around it.
Remember to punch your necklace hanging holes BEFORE this goes in the oven!
Center a hole punch over the dot you marked on the ear. Press firmly to punch. Sometimes Shrinky Dink plastic takes 2 tries to get a complete punch. Repeat with tail dot.The holes may seem awfully large, but after the piece shrinks they'll be a nice size for jump rings or cord.
Step 5: A Quick Bake
Lay a sheet of brown grocery paper on a cookie sheet. Place Falcor on the paper to avoid sticking to the metal pan.
Follow baking instructions in your Shrinky Dinks pack. Mine said 325 degrees for 1-3 minutes, or until the piece flattens out.
* While you wait for your piece to shrink, get some toothpicks ready. In the event that your plastic does not entirely flatten back out, you can gently press it flat with toothpicks while it is till hot.
Step 6: Cel Painting
Flip your cooled plastic piece over to the back. You'll do all your painting on the BACK, working in layers. This may look like a lot of text and photos to sift through, but the process is actually pretty fun and doesn't take that long.
1) Begin with the smallest features, in this case, the eyes and teeth. Using the tiniest paintbrush you have, or the point of the toothpick,dot paint into the areas or the eyes and teeth.
2) Flip over to check your work. If you went way outside the lines, you can wipe excess paint with another, slightly moist, tiny paintbrush. You can also wait until it is dry and scrape away mistakes with a toothpick.
3) Once those are dry, move on the next largest features, in this case the irises and tongue. It doesn't matter if some of your tongue color blobs into the teeth color because your white teeth details are already in place. Since our line work in of the FRONT of the plastic, nothing you do on the back will obscure those details.
If you've allowed for an area of scales (they can be seen in some shots of the movie), I think that's a great opportunity for some glitter. I highly recommend Stickles brand. Since the work we're doing is SO tiny, I squirted some glitter out on to some scrap paper and used my tiny brush to apply it. Even the very fine tip of the glitter bottle was just too big.
4) I applied a network of half moon shaped scales going down the body stripe. As the tail got thinner, I resorted to dots of glitter.
5) While those glitter scales dry, you can paint in the white of the head and feet. Since they're at an extreme end of the piece there is little risk of smudging your wet glitter.
*As you get into the larger areas of painting, note that you will dab and push the paint around, rather than "brushing" it on. Brushing, like you would painting a house, will result in thin and streaky color. Dab and Push! The acrylic will be thick, but that's a good thing here.
Take a look at the painting photos. Notice how you can layer your main body color over all your other paints and everything still looks perfect when you flip to the front. Cel Painting Magic! I painted a Mickey at Disney World when I was 10 yrs old and this process was actually what made me fall in love with animation.
The background color for your scales is largely up to you. The seem just barely pink in the movie, but I suppose it is up for debate. I mixed a custom light pink acrylic for mine. Its probably a little too bold to be movie accurate, but since this is a cartoon version of Falcor I think it looks ok. If you don't like pink, you could stick with white, beige, or maybe even lavender.
6) Paint your scales background stripe color BEFORE your body color. That way you can be a little sloppier with your main white later :)
7) When this is dry, go in with white and fill in the rest of your body. Don't be afraid to overlap paint since this is your final color. Flip to check for mistakes. If you went outside the lines you can do easy cleanup with a toothpick tip.
Hold Falcor up to the light. If there are thin spots in the paint, you can do a second coat of white body color, focusing on filling in those patches.
Step 7: Sealing
It is advisable to do a quick coat of Clear Acrylic Sealer, either brush on or spray on, to the back when you are finished. Un-sealed acrylics are prone to peeling and tearing. Doing a coat of sealer will help avoid damage while you wear the piece.
Step 8: Make It Wearable
If you want to keep things super simple, you could use thin ribbon or cord to for the necklace. Just tie through your hanger holes, knot securely, and trim any excess ribbon tabs. This may be the way to go if you'd like a softer, whimsical vibe for the finished piece.
I decided to install a chain because I wanted a more finished looking piece.
For chain installation:
Find a chain necklace that you like the approximate length of. Since the chain will be cut, plan for your final piece to hang 1-1.5 inches lower than the chain's current lowest point. See first photo and last photo for comparison.**We will be CUTTING this chain in half, so make sure this is a chain you can alter, not something borrowed from another piece of your nice jewelry.
Find the middle of your chain by lining up the ends near the clasp.
*You may find it helpful to mark your center link with a dot of nail polish so you don't lose track of it.
Snip apart with wire cutters. You will sacrifice your center link in the process.
Thread a jump ring through each new end of your chain.
Now thread each jump ring through your corresponding hanger holes on your character. Make sure your jump rings are spread wide enough to fit over the thickness of the plastic. Trying to force a too-tight jump ring on will risk tearing or chipping your paint job with the sharp metal ends.
Use pliers to close the jump rings.
Step 9: NeverEnding Possibilities
Now that you know how to cel paint, you can create unique jewelry pieces and other gifts featuring your favorite characters, no matter how obscure. If there's no merch on the market, make your own merch! Pictured above are a few other projects I've done using this method; Woody x-mas ornaments for the crew at Brickleberry and a Butthead x-mas ornament for myself.
*Please respect applicable copyrights of tv/ movie characters, especially those currently used in production. This Ible is meant for your personal enjoyment, not to encourage the commercial sale of unlicensed intellectual property. If you choose to sell works involving pre-existing characters, do so at your own risk, knowing a company/studio may have the right to ask you to stop.