Thursday, March 14, 2019

Painting the backgrounds of Akira


The 1988 animated film Akira (1988) included a lot of detailed city scenes, each of which was a handmade painting, created with brush, airbrush, and poster color.



(Link to video)  Most of the paintings are very small, approximately 9 x 12 inches. To achieve the straight lines, the artists used bridges (straightedges suspended above the painted surface). To make window dots in a consistent row, they used glass rods with ball tips that look like stirring sticks, held in the painting hand next to the brush.


(Link to video) If you're not familiar with Akira, here's an appreciation (thanks, Martinho).
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Paint: Knicker Poster Color (Japan Import)
Video: Akira (English Dubbed)
Book: OTOMO: A Global Tribute to the Mind Behind Akira
Previous Post: Demo by Kazuo Oga
Guide for Painting Perfect Lines (thanks, Daroo)

13 comments:

Susan Krzywicki said...

I linked over to the Poster Color - loved the description, especially this line, " The poster color of Nikka has been walking with the history of Japanese animation."

Beautiful.

Karl Kanner said...

This is so cool.

RozendaalAstrolabes said...

Amazing, I do always love the backgrounds in japanese animation. Must be so tedious to paint those window lights. I thought the backgrounds for studio Ghibli movies and such were made with watercolor though, or were those also done with poster color? What is poster color, is it similar to gouache?

James Gurney said...

Rozendaal, I'm told the Japanese poster color is pretty close to designer's gouache, but it's a liquid paint, sold in jars. Americans are familiar with tempera paint, a liquid paint for kids, but the Japanese paint is higher quality than our tempera. There's nothing like using liquid paints from a jar. We used Cartoon Color cel vinyl paint (which came in jars) for the Fire and Ice backgrounds.

Timothy Bollenbaugh said...

Just heard a music teacher say "music is a slow-cooker game in a microwave world...not an overnight process."

Makes me think of learning to manage color chords, just as you and this post's subjects have.

Timothy Bollenbaugh said...

P.S. Above said in reference to a comment contributor's (concerning art education) observing how parallel between music education and art education might help, re the time, lessons, and constant exercises needed for observing, developing, drawing and painting.

scottT said...

I'm a late comer to anime, but I am constantly blown away by the background painting. The lighting and atmospheric effects are the best I've seen.

D Neiman said...

I've heard a lot from people about how Poster Color is supposed to be some sort of Japanese "magic paint" and how everyone wants it,but I've never tried it myself so I wondering if these backgrounds could've been easily painted with more familiar to us gouache and watercolor and achieving the same result? And people simply going crazy over it because it was used in Japanese animation and not because of a material itself?

PanSpec said...

I don't suppose you've found out a name/label for that "stirring stick" type device, have you? I seem to remember you mentioning it in a much older post.

Daroo said...

Here's the post:
http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2013/01/guides-for-painting-perfect-lines.html

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Daroo. I've added a link to that post at the end of this one. I had forgotten about that explanation, maybe because I haven't actually tried it.

PanSpec said...

Thanks for taking the time to answer. Its kinda funny to discover the name, but only to see it referenced on websearches by the previous article and others saying its discontinued. :) Its kind of like trying to find large ellipse templates - its own kind of dinosaur.

Jeff said...

Jetpens sells 20ml tubes of Nicker poster colour for $4.05 each- not a jar but much cheaper than the sellers on Amazon. The few Ive tried look and handle very much like gouache- maybe a little bit thinner. From watching the Oga video he seemed to start his backgrounds wet into wet with thin washes. This is probably why people think they are watercolor.
The paints are nice but I haven't found anything magical about them. I think someone from studio Ghibli once mentioned that they used these instead of gouache because they were much cheaper in Japan and the studio used a lot of paint.