For indoor- conventions it is possible to equip the location with paintings of plot-relevant content. A portrait of the head of the household, the dead great- aunt who haunts the premises, a concealed clue or just ambiente.
Modern image editing programs make this all possible without anybody having to touch a brush- exept drybrushing  the frame, of course.
The point with these alienations of real photos is not to show my friends disguised as some aristocrats but to depict the characters of the game how they look in “reality”.


The skills one needs to produce satisfying results aren´t difficult to learn- but how the heck do I describe them without the right vocabulary? Ok- here comes the language- barrier:
- cut out objects (to merge a character with a new background)
- simple retouches (to make unwanted things vanish). A little drawing doesn´t hurt either.
- working with.... I think they´re called “layers” or “levels” (eeeek, levels! We hates level´n layers!) They´re easy, believe me! When you´ve grasped the concept you´ll never again want to miss them!
- Filters. The idea is to combine them in different levels of translucence with the original photo. Just try a few combinations; original at the base and the filters on top.

There is nothing like “ this here button and all is well”. The quality of the result depends on your prowess- which will improve the longer you tinker with the things. Stay with it!

If you have contact with folks who know what they´re doing, show them a few of your pictures and ask them about their opinion. Listen to them without defending your work.

One should practise with people who are better than oneself, even if one gets a few bruises during the process. These will heal and one hears it builds your character.

Thanks Martin/Jeanette/ Trapper/ Tanja/ Markus/ Marc.

Below: From photo to “painting”:


Top row: original picture (photo), then choose snippet and define frame, then cut out motif, then effect 1
Bottom row: effect 2 (the “painting” consists of overlays of photo and effects), then lighting, then new background, bottom right: result (computerversion).

The back- lit version seen on a computer monitor´s screen is not the printing version. Most monitors around here are set way too bright (is black on your screen really deep black or more greyish?) because they are used in well- lit bureau- environments and do not have to meet a graphic designer´s requirements.
So according to the calibration of the monitor you work with colours and brightness have to be adjusted to the settings of the printer you use. For an amateur like me the only way to achieve this is by trial and error. Before I order a big poster 2-3 attempts in DIN-A4 (a german paper size roughly 20 x 30 cm) are necessary until I´m satisfied with the result and can be sure not to waste money (or worse: time till deadline).

Below: The difference between computer- and print version. It may be possible to calculate these results with some sort of standards but I don´t know them. Anyhow the print version is about one fourth darker than the back-lit computer picture.


Above left the computer version that on my screen looks absolutely ok, on the right is what I have to feed to a printer to get a usable result.


Left: Now the picture is fitted into a frame from which the glass was removed.

At the edge of the frame a black “patina” of acrylic colour sort of blends picture and frame and contributes to the overall impression.

Last step: the picture is painted over with clear, matt acrylic varnish which is “disturbed” with a bristle brush during drying. That way visible brush strokes appear who convincingly evoke the effect of a painting even when the brain states “photo”.

Not every photograph will survive this treatment without curling- you´ll have find a supplier who meets these demands.

Seen from the wrong angle the typical “glare” of real oil paintings disturbs sight in a quite realistic way. The varnish will dry transparent with the brush strokes staying intact, allowing the “painting” to be viewed only from an optimal angle- like a real one.

I order my posters in a shop of a big german drugstore chain instead of online because on-site you get a last chance to control the quality of the print and even can make last- minute- changes. The posters they make there have a robust, waterproof surface tough enough to be painted over- normal paper would be cheaper but will not produce satisfying results because it´ll absorb paint and billow.


The bigger the poster, the better the “painting” effects come across. In our games the above- shown size (50 x 75 cm) has been found practical (see the DVD for size reference). The paintings fit upright across into a german moving- box (although it can´t be closed).

Then there´s the problem of the frame: to buy a real frame for each painting would be way too expensive. Real frames also are quite heavy but fragile- our paintings by contrast must be lightweight and as cheap as possible. And finally our starting material is no wood- framed canvas but a paper poster that needs a stable rear cover.
The problem´s solution is the use of plates of isolating foam (here called “Styrudur”) and fake stucco bars made of another foam called “Styropor”.


Above left: Poster is glued onto a plate of isolating material using appropiate glue (both from a DIY- store. Wrong glue will eat the foam). I like a stuff called “StyroDur”. Its cheaper reative, “StyroPor”, consists of small balls and will break too easy. The plate is slightly bigger than the poster to glue the frame onto.

Above right: Frame construction out of foam “stucco” bars (available by the metre also at DIY- stores). The bars must be cut in a 45-degree- angle (use a sharp carpet- knife). The eye notices irregularities of a half centimetre which will ruin any other ever so good effects.

PG-Gemäldesimulation(7) PG-Gemäldesimulation(8)

Above left: Black acrylics. Make sure the white material is covered completely, because if you intend to use turpentine- based metallic colours they will eat away the unprotected areas of foam they come in direct contact with.
Meanwhile I use acrylics also for metal effects and achieve good results.
Notice again the black “patina” inside the frame of the poster: this isn´t sloppy work but will strengthen the illusion of “painting”.

Above right: Drybrush metal, ink black and highlights again in metal.


Above: And there we are. The last step (the varnish) again can´t be seen on the photo. With big pictures it is possible to match the brush- strokes to the lines of the photo. Use a good brush or loose hairs will ruin your work of art. If you´re good enough players will even touch the “painting” to verify the truth because the poster is no more readily to be recognized as one.

And how do you hang the things on a wall?
One thin nail will be enough. Just press the painting onto the nail (making sure the nail is shorter than the thickness of the foam, but you might have thought of this even without me telling you, don´t you?) 2 nails - symmetrically or not- will keep it from hanging crooked.
You can also press a nail into each side of the painting to attach a cord of the desired length to hang it onto.

Last but not least in a nutshell a few setbacks I encountred while building my “paintings”:

A phenomenon I haven´t managed to control is:
Sometimes the tranparent laquer dries grey or even white and ruins your efforts. I was told this happens when the paint got “cold” but have not been able to provoke the effect. I don´t have the foggiest what causes that but it ruined a few pictures.

To appear like a painting the picture should be at least about 20 x 30 cm because with smaller sizes the filters that make the “painting” aren´t perceived properly and the realistic proportions of the motif that result from the use of a photo kill the effect. When you open the gallery with the examples (below) you´ll see what I mean.

Beware of “lines of pixels”: areas of the photo that have not enough of the little buggers so that straight lines appear as “stairs”. These areas must be identified on a test- printing of appropriate size and eliminated before printing the expensive poster.

Colours are evil and malicious- ask anybody! The backlit CMYK- colours of your monitor tend to change on a RGB- print. Often they´re too light, too dark or “wromg” (with me often too “red”). And just because your monitor can show zillions of colours doesn´t mean a printer can duplicate them all. The correct adjustment of these parameters is a damn science which I circumvent through experimenting. This is because we have no influence on the printers we order our posters from- so the way is to change our orignal -regardless of how it looks on the monitor- until we like the quality of the print. You´ll gradually learn what´s important but prepare to need 2 - 3 DIN-A4 (roughly 20 x 30 cm)- sized prints before all is well.

I´ve tried to overpaint a print with real colours but failed. I´m not that kind of an artist...


OK- here are a few of my works to illustrate my ramblings. A graphic designer would probably turn over in his grave (if he were dead) but hey- this is larp...

Gallery “Kings & Monsters”
(click on any picture to open gallery)


The method I described above is a cheap solution that produces big enough lifesize “paintings”. The results are relatively simple to produce & transport, they´re lightweight and can be easily hung on walls- and if one gets damaged it´s no desaster either.
He who likes higher quality can of course obtain a real frame; no upper level for prices there. But here we present a more economical but nevertheless high-grade-solution:
Tune a mirror.

corrupted picture- frame

Wot, you can corrupt a picture-frame? But yes! For non- larpers: “Corruption” here means the detrimental influence the powers of chaos have not only on the soul but also on the shape...

I want a fitting frame for the portrait of a champion of chaos.
First step is take a photo and make a “painting” out of it:


As was said before: What counts is how the thing looks printed. Make as much test- prints as it takes and keep pushing pixels until it looks good.

The picture- frame is made of a cheap mirror. In germany we have extra shops for this kind of things. I like them but try not to think of the fact that normal people are obviously supposed to furnish their real-life-homes with the stuff...
So, here´s a 20-€-mirror (already dead on the first picture. Pay attention with the glass!)
This frame was manufactured by glueing the “stucco” pieces onto a wooden frame and then drowning the poor thing in white paint. This killed most of the details (see below right)  but it won´t hurt us because the plan is...


...that exactly there the chaotic changes will appear, in our case made of air- drying clay. In the novels normal people get sick if a champion of chaos just looks at them, so strong is the corrupting influence of the ruinous powers; small surprise that the frame of a picture of one of these guys gets affected too.
I opted for the classical chaos- attributes: Eyes (too much of them), horns, teeth and -of course- tentacles.


Left: The sculpted elements on the frame. The thingies under the clay- package in the middle are the modelling- tools I´ve used.

The idea is to let the “ulcers” grow from the existing ornaments of the frame without diverting the eye from the main motif- the portrait. So don´t overdo it.

When the clay is dry, everything can be painted with my beloved acrylics. Don´t forget to ground it- I use black and fare well with it even with bright colours.

A problem with the mirror-frames will be that you can´t order a poster whose size will fit into them- in this case the visible area of the mirror is 28 x 38 cm- see below what to do about that.




But first a short glance at the details:

PG-Gemäldesimulation(17) PG-Gemäldesimulation(20)
PG-Gemäldesimulation(18) PG-Gemäldesimulation(19)

The dry clay is slightly flexible but will not adhere to the frame, so we glue the elements (left).

Notice that one of the tentacles sticks out of the frame- this looks cool but invites breaking- accidents. Even if vou built in a thread of wire the tentacle will probably not survive the transport to the game.

Below left: The delicate veins are window-color-contour (normally used for separating the coloured areas on a window- picture).
Below middle: Black acrylics for ground. Use many thin layers of paint instead of one thick.
Below right: Gold drybrush, black wash, gold highlights (like with your miniatures)

PG-Gemäldesimulation(23) PG-Gemäldesimulation(24)

Below: the painted details:


The poster-size: This time we don´t build a frame for a poster but the other way round: we need a poster that fits into a frame there´s no poster- size for. So what we do is we take the next available bigger size of the posters and produce a print on which our painting appears in the required size. This will- when cut out- fit into our frame. In this case it was 28 x 38 cm which fit readily onto the available 30 x 40-cm- poster.
 See below left how it looks:


The red edge facilitates cutting out the poster which is now glued onto a piece of cardboard with a strength of at least 2 mm. This we then install into the frame instead of the deceased mirror.

I used a spray adhesive. Spray the cardboard, let the glue dry a little (below left) and then affix the poster without producing any air- pockets (below right). Only then cut out the cardbord with a carpet- knife. Use the measures of the mirror to determine the required size. If you´ve smashed the mirror before measuring it, use back of frame for reference.

Spray-adhesive producess a very fine -adhesive- fog which will at once spread into the immediate area. So cover your work surface generously or refurnish your living- room. Zis is no joke.


Above: “Paintings” with frames made from converted mirrors:
 Left repainted with sculpted elements, 52 cm high, right only repainted, 80 cm high.
Remember the last two steps -as described above- that turn the poster into a painting: black patina around the inner edge of the frame and transparent laquer whose drying process was repeatedly disturbed with a bristle brush to generate visible brush- strokes.

The price of such props is about 30-40 €. And they´re quite delicate- same as a real painting. This only partly qualifies them for the use in games, but they look so cool that they might even find their place somewhere in the real world- with the priceless bonus that the depicted creatures (contrary to “normal” artwork) really exist: you can meet them face to face.
Although your character perhaps wouldn´t like to...

mai 2010, apr 2012, last edit jan 15, nov 16

[Home] [Deutsch] [English] [about me] [what´s new] [Contents] [about monsters] [faqs] [other sites]