Welcome to Giraffe and Elf

With this site we endeavour to share with you some of the projects were working on, and give you the opportunity to get some in depth knowledge about them.

if you'd like to keep up-to-date with all things Giraffe and Elf, follow us and our projects on Social Media.


To Have and to Hold

Weddingfig
Finished Lego Minifigure bride and groom custom figure

Every part of the Lego Wedding Minifigure project has come together. With challenges overcome and processes refined it is time to finish the extra-large bride and groom. With the paint still a little fresh and the polished wax finish looking very nice it was time to pack up these figures for delivery, but not before taking a few photos.

The bride and groom extra large Lego minifigures were painted and sculpted to resemble their real-life, betrothed human counterparts. The figures were presented on the wedding day as a feature for the cake cutting and reception ceremony. Both figures used a combination of 3D printed parts for the individually unique pieces, and cast parts for the common or shared pieces. All parts were sanded, primed with a spray body filler, and coloured with an airbrush or rattle can top coat. The final high gloss finish was created by using wet sanding and high gloss automotive wax polish.

Lego Minifigure with custom large wedding figure groom

While it can be difficult in the following images to tell these figures apart from a regular sized Lego minifigure. The bride and groom ended up being 220mm or 8.6inches tall at around ten times the size of a regular minifigure. With the chunky resin bodies they also each weigh around 0.5kg or 1.1lb. This is a nice weight for their size and means they are less likely to be knocked over while on display.

Lego Minifigure bride and groom custom large figure wedding display piece

We hope you have enjoyed following along with us as we’ve blogged our journey in their creation. We have had fun putting this extra content together and sharing a glimpse into the process behind the finished result.

Large custom Lego Minifigure Groom for wedding centrepiece display

Large Bride Lego Minifigure wedding theme display piece

#weddingfig

Cut and Polish, Making Figures Shine

Weddingfig
Custom Lego Minifigure extra-large groom designer toy paint and stickers

The extra-large Lego wedding minifigures are coming together nicely with all parts glued, prepped, and primed. There is only one more process left to make these models literally shine and reflect their original scale counterparts, and that is to give them and high gloss finish.
In hindsight the process we used was the logical choice, but it took a lot of learning and failing before we arrived at it. Follow along below to help achieve smooth high gloss finish detailing on your future creations.

Like most goals this one started with a simple assumption, to achieve a high gloss surface finish we should use a high gloss paint. The label on the rattle can confirms this and everything looks straight forward and easy. However obtaining a smooth high gloss finish with rattle can spray paint isn’t that simple, the slightest divot can create an air bubble, and the tiniest speck of dust creates a bump. It takes a considerable amount of paint to get a smooth finish, that can also run and drip when over sprayed. A thicker coat also dries from the outside in, leaving a soft skin on top for days/weeks leaving it susceptible to finger prints.

Custom lego minifigure parts primed and painted matt finish designer toys

Issues are further compounded when adding a second coat of paint or spraying in multiple thin layers. Second coats applied without perfect timing react with the first coat creating a ripple or crackle effect, while laying it down too thin won’t make it glossy. Lastly with allot of gloss paint brands light and dark colours are made differently, much like oil and water, they may not mix and react unexpectedly with the undercoat creating further undesired results. This becomes a problem when the same primer is used on the wedding figs, yet their top colours were black and white, each figure part had differing finish problems after spraying due to this.

After about two weeks of trial and error and about ten attempts at laying down a perfect gloss coat. With each attempt trying a selection of rattle can brands, matt air brush paint, and clear coating all the while having to sand back and prep the surface again when it failed, it was not looking good. The deadline for the job was creeping closer and waiting 3 days for another coat of gloss paint to dry was no longer an option.

Custom lego minifigure head and hair designer toy model high gloss paint finishing

At this point we took stock of our failures, and really looked at the issues we were trying to solve. The solution came about when looking at other, non-figure, painting techniques. Things like guitar bodies, and furniture weren’t finished with a high gloss surface paint, they are rather polished to a high gloss. The solution had been so simple, no matter the painted surface finish, it can be buffed and shined into a high gloss using a car polish and wet sanding techniques. With the parts of the wedding figures already at a close enough state from the rattle cans, they were easily wet sanded to a smooth satin finish before given their water slide transfer details. Then covered in a mirror finish car polish and buffed using an electric buffer.

Custom lego minifigure torso paint finish with applied stickers mirror finishing

This made the entire project come together, each additional coat of polish or time spend buffing added to the end result rather that detracting from it. It also meant that the finish of the paint didn’t rely on being glossy, so custom colours were mixed up and applied with an airbrushed that more closely resembled the official Lego colours. The end result was a assortment of very impressive minifigure parts that,  apart from their large scale, looked indistinguishable from the real thing.

#weddingfig

Laying Out The Quest Challenge

Design
Treasure Chest pixel art hidden easter egg in student diary study planner background

How do you layout a series of puzzles into a book that you want the player to solve in sequence when you cannot prevent them from flicking through pages and discovering the final puzzle? Traditionally treasure hunts with multiple puzzles or objectives involve a gate keeper or locked box that prohibits the player from progressing until they have an answer or key. When hiding riddles in a book they may not discover the first puzzle first, and there isn’t anything physically stopping them from trying to solve another clue they may have found.

As previously mentioned there are a number of ways the Study Planner treasure hunt mitigated these issues. What it all came back to was a solid game design and lots of play testing. Even for a hidden Easter egg in a College Study Planner there still needed to be a layout of how the game ran and how the objectives would be met to lead to the final location. The design layout also detailed how players would be prevented from solving puzzles out of sequence.

The Treasure Hunt had three riddles hidden in cryptic puzzles in the Study Planner, and one further puzzle at the treasure’s location. This last one was to prevent a player or passer-by from claiming the cash prize even if they stumbled across the treasure by mistake. All of the puzzles and flow of the hunt was designed in reverse, by this, we started knowing we needed a physical location each player needed to find as a goal. We then created a puzzle based on the requirement of that solution, and so on, and so on working backwards. More or less asking ourselves, what do we want the player to do in order to get to X.

College Diary Study Planner hidden Cypher design on term page layout

Each puzzle in the Study Planner further involved a cryptic phrase that lead to a riddle, that in turn lead to the next cryptic phrase. The cryptic phrases all required deciphering, written as symbols as they were easier to hide amongst the pages of the planner. Intermixed with the actual symbols and clues were false symbols, marks, and messages. Each of these simply translated to nonsense or lead to dead end pages with no further puzzle. The encryptions weren’t overly difficult as it was aimed at 13 to 17 year old’s, however the riddles became the crux as each player’s interpretation of the solution was more often incorrect. This was intentional as the aim of the Treasure hunt was that it should take time to solve, rather than be found within a few days or weeks.

Easter Egg hidden number design College Diary Study Planner game development

While the first puzzle was laid out in the book using a simple cypher and required little effort. The second and third puzzle were related, both used a similar fashion to be discovered and both used the same deciphering method, which was part of the second puzzles solution. If you found and deciphered puzzle two you could instantly decipher puzzle three without any further trouble. This would normally be troublesome as puzzle three is the last puzzle who’s solution determines the physical location. However the trick was that puzzle three required puzzle two’s solution in order to progress. This was done simply by having puzzle two’s solution follow a sequence of numbers (pages) that lead to puzzle three. Puzzle three required this exact sequence of numbers as part of its solution, therefore gate keeping any player who skipped ahead. In practice this worked as puzzle three and two were both discovered by players who hadn’t yet solved the first puzzle. However this left them with dead ends as when discovered out of sequence they each didn’t make sense.

College Diary Study Planner Pixel Art campus Map and Hidden treasure text

The puzzles were play tested to ensure that out of sequence solutions weren’t possible yet they were clear if you followed the correct order. Only three people working at the college knew of the treasure hunt located within the study planner during development making sure it wasn’t leaked out before its time, and that as many people as possible could take part. With all puzzles in place and Study Planner designed the final piece was to distribute the book. But how do people know there is a game afoot?

#design

Adding A Hidden Quest

Design
Pixel Art Design Kardinia International College Reception Morongo Girls College building

The College Study Planner for 2021 contained hidden puzzles and riddles within it that would lead a user to a physical hidden treasure located on the college campus, and a cash prize for first place. But how do you hide something you want students to hunt for without it being  impossible to find? How can you also make it challenging enough that the puzzles aren’t solved too quickly? All of this needed to be solved and tested without spoiling the surprise.

Student diary Study Planner Easter egg Treasure Hunt Winning Prize Key

From all the mock ups of the Study Planner design that were printed for approval nothing seemed amiss, or was picked up by proof reading as being strange. It was important that only minimal people knew of the forthcoming Easter egg before it would be distributed as it would give everyone on staff as well as students the opportunity to take part in the hunt. In late 2020 while the Study Planner was in development another set of plans were carefully laid out on how to secretly overlay a treasure hunt into the book without compromising the design, function, or the calendar layout. Any extra pages would add to the production cost, and any existing pages taken up with a puzzle should not compromise the actual information already on the page. Finally it all needed to be hidden in plain sight, not impossible to find or discover, and importantly, should only require the Study Planner to solve.

With the ground rules set, how do you add a series of puzzles into a 146 page book that leads to a physical location while ensuring that all puzzles need to be solved and the user cannot simply stumble onto the answer. The intension of the treasure hunt was to let it stretch out for the entire year, and not simply be solved over a weekend. This lead to looking at allot of reference from other media that has added Easter eggs like this into it. One thing that stood out from most treasure hunt reference is that there is a lock, gate, box or some other means of preventing the player from jumping to the last step without passing the first one. In a book it is allot harder to do, but not impossible.

Hidden number 66 on student diary study planner background pixel art image

One way to prevent a user from solving a puzzle to early is to use a cypher, another is to create multiple paths that lead to dead ends for which the original puzzle’s solution only gives the correct direction. Both of these methods were used in the treasure hunt. One more issue remained, the physical treasure, it needed to be at a location on campus in an area that both staff and students had access to that wasn’t private, it also needed to be obvious if discovered but due to the cash prize it needed to also be un-claimable unless you followed the clues and solved all the riddles.

It was time to knuckle down and lay out the entire hunt by creating a game design for it to function, and be test-able.

#design

College Study Planner 2021

Design
Kardinia International College Senior Study Planner 2021 Cover Student diary

The College Study Planner for 2021 contained more than meets the eye as far as the graphical design of it was concerned. The theme for the planner centred around 8bit graphics, which fit well with the limited two colour printing process used. It was also a cumulative conclusion to a challenge that has been in the making since the 2020 planner design had been worked on a year prior.

The choice to use video games as a theme for the Study Planner came from two main decisions during pre-production, first was the planned gamification of the book, and second was the style of the College Map. The college map pages contained within the Study Planner have always used pixel art resembling a 1980’s 16bit top down adventure game. With each passing year the map was usually updated with more detailing, like trees and gardens, while also accounting for the changes in the buildings on the college campus. The map drawing updates for the 2021 planner were given some extra time to include the aditional artwork for the outsides of the main buildings on campus, to be used as background images.

Senior Study planner student diary pixel art design college campus

The rest of the Study Planner’s design went smoothly and without delay, various pixel art backgrounds for the ‘calendar week’ pages were created, and the duotone colours used for the book print were settled upon. Minor design changes were made to the layout of the ‘calendar week’ pages and some of the homework planner pages from the previous 2020 edition. For all accounts, the planner content was put together rather quickly, and without any concern from the College about use of a video game themed design.

Senior Study Planner student Diary design two colour printing process mix

However this wasn’t just any ordinary Study Planner. One titbit that is common throughout video games and their development is the inclusion of hidden treasures, more commonly referred to as Easter Eggs. The short development cycle for the Study Planner’s main content intentionally left room to add into it a hidden quest. That would hopefully garner more interest of the Study Planner’s use and give it some extra life, and mystery, outside of classroom homework notations.

Senior Study Planner Student Diary page design weekly calendar layout

With the preparations laid down it was time to add something extra into the College’s Study Planner for 2021.

#design

That Little Bit Extra

Weddingfig
Large Lego Minifigure with transfer and minifig

Detailing with water slide transfers is a great way to get allot of precise detailing on a small figure. However, combined with a little bit of extra time and paint you can make the transfer stand out even more.

Water slide transfers printed with a photocopier don’t have a white backing and are transparent, when stuck onto a dark surface they lose allot of their colour. This is fine when placing dark eyebrows on a yellow head, but doesn’t work when wanting a bright white smile, white pupils in the eyes, or a white and tan vest on a black chest. The way this was solved on the extra large Lego wedding figures was to mask out the areas where a white undercoat was needed and paint it with regular acrylic white before applying the printed water slide transfer over the top.

Large lego minifigure masking with white paint for sticker

Masking the white areas was a task of ‘close enough’ as the water slide transfers had dark outlines that would cover the edges of the white paint, forgiving any bleed. This simple technique adds allot more to the design of the figures and the detailing of the faces, which was well worth the extra effort of masking and painting. This technique was a must for the Grooms chest in order to get the shirt and vest to stand out. A continuous strip of white was painted down the middle of the chest area from top to bottom matching where the shirt, tie, and vest are located, the suit jacket effect would not work at all without it.

Large Lego minifigure parts with water transfer decals applied and undercoat

This techniques of laying down a white masked area over dark surfaces before applying the final colour is used in the production of screen printed fabrics, plastics, and even Lego bricks and Minifigures. The end results are fantastic and help solidify the look, feel, and bright colours of a regular sized Lego Minifigure. The water slide transfers are a really simple way of adding clean crisp detail to a model without spending excessive time manually painting each shape, line, and colour.

#weddingfig

Website Launched

giraffe and elf logo banner

Giraffeandelf.com is live and we'd like to welcome you to our corner of the internet. It has taken some time and behind the scenes development to get the page off the ground and we look forward to showing you more of what Giraffe and Elf Design has to offer.

Let us know your feedback and comments by following our social media channels and sharing our project and development content.

Website Launched

Giraffe and Elf Design Logo

Behind the scenes developments are well and truly underway. With allot of help and support, the cranks and gears are turning, ready to get projects started. First and foremost was this website.

Well and truly into 2018 the site is up and waiting for all the news and content Giraffe and Elf can throw at it.
To start us off on this journey, welcome to our humble corner of the net. We cannot wait to show you what we have in the pipeline. While initially progress may be slow, each project needs to pass a few checks and clearances before we can post about it, a few may only be announced upon completion, however we'd love to share all the hints and tips on the process discovered along the way.

Thank you for taking the time to visit, if you do have an interest in creative design and development, we'd love to more. Please connect with us on facebook.