top of page

Making of the Rift Portal Diorama

I can make super fun toys all day but it's kind of pointless if no one knows they exist. That's where marketing comes into play. Marketing is the often overlooked or ignored art of making people notice you and your products. It's not easy and it's usually not cheap. My recent Rift Portal diorama was a great success when it premiered at Designer Con 2017 and a lot of people asked me where I had them printed.

The Diorama is an 8.5 x 14 tri-fold brochure with product information on one side and an illustrated scene (show above) on the inside. I used heavier cover stock to help it stand up when being displayed.

I've used several local and online printers and my favorite by far has been Printing Center USA. There are SO MANY online printers that it's hard to weed out the stinkers but yelp reviews really help. I did my homework a few years ago and decided to give this place a shot. The best feature of their website is the online price calculator. It shows you all the features and lets you figure out what you can afford without having to request a quote or talk to someone on the phone.

Check out these links! I've also had booklets, a color sketchbook and folded inserts printed here...

Give them a shot if you need something printed. You won't be disappointed.


Let's take a look at how I made Rift Portal diorama brochure.

I wanted to make something that people wouldn't throw away after they had glanced at it for a few seconds. Years ago I had sketched a playset for the Mechanauts that I knew I could never afford to make, but what if I illustrated a part of that playset? You know, like some of those old Star Wars playsets that had cardboard backdrops! Put those two ideas together and, BAM! That was the genesis of my marketing idea.

But what would I draw? I wanted a scene that could be used with other toy lines so people were more inclined to keep it. A science lab seemed like a good compromise for general sci-fi theme. I just had to make sure my logo or some sort of product branding was visible in a central location. That way, it would (hopefully) show up in any photos shared online.

Here are my rough sketches for the scene. I chose "E".

The next step was to determine the actual size. I thought it might be 11 x 17 but it turned out that 8.5 x 14 would actually fit better in my mailing boxes. Image what a pain it would have been if I made them too large to actually mail with my product?

I used the online price calculator at Printing Center USA to find the right size based on their available options and pricing. They also have downloadable templates so I used one of those to determine where the folds would be located. You don't want to put an important detail right in a fold.

Here are some process photos for the drawing phase. I started with a rough pencil sketch and inked over that.

I use Micron pens and a lot of different templates for circles and ellipses.

The right tool for the job! That curvy thing is called a flexible or bendable ruler. It has a strip of lead inside that makes it easy to bend but still rigid enough to use as a tracing guide. This is the best way to get really clean curved lines.

This is the final line art after scanning, but before clean-up. Basic clean-up involves adjusting the value levels to remove artifacts from the pencil sketch as well as manually touching-up little mistakes.

Making the line art is the most tedious part but choosing the right colors can also be a challenge. I really enjoy digital coloring when the colors are pre-defined and I don't have to think about it. Coloring this scene turned out to be very difficult for me. I couldn't decide what to do so I filled in all the parts with neutral colors and then tweaked them until I had something that looked OK.

The final art.

The diorama scene was finished but there was still a whole other side to design. There was a lot of information I wanted to convey but I also wanted it to be interesting and visually appealing. I used the template again to determine where the 3 usable areas would be after folding. Then, I blocked in the basics. I wanted a cover image, some pictures of the different characters, my store and other online links, and a bit of backstory to draw people into the product line.

I printed the diorama and used it as a backdrop for the cover scene. The Mechanaut Explorer figure was combined with the Assembler figure in a configuration that Yuta Tobari of 1000toys came up with at Five Points Fest 2017.

The Orange Mechanaut Explorer has been used on some of my other marketing material so I color-shifted the orange to green. I also did some overall color tweaking to cool the color tone a bit.

Here is the final cover spread. The product photos were supplied by Joe Miller. I had to rewrite the origin story to condense it for the space. I think it actually made it more interesting. I added the "free" text because a lot of people hesitate and ask if they can take one from my convention table.

Another great thing about Printing Center USA is that you can call and talk to an actual person. I had to call and talk to them about the fold order because I wanted mine folded backwards compared to normal. The artwork scene usually goes on the outside and you open it to reveal the information inside. I wanted the info on the outside and the art on the inside... that way the flaps would bend the right way to make the diorama stand up. It was a bit hard to convey in email but a quick call cleared up any confusion.

Here's a screenshot of the price calculation for my actual order. Approximately $.30 per flyer. That's a GREAT price for something so high quality.

And at last, here is a photo of the final product. I think I had them printed and in my hands in about 10 days. Do you have one of my Rift Portal dioramas? What do you think of it?

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page