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Bring your merch to life with augmented reality

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Tosca AKA Toscanabanana is a 21-year-old artist from the Netherlands who has freshly graduated with a masters in animation.

Not happy with just creating custom merch with her illustrations, she’s taken her merchandise to the next level, using the designs on her t-shirt and pocket mirrors as a way for fans to unlock animations using the power of augmented reality.

We spoke to Tosca about how she goes about bringing her merch to life.

Tosca, Illustrator, Awesome Merchandise

For the people that don’t know, AR is the technology behind apps like Pokémon Go, allowing people to create alternate animated worlds which live within the backdrop of real life.

“For me as an illustrator-animator hybrid, Augmented Reality is a great way to have the best of both worlds,” explains Tosca. “My illustrations get their moment to shine, but the animations are the real surprise factor.”

AR company Dutch Rose Media have allowed Tosca to create her own world, using their app to recognise illustrations which appear on her merch and automatically play corresponding animations on your tablet or mobile. The process from the initial sketch, to augmented reality can be a long process but is one which Tosca finds exciting.

“Firstly I look at my sketches which are usually all over the place. I draw on loose papers because I like to cut the drawings and paste them together (that’s also how I make storyboards). When there’s a sketch I like, I try to work it out into a full illustration. In this project, the illustration on the merch would also be the first frame of animation because when you do that it looks like the product really comes to life.”

Tosca always designs her merch with the animation in mind, sending them to her friends and even showcasing them on social media to gauge reactions before committing to her final version.

“After designing the products I have to animate everything,’ she explains.  “Most of the animations are made up of loops. Loops work really well with AR because the animation will just go on forever if you don’t stop it yourself. When the animations are finished I send everything to Dutch Rose Media, so they could put it into their app.”

Once in the app, when these images are picked up on the merch we help Tosca to create, it suddenly becomes an interactive experience.

“The reactions have been overwhelmingly positive! I have gotten messages on Instagram from complete strangers asking where they can buy the products, and even some people from Awesome Merch wanted the t-shirts.”

Although, with AR technology still having a few issues to iron out, there are some limitations to the type of merch you can use.

 “When you haven’t worked with AR before, the best thing to do is just to test everything! How does the animation look in AR? Is your illustration or photo recognisable enough to work as a trigger? What are the conditions for it to work?”

Contrast is Tosca’s key to designing triggers that work well, using black lines and shapes, but also a contrast of dark and light colours.

With her merch game already seriously high, Tosca is aiming to carry on creating even more AR products to stock her store.

To see more of Tosca’s work, follow her on Instagram here.

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