Masking (illustration)

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A simple manga-style character juxtaposed with a detailed photographic background.

The masking effect or masking is a visual style, dramatic convention, and literary technique described by cartoonist Scott McCloud in his book Understanding Comics in the chapter on realism. It is the use of simplistic, archetypal, narrative characters, even if juxtaposed with detailed, photographic, verisimilar, spectacular backgrounds. This may function, McCloud infers, as a mask, a form of projective identification. His explanation is that a familiar and minimally detailed character allows for a stronger emotional connection and for viewers to identify more easily.

It is used in animation, comics, illustration, video games (especially visual novels) and other media. It is common in Western graphic novels and Japanese comics and animation. The psychology behind the masking effect has been extended to rendering antagonists in a realistic manner in order to show their otherness from the reader.

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