Its been a while since I have done a ustream or shown a process post. This is a start to finish look at the third page of the Free Comic Book Day story from this year.
Writing: The script I typed wasn't anything more than the words that appear in the final page. Other than page 1 being a 'Gwendolyn writing' setup and the end of the story, each page was supposed to simply be a different patrol of mice doing typical spring time work. In this case, harvesting/escorting a harvest of early growth food plants. In addition to showing the main characters from Fall and Winter, I also wanted to showcase other Guardmice (some from Winter and the RPG cover art)
Sketches: I started this page knowing the 1st panel would be a map section showing where the mice were, but the rest of the panels needed to show the work they were doing there. Sela and Cerise (mice based on my sisters) are escorting this harvest, so I worked up several sketches of that. Sometimes sketching this stuff out helps me figure the size/shape of a panel. Other times I know the size, but need to draw the elements separately so I can resize, slide, rotate and tweak them for the final composition. Two sketches are marked with * as being panel layouts I discarded.
Composition: I scanned in my sketchbook work and placed the drawings into the panel grid I chose for this page. I used the lineart for the map from the 1st hardcover to distort for the first panel. The other panels are composites of my various sketches. Sometimes I tint the portions so it's easier to read with the sketchy lines where one mouse or element begins and the other ends. I find the freedom to resize and shift and move parts of the drawing around to really help my compositions for each panel. Because the story was a bit text heavy, I added in the text so I knew where I would place it and that it would all fit.
Inks: I print out the composite layout and tape it to my bristol so that I can ink it on a lightbox. Sometimes I'll work on tighter pencils (which I may or may not have on this one..I don't recall and don't have scans of me working on it midway). Using my sketched lines as a guide, I ink the page with UniBall Vision pens and sometimes a brush. This is the stage where I concern myself with line weights, textures, patterns, and the balance of light and dark.
Rain: With this story happening in the rain, I needed to do a rain overlay. Overlays help so that I can easily isolate all the linework and tint it or make it semi transparent in the final colors. For the graphic here, I simulated that I'm doing the overlay on a white sheet of drawing paper over the final inked bristol board on a light box. This way, I can see the scenes and know where the rain should be, if it needs to be splattering on a surface, or dripping down a mouse's face.
Flatting: This is the stage where I have scanned in the lineart and am now adding color. I'm mostly focusing on areas the colors go, and to a certain extent what my overall palette will be. I want to make sure that I establish that a mouse's fur color is different than their cloak and different from their paw, and the hilt of a sword is different than the blade. Using layers for groupings of colors is how I find it easiest to do this: fur, cloaks, skin, twigs, leaves, sky, etc. (past post on this method)
Rendering: Once my flats are done and established, I can start rendering the pieces and tweaking the final color selections (I may find a mouse looks too red or too green, or too close to the background colors). I use the dodge and burn tools to do the shading and highlights for the forms. Basically, Dodge lightens and Burn darkens any color it goes over, however their are tricks to using it based on the tolerance and settings you use for each tool. I use a textured brush that come standard with Photoshop and set the dodge and burn settings almost as low as they go. (past post on this method)
Holds & Effects: Color holds are the term used for line art that I want to display as a color instead of black ink (past post on the method). here I have added a color hold to the map, Sela's tunic stitching, and nature elements I wanted to push to the background to create depth. The rain art is inverted, tinted, set to blending mode 'overlay' and turned down in opacity. Using dodge and burn, I can render the color holds and the rain to a degree. Otherwise they can look very flat and computer generated sitting on the rendered colors for the rest of the page.
Final: Now that the art is done, it's just a matter of adding the text back in (perhaps shifting it's placement a bit from the original layout) and adding the narration boxes. I lightly rendered the narration boxes using dodge and burn so that just like the rain and holds, they don't look flat and out of place with the rest of the page.