The concept for this piece started with the idea of a larger animal in Mouse Guard perhaps having a mouse city or even just a single dwelling on it's back. I wondered what animal would be able to carry that load and not risk shaking the whole dwelling apart in it's rapid footfalls or writhing route through the forest: Turtles. I drew each turtle separately on paper and then on a lightbox and a new sheet of paper, drew houses to match up to their shells. I also drew the inhabitants this way. Over the course of 8 scraps of paper I had the cover assets.
I scanned each of those paper scraps, tinted them and reassembled them in Photoshop. This allowed me to make easy alterations within the framework of the template of the cover. I could rotate turtles or shift their house-loads, or re-size mice, or move entire turtle-house-mouse combos around on the cover until I found a layout I liked.
The above digitally-assembled layout was printed out on several sheets of printer paper and then taped to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my lightbox I was able to follow the layout image as a guide or instead of "pencils" as I inked. For inking, I use Copic SP Multiliners mostly a 0.3 & 0.7 nib. As always, I tried to get a varying amount of grey in the piece and used different textures to get there: stippled rocks, thatched roofs, and various turtle scale patterns.
After the inks are scanned, the next step is to start the coloring process. This is refereed to as "flatting". This is to establish major color areas as being different from one another (and in Photoshop I make these each new layers: Turtle skin, shells, rocks, walls, thatch, fur, clothes 1, clothes 2, etc.). These colors are rarely even close to the final image palette, but meant to serve as easy to read placeholders.
The final step of coloring the cover is to make the final color choices, all the rendering (shadows and highlights) as well as to add any color holds (areas where I wish the inkwork to appear as color rather than black). I do all the rendering with the Dodge and Burn tools in photoshop and using a stock brush that adds texture and mottling as I work.
Legends of the Guard Vol.3 #2 will have the full "legend" of this cover on the inside front cover. And will feature stories by: Skottie Young, Mark Buckingham, & Hannah Christenson
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