Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Art Book Cover Process

This Month a Art of Mouse Guard 2005-2015 book will be released. It is a 368 page 12" x 12" book full of images and descriptions of how Mouse Guard came to be, the process to create my books, and the evolution of that process changing in the 10 years I've been drawing Mouse Guard books. It's a book I'm really proud of. You can read a previous blogpost about it's contents here, but today I'm going to be going over the process of creating the artwork for the cover.
I wanted the artwork to not be a reused piece from the past, but I didn't quite manage to fulfill that desire of mine. While thinking of an image that would work to summarize the contents of the book (art book, process, Mouse Guard, etc.) I kept coming back to the Saxon, Kenzie, Rand portion of my Weasel War teaser print from SDCC a few years back. I redrew them making modifications to each character (taking away Kenzie's uncharacteristic sword for example).

To fill the background, the editors and I wanted something design-ey. Something we could use a printing process like debossing or spot varnish on to really make the cover look classy and special. I dug through photo reference I'd taken and ran across this photo of a floor grate at Notre Dame and thought it would be perfect as it was A) already square, and B) the right density of pattern for a printing effect.

I photoshopped the pencils of the mouse characters as well as the Notre Dame grate together and printed that composite out on standard printer paper. The printout was then taped to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my lightbox I could see through the surface of the bristol to the printout below and used it as a guide while I inked the piece on the surface of the bristol. This process doesn't require erasing when the piece is inked because no pencil ever touches the bristol surface. 
After scanning my inks back into Photoshop, I came up with this monochromatic mockup for Archaia to look at. The idea was that the pattern was to be printed white and debossed while the linework was going to perhaps be branded or heat pressed on. However for both technical and artistic reasons this idea was scrapped. Another go-around had the cover being white with the mouse linework printed in black and the pattern not printed at all but only used as a template for a spot varnish (which would make it only visible when light hit it just-so). 

The cover version we ended up going with was closer to my original tan one, but now with the mice having a muted and barely rendered color scheme. The pattern will be printed slightly darker than the cover color, but will also be coated with a spot varnish to make the pattern sheen in the correct light.

The Art of Mouse Guard 2005-2015 will be available at Your Local Comic Shops, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and conventions either I or Archaia/BOOM! attend this year.

2015 Appearances:
Boston Comic CoJuly 31- Aug. 2
Long Beach Comic Con: Sept. 12-13
Baltimore Comic Con Sept. 25-27
New York Comic Con Oct. 8-11
Art-Bubble Comics Festival: Copenhagen: Nov. 14-15

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