This year's print "Elderberry" was released at Emerald City Comic Con and will be available at my convention appearance throughout 2018 (and also in my online store). For this blogpost, I'll run through the steps to create the print.
I started by picking a mouse character (this happens to be Bronwyn, the Matriarch at the time of the Black Axe volume and seen in 2 panels in that book) and some type of pretty plant: Elderberry. I sketched out Bronwyn on copy paper in the hammock. On a separate sheet I drew a section of the flowers and leaves, and on another I drew the ladybug (an afterthought). I then assembled these scans in Photoshop, tinting the linework of each to help me see through the tangle of lines. I did rough flat colors to also help me visualize what was negative space, what was flower, what was leaf, and what was mouse. The berries I added in digitally and I populated the blooms by copying and rotating/mirroring the one section I drew.
The next step was to ink the piece. I printed out the above layout on copy paper and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my light pad, I was able to see through the surface of the bristol to the printout so I could use it as a guide to ink from.
I tightened up the details of the flowers, and got into a rhythm with their shape & textures. Obviously, this made the background much darker in the inked piece than my rough. One of the ways I approached resolving that comes later, but the other was to make sure the berries read as 'very dark', making the flower mass lighter by comparison.
After the inks were completed, I started flatting the color for the piece in Photoshop. The colors for Bronwyn were already set a bit from her appearance in The Black Axe, but they still needed some adjustment, and I could also call from my rough layout flat colors for help.
The purpose here isn't so much to worry about the final colors though as much as it is about coloring in the lines and establishing the areas, that her fur color is something different than the leaves above her head, of that the cloak has a different color edge trim.
In the final color rendering is where I not only shade and highlight (using the Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop) but also making color balance adjustments to warm or cool areas that I may not have quite right in the flat color choices.
To help lighten up the background and make those Elderberry flower as delicate as I could, I added a color-hold on their linework. A color-hold is where I digitally paint over the ink lines so that they aren't black, but a color, or even painted and rendered color.
The finished Elderberry prints are numbered and limited to 300 copies and signed by me.
Past year's 11' x 11" limited print process blogposts:
Emerald City Comic Con: Mar. 1-4
WonderCon: Mar. 23-25
C2E2: April 6-8
Heroes Con: June 15-17
San Diego Comic Con: July 18-22
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 28-30
New York Comic Con: Oct. 4-7