To the left you can see one of those pieces finished and colored ready for a page in that sketchbook––and in this blogpost I'll break down the process to get there.
I thought the sketchbook needed some action––and what better visual of that in a Mouse Guard book that a mouse vs a snake? So, I started with drawing a mouse lunging down with a spear on one sheet of copy paper, and then a snake writhing and coiled upside-down on another. I scanned those in and resized them, rotated them, and shifted them around until they lined up how I wanted and within a square border. I added in some quick digital color blocking, and the suggestion of a background. I then printed that out and drew in a better and tighter version of the background elements.
With the above layout finished, I printed it out and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my Huion Lightpad I was able to use the printout as a guide to ink from. I used Copic Multiliner SP pens. The 0.7 nib did most of the heavy lifting in this piece and I only used the 0.3 for some finer bits like the mouse's face. Inking in the scales was the most time consuming and stressful part––when that pattern goes awry it's easy for the human eye to catch the mistakes and see the flaws in the drawing.
With the finished inks scanned I could start on the coloring process. The original inked art was shipped off to the new owner and I worked on this piece for my sketchbook. The color flats stage is just coloring in the lines with flat colors, establishing what every major area's base color is––no rendering, no textures, no effects. Some of the colors I chose when I was blocking in the forms in the layout stage, others like the snake and the background were also informed by reference images of the real things in nature. I added a color hold (areas where I want the linework to be a color other than black) to the branches and leaves at the top in the furthest distance.
Using Photoshops's Dodge and Burn tools (as well as a stock textured brush) I added all the shadows and highlights. In some places I shifted colors by selecting areas with a lasso tool and using color balance sliders to get them where I wanted them. I also added a little lighting effect to the sky leaving a slight corona around the snake's rattler.
This piece is one of the pieces included in the 2022 Mouse Guard sketchbook 'Alone Together' which is available in my online store: (https://mouseguard.bigcartel.com/product/alone-together-sketchbook)