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.
The request for this was a Mouse Insectrist (a skill/profession in the Mouse Guard RPG) vs a weasel. I started with the drawing of the weasel on a sheet of copy paper, and then on a different sheet of paper the mouse. I placed them together in Photoshop and placed in some quick digital color blocking. I printed that out and on yet a third sheet of copy paper I drew in all the insects. This way I could scan them and make subtle changes (rotation, resizing, symetry, etc) as well as micro-adjust their placements. I scanned those and added them to my digital file and blocked them all in with a very visible green.
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 and some of the insect details. The background was a little blank beyond the rocks, so I added in some dots that in the next step will look more like floating dust particles.
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 for the weasel and the Insectrist mouse were chosen when I was blocking in the layout, but I did have to make small adjustments to those colors (value, saturation, etc) when taking into account the sky and rock colors. Then the insect colors were placed in using their real colors in nature filtered through the color palette I'd already gone with for the rest of the piece. The last step in this stage was to establish color flats, areas where I want the lineart to be a color other than black. The dots in the sky were planned to have a hold, then I decided to add a bit of depth and push the weasel's plane back a touch, and lastly the patterns on wings of the grasshopper and the mouse's cloak.
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.
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)