Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Magic the Gathering: Mabel Card Process (Bloomburrow)

Last year I was asked by Wizards of the Coast to do some Magic the Gathering card art for their upcoming animal set Bloomburrow (https://magic.wizards.com/en/products/bloomburrow). I played a lot of MtG back in the mid/late 90's, so it was an honor and thrill to become a part of the fraternity of MtG illustrators.

The first card of mine that has been revealed is Mabel, Heir to Cragflame. She is this set's protagonist in the story. She is a mother of three mouselings and heir to a storied sword, the Cragflame. The set will be released in early August, and since Wizards of the Coast has already revealed my version of this card, I can share the artwork and process for creating it.

The process started with the brief from my art director asking for Mabel in her bedroom gearing up to protect her children. WotC provided me with an enormous PDF with reference for the mice and their clothing and architecture for Bloomburrow, as well as reference for Mabel's specific character design.

I started with a rough version of Mabel on copy paper, and then refined the drawing on a different sheet of copy paper using a lightpad to work off of the original. When I had a version of Mabel I liked, I did the same thing with the mouse-bedroom background, starting with a rougher version and then working to a tighter one on a light pad. I didn't need to draw anything where I already knew Mabel was going to be, which is why there is a void on both background pencils.

The pencil roughs were assembled and combined digitally in Photoshop. At this stage, I also like to do a preliminary digital color blocking, to make sure I have the color and value tangents worked out, and also to show my art director at WotC so they are on the same page as I am (no one likes surprises in the later stages of a commissioned art piece). This is the stage where I can also easily make adjustments moving a character or resizing something (this is the post-edit correction of enlarging the blade of the Cragflame sword).

With the pencils/layouts approved by my art director, I moved on to inks. I printed the digital composite out and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my Huion Lightpad, I was able to see through the surface of the bristol to use the printout as a guide as I inked with Copic Multiliner SP pens. The art director for this card requested not to have any large or dense areas of black, so I kept the linework fairly open and was restrained with the amount of texture.

The inks were then scanned back into Photoshop where I could start the coloring process. This stage. called flatting' is the professional version of coloring-in-the-lines. Just flat color is placed in to establish everything's base colors. the art director also liked when my linework was softer in my Mouse Guard work, and wanted everything to have a dark brown color hold (ink lines colored to be something other than black). I also established other color holds on Mabel's eyes and on the blade of the Cragflame sword.

Here are the final rendered colors for the art (sans card borders). I did the light and shadow and texture by using the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop with a stock textured brush.

When Bloomburrow is released in August, I'll have prints and possibly playmats of Mabel available for sale.

The original inked artwork is up for sale by auction the the Facebook group: MtG Art Market: https://www.facebook.com/groups/mtgartmarket

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