Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Nadra Illustration

Last year I did an illustration for my friend Thorin who is developing a RPG setting and novel series called 'Nadra'. Thorin is the son of Alice Finch who was responsible for spearheading the Mouse Guard LEGO display and project that celebrated the Mouse Guard 10th anniversary.

Thorin commissioned me to do a piece from a moment in the first book's story that he could also use to make some tee-shirts or prints for the RPG community helping him develop the setting. I opted to make it possibly serve as a book cover, which you can see with mock-up text on the left. Below I'll go through the process of creating the illustration.

Thorin provided me with a lot (and I mean a lot) of reference ideas for each character. In addition to written physical descriptions, he also shared something akin to a mood board for the clothing, hair styles, and weapons for them all (including characters not appearing in this illustration--in case I opted for a different scene from the book).

I'm not known for drawing humans very well, so I did struggle with getting the pencil drawings correct. I looked at some photo reference for faces and drew each character separately. The rocky character had some wiggle room in the visual design (though Thorin did provide me with rock formations and petrified dinosaur scales for guidance)...I do regret how much I inadvertently used the Batman the Animated Series Clayface design. I assembled the drawings, tinted them all differently and did a quick blocking painting for the rocks and sky.

The layout was printed out on copy paper (this piece was 11" x 14", so it took a few sheets taped together) and I taped the printout to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my Huion lightpad I was able to see through the bristol and use the printout as a guide to ink from.

I used Copic Multiliner SP pens (the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs) to ink everything. I was very caution when inking the faces because if I was just a little bit off, it would ruin the character's expression. I used the finer nib for the faces and the larger nib for more of the costuming and outer contours. 

Even though I knew I'd ultimately be coloring the piece, I wanted to be sure the artwork worked in black and white, so I tried to be hyper aware of where the dark spots and textures were going so I didn't overwhelm the piece with visual clutter.

Once the inks were finished, I scanned them back into Photshop to start the coloring. This first step is called 'flatting' where all the base colors are established. It's a professional version of coloring-in-the-lines. Some of the ideas of the colors were established in Thorin's descriptions, but picking exact colors was a dance I had to do to make sure everything read well while also looking harmonious (like they are all in the same place). Originally I was going to go with a yellow sky like in the rough, but opted in this stage to play with some pink-to-purple gradients to make the setting more ominous.

I also established some color holds (areas where I want the lineart to be a color other than black) mostly on the swirling clouds, but also on one of the character's upper lip and on the dwarf's bow string.

Here again is the final colored art (sans text). The rendering was done mostly using the dodge and burn tools with a stock textured brush.

To find out more about Nadra, you can visit Thorin's website:

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