Last year and earlier this year I did an online event called OnlineCon where I opened up a list for inked commissions. It's not often that I offer fully inked commissions like this any more, but I was open to the idea of making fans happy in troubled times, supplement my income with conventions responsibly canceled, and to generate material for an upcoming Mouse Guard sketchbook.
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 was Saxon, Kenzie, and Lieam patrolling a Mouse town or village. I decided as I started to sketch out buildings to make it Flintrust, a town on the map, but has only been seen so-far in the Mouse Guard story 'The Owlhen Caregiver' (You can see a blogpost about the architectural inspiration for the town here: https://davidpetersen.blogspot.com/2020/09/owlhen-caregiver-reading.html
I drew the architecture here on one sheet of copy paper, and then the mice separately on another (so I could play with their positioning in the final lauout). A little bit of repeated flint arrowhead pageantry and some digital text, and the layout was done.
When I had these inks finished, Julia shipped off the original art to the its new owner.
Before the art was shipped off though, I got a high-res scan of it so I could start the coloring process for this piece. That first step is called 'flatting' which is basically a professional task of coloring-in-the-lines and establishing what color area each thing in the piece is. The final colors can be altered, but it's good to establish the distinction between the beams, buildings, flags, doors, and mice.
I also took this step to establish color holds (areas where I want the black linework to be a color other than black) on everything from the midground back, this was my way of helping to sell a depth of focus.
Here are the final colors all rendered and textured. I do most of this work only using two tools in Photoshop: Dodge and Burn. These are tools that date back to when Photoshop was a photo retouching tool and emulate part of the development process to over and under expose areas––ie: make areas darker and lighter. So with a stock textured brush I add shadows and highlights.This piece will eventually be collected with many more in an upcoming sketchbook I plan to release in early/mid 2022.