Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Mouse Carpenter

I've released a new Mouse Guard sketchbook titled "Alone Together" (https://mouseguard.bigcartel.com/product/alone-together-sketchbook) The majority of that material is inked commissions I did during last year's ONLINECON event. But to round out the sketchbook sometimes I need to generate some material of my own both to fill up pages and to add certain tone or subject for a thematic through line for the work in the book

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.


Already knowing the sketchbook's title 'Alone Together' was a reference to going through the pandemic, I wanted to show a few hobbies/crafts I'd done in that time. To medieval-mousify it, I looked at a few primitive woodworking claps/vices/mules, and then designed my own that would use the mouse's full sitting weight as the clamping pressure. The mouse and mule were drawn on separate sheets of copy paper and placed together in Photoshop. I printed that out within a square frame and then on a lightpad drew the background elements on another sheet. Once all digitally assembled I tinted the background a different color to help me see the forms (I also digitally drew in some forms for ropes loosely hung from the woodworker's structure.


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. I did all of the inking on this one with the 0.7 nib using some pressure variance to get the lineweights and details. I have a 0.3 nib I sometimes use on really fine bits (especially if a mouse's face is small in the image) but I didn't use it here. The trick for these inks were to differentiate the various piled elements and planes of the wood, tools, planks, etc, and that was mostly done with different densities of texture.

Color Flats:
With the finished inks scanned I could start on the coloring process. 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. Because in the end I knew the differences between so many of the forms would be subtle and low contrast, I started with crazy color selections. Green for planks of wood standing upright, purple for the mule clamp, royal blue for the stumps, bright yellow for the wood shavings...once everything was filled in, I could start easily swapping those colors for hues and values closer to what I wanted, dialing in those slight changes so you could see the objects as differently colored from one another.

Final Colors:

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 bit of a lighting effect coming in from the background and making a slight corona on the rope, structure, and planks.

This piece is one of the pieces included in the 2022 Mouse Guard sketchbook 'Alone Together' which is available in my online store: (

No comments:

Blog Archive