Designing the Village– Process

Reed’s sharing this on the Tales of the Mountain Witch Tumblr as well.

Nirvora is born in a village in the mountains, so it’s an important setting in the game. Reed provided me with some written criteria for how the landscape should look and also drew an aerial view of the village and surrounding area. The first step for me was to translate that image into something more three-dimensional:


To clarify some of the details and to get a better feel for how the land would slope and curve, I worked in Photoshop:


This view still felt like it was from too high of an angle. I wanted something more on the same level with the village. Since we planned to use this image for our social media headers, I checked on the upload dimensions that I would have to use before I did any more drawing. They were all very similar in proportion, despite being different sizes, but this created a new challenge. Reed asked me to emphasize the size of the mountains, but our layout is very horizontal. In the end we landed on something that compromised a bit between the height of the mountains and being able to discern houses in the village.


Did a rough color thumbnail. It’s incredibly rumpled. My newest sketchbook can supposedly handle watercolor, but I think not. Color, yes; water, no.


Transferred the sketch to illustration board and inked the linework. I made it larger than necessary so that I could try cropping the height different ways.


Started painting! I laid in washes for the sky first, then blocked in other major color areas. I added layers of transparent colors to build up color and depth, and for the mountains used granulating colors to really set them off. Granulating watercolors contain larger particles, which will settle out in different ways and create amazing effects as the water evaporates. I love working with them as the results are always unpredictable and exciting.

village_6 village_7 village_8

I let the painting rest overnight and came back to it with fresh eyes the next morning, adding additional detail where I felt it was needed and outlining in pen some of the foliage shapes on the moutain. Done! Scanned it, then did some minor corrections to take care of a few bad edges and splotches before cropping it to fit for our Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook headers.



For the most part, I’m happy with how it came out. Reed and I talked a lot about the look of the village, and I started drawing up concept sketches of the houses; it was a little hard to establish that detail in my mind, and then not paint it all in! I also left out people and livestock, since they would be so tiny. A lot of it had to do with scale, which in turn was tied to time: I made the painting quite small, so that I could finish it more quickly and scan it myself, rather than take it to a local print shop. The painting measures about 5×10″.

Next time: I’ll share more about the materials I’m using for the project, and why I’m paranoid about waterproof ink.


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