A big step for me in the early stages of designing the Tales of the Mountain Witch game has been establishing what the visual style will be, and what materials will work best and consistently for the duration of the project. Last time, I lamented about waterproof inks being a horrible lie, and then found the most magical pen.
So the ink is one consideration; the paper is the other. The paper will have a huge impact on the type of pen I can use (now that I picked the Lamy pen, I’ll be basing my choices on what it draws well on!) and on how the watercolor behaves. For the Spriggans, I used Arches cold press watercolor paper and loved it, but for each piece I had to soak and stretch the paper. I know that over a hundred paintings are in my future for TotMW, and I don’t like stretching paper that much! The best bet will be for me to use watercolor or illustration board: basically, paper mounted to a heavier chipboard backing, which will keep it from warping when I apply water. If it does warp, it tends to bow in one direction, and I can flatten it with heavy books when I scan it.
Our local Michaels had a decent selection of boards available that claimed watercolor compatibility. I brought home five options to test out. I’m looking for something that I can draw on easily, that won’t warp too much, and which will respond well to the watercolor (proper absorption, can take multiple layers without blotching or wearing, colors look ‘right’). Here’s a key, so that you can see exactly what I’m looking for, and then the samples.
You can really see the differences in some of these! The smoother surfaces (Canson Pure White Drawing & Illustration/Comic and Arches Hot Press) were easiest to draw on, and the colors tended to be brighter, because there was less absorption. That made them less ideal for repeated glazes and washes; the pigments rested on the surface, so every time I went over them, the previous layers would reactivate and blend together. The granulating colors did yield some nice results, since those effects are tied to the way the water absorbs or evaporates, and there was no paper grain for the particles to settle into.
The Canson “C” and Arches Cold Press had more textured surfaces and were more absorbent, so washes were easier to control (fewer blooms from excess water) and glazes could be layered easier. The cold press is a natural white, rather than bright white, and the most textured and absorbent, so the colors look dullest of all the samples. The granulating colors are much more even, less spontaneous/interesting. It was also the hardest to draw on because of the texture. The “C” was a really nice compromise between the cold press and the smoother samples– colors were pretty bright, washes were good, granulation effects had a lot of depth and interest, and the pen lines were pretty crisp.
Here’s another comparison between the cold press and “C”, testing out different kinds of salt to add texture:
The “C” was actually what I used to complete the village painting, and it’s likely what I’ll use for the project from here on out. :)