Monday, June 18, 2012

Morels: Honey Fungus (plus:How the cards got their borders)

If you're one of the hundreds of people who have picked up (and enjoyed) Morels since it debuted last month at Origins Game Fair, you probably recognize the Honey Fungus card. Not a high-powered card, by any means. But it was the very first card I worked on when starting to illustrate Morels, Two Lanterns Games new strategy card game, designed by Brent Povis

I'll be posting the process for each of the cards in the game over the next few months. And in this first post, I'll also reveal how I developed the simple, utilitarian features of the game like the card borders. This could get devastatingly boring.

So here, by the way, is Brent's sketch for the cards. Just imagine, if he hadn't found an illustrator, you'd be playing Morels now with cards that looked exactly like this.  Awesome for minimalists, but Brent wanted actual artwork. 

I worked up a sketch for the card and presented a rough mock-up to Brent just to make sure I had all the parts in all the right places. He was happy with it, but, being completely egotistical, I thought the stick, pan, and numbers impinged on the artwork way too much. So, I proposed what I called the cartouche...

The cartouche was a way to reduce the symbols to very simple hieroglyphics and house them vertically so they'd cover less of the artwork. Brent's feedback: "The vertical stacking is definitely the solution, but I liked the artistic impression of the icons in your original mock-up.  Having them at an angle and with some natural character to the icons felt good." 

Being a hands-on designer, Brent also printed out the mock-ups, cut them out and tried playing with them. And that's how I was able to get this exacting feedback: "95% successful, which was awesome.  The 5%...Having the height of that housing in the upper left be just a bit less would help in seeing the number under the stick with greater ease." So now I just had to tweak the spacing and create icons that matched my original scribbles.

This, then, was the visual standard I wanted to create as a basis for everything that followed. Something that employed easy-to-read icons, housed the gameplay information in an efficient way, worked well within the context of the game, and left plenty of elbow room for the artwork. Once the structure was nailed down, we just had to slap a paint job on it. I went with something natural, organic, and textured to reflect the theme of the game. Now I could move on to the fun part: the artwork.

So here, finally, thank goodness, is a quick run through of the illustration process for the Honey Fungus card. Brent made it clear early on that he didn't want to get in the way of my creative process (love hearing that) but he also had a vision for how he wanted the cards to turn out. In this case, he laid out the scene verbally and allowed me to interpret it. 

What you have here is the pencil sketch, followed by some steps where I added color, and then the artwork clipped to fit the card border. With the exception of the hand-penciled drawings, all the artwork for the cards was done in Photoshop, and the card borders and icons were done in Illustrator. I'll be posting more process work for the cards in the Morels deck, and I promise they won't be as long and tedious as this particular post. Go play Morels. It'll restart the brain cells I just put to sleep with this post. -v


  1. Nice work, Vince. I'm not generally a fan of fungus, but you made it look great! : )

    1. Thanks, Beth. I'm so used to drawing superheroes, monsters and puppy dogs that when the game designer told me I'd be drawing mushrooms, I'll admit it gave me momentary pause. But his enthusiasm for (and knowledge of) the subject was infectious and I ended up having a blast working on the cards. I'm no expert but I can honestly say my mushroom knowledge has increased roughly 1000%. Fun game, too, by the way.

  2. That's funny! I can empathize: I taught my daughter Botany this year learned all kinds of stuff I didn't know before.

    I'm stepping outside the box right now by working on a cartoon for my daughter while she's away in basic training for the AF. It'll be funny, but I'm hoping I can manage the drawing side of it.
    : )


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