how do you get the paper-effect? I've always been annoyed that I can never find how these backgrounds are done. (I mean the foggy-grayblue stuff. Not the pedestal for Narsil/Andúril) Watercolor? If so, do you think I could water down gouache enough to get something of the same effect?
You mean the paper variations in the smokey-foglike edges? Actually, that was accidental. I was using some really thick, lovely 300lb Canson paper. I didn't pre-soak/stretch it, so when I put down a lot of different washes, the paper soaked and dried to different degrees in different places, making the textured-looking effect. I'm not sure how gouache would do, but it's worth a shot.
I mixed up a lot of dark blue with grey, wet the edges with clear water, then used a flat sponge and wide brush to put down the paint, dabbing away hard lines with a cotton cloth.