Art Instructionals

Sketch Instructional: Inking Gojira/Godzilla

Three Steps in Inking a Panorama of Destruction


I’ve covered my step-by-step sketch process in some detail (see the Demon sketch instructional, below), so back to some basics on inking.

In this case, I’m drawing Gojira/Godzilla razing a city block, a sketch wherein all the basics are laid down in the initial blocking of heavy areas of solid black (done with a broad chisel-tip marker in this case).

Prior to this first inking step, I’ve already worked out the construction in my quick, sketchy pencils, knowing that with the light source being the blast of radioactive breath from Gojira‘s maw, the heavy blacks are the portions of his body in deep shadow; the blackened remnants of a city block he’s burned already; and the thick black clouds of smoke billowing up from the immediate blast range of his current fiery breath’s target.

That’s all banged out pretty quickly — remember, I’ve been doing this over three decades now! — with an eye toward bold, massive use of black and shadow, as seen above.


The next step is two-fold: (a) using a fine-line inking tool, add the essential details of the drawing, with primary attention to texture and linework reinforcing the central light source — that blistering blast of fiery dragon breath! — and (b) after allowing the linework to dry completely (and I do mean completely!), erasing all pencil underdrawing.

Be sure to let the inks dry — I cannot emphasize this enough. I usually set the drawing aside for up to half an hour to make sure I’m not going to inadvertantly smear a still-wet patch of linework.

Note I draw through — that is, since I know I’m reworking Gojira‘s back spines (which attentive Gojira movie fans know glow whenever Gojira uses his dragon breath), I draw right through them with the background linework. I also place the board over a piece of scrap paper so I can keep whipping the edge-of-paper linework off the page without marking up or destroying my drawing (or kitchen) table.


The final step for me is not just ‘cleaning up’ the artwork with a white correctional pen; I’m actually finishing the drawing process with the white correctional pen!

As noted, I’m redrawing Gojira‘s glowering back spines at this stage; I’m also adding spark to his fiery breath (subtle here), and some fire strokes where needed.

After allowing that to dry completely, I then refine details and redraw portions with fine-line black penwork and a dab or two of solid black. Be sure to use a white correctional pen that you can draw over afterwards; some correctional pens use whiteout ‘ink’ that cannot be drawn over.

That’s it! More art instructionals to come… in the meantime, there’s plenty of archived instructionals awaiting you directly below.

Sketch Instructional From Hell!!!

Drawing Etrigan the Demon!


Based on the response to the previous sketch instructional (Abby & Swamp Thing; see below, under this Demon dance), I’ve included a few more steps of my process in this step-by-step exercise.

Every drawing is different; every sketch is different.

Part of why I won’t be getting into how I do a comics page here (for a while, at any rate) is that I can at least break down the step-by-step for a single drawing. Drawing a page geometrically escalates the differences — every panel is different, but must work in harmony with the whole — and it’s important that we at least arrive at a common set of definitions and perspective on just the ‘how I draw’ process before adding the multiple layers of storytelling, page design, page/panel integration, etc.

So, we’ll stick to sketches for the time being.

I left out pencils last time because honestly my pencils must look almost nonsensical to anyone else. I pencilled my Saga of the Swamp Thing pages with more tight precision than I ever, ever pencil for myself — so my pencils for my own inking (even in my comic pages) will never resemble the pencils from my Swamp Thing salad days. These are for me to ink, not an inker.

Here, I’m just roughing out the basic shapes and forms. This makes pictures cohere in my head. It’s a rough blueprint at best, vaguely defining the key image and some essential forms.


Using a fine-point waterproof pen/fine point marker (doesn’t matter which), I now bang in the basic outline of Etrigan. I try to make sure these are key lines — most of then will be retained, one way or another, in the final drawing.


Never toss out fading markers! Using a fading broad-tip marker, I now rough out the forms sculpturally.

If I were using a fresh black marker, I would never do this — in that case, I’d just be rendering bold shadow areas (as I did with the Abby & Swamp Thing sketch, below).

Here, I’m using the fading marker as I would a stick of charcoal or broad pencil. I’m literally sculpting the masses, working out volume, and slapping in some key details of the figure, face, extremities.

Any artist seeking to codify my approach is certain to become frustrated. “Why did you put the heavy blacks in first on this sketch, and not on this one?” The short and honest answer is, “I don’t know.” If I knew, I wouldn’t have to draw. It’s not knowing that prompts me to coax a picture out of a piece of paper: not knowing, finding my way, getting to ‘know’ is the fun part.

I go with the flow in every case. Sometimes the access to tools determines what I do when; sometimes the subject matter determines my orientation to the sketch process; sometimes I just want to switch gears to see what happens. I’m essentially a gut-level instinctive cartoonist, and it’s only because I’m teaching now at the Center for Cartoon Studies that I’ve even had to articulate my process.

That said, let’s keep going –

Using a Sharpie (rather than a broad-tip marker or fine-point), I now tighten up some of the major lines. These won’t all carry this weight in the final drawing. Some of the lines I lay down at this stage I know I’ll be thinning with whiteout correctional pen in the final stages (see below); some I will thicken as needed. But here’s where I make all my final decisions in terms of where I’m going, and what the final stages of the process will be.

Being tentative at this point is pointless, particularly when sketching. Be bold, be brave, draw through, and really nail your composition and major issues at this stage.


Now I go back in with a couple of fine-line pens and/or markers. I’ll sometimes even use ballpoint pen at this stage of refinement.

I’m tightening up the finer details here. The face is the ultimate focus of this drawing — Etrigan‘s eyes, maw, and the taut features around both — and I’ve deliberately intensified both the gargoyle-like characteristics of Jack Kirby‘s Demon and its feline aspects.

Many cartoonists balk at the blocky squared-off fingers of many of Kirby‘s drawings, but especially with Etrigan I love how that element of Kirby’s art enhances Etrigan’s cat-like persona.

I’m also working out details of the costume at this stage. I’ll work out elements I know I’m ultimately obscuring: for instance, that odd ‘disc’ that holds Etrigan‘s cape in place at the top of the sternum can’t stay in the drawing. Seen here, drawn in crisp focus, it makes it look like Etrigan‘s playing with an apple or rubber ball! So, it’s going to be obfuscated in the final rendering steps, but I do put it in here — it is essential to the costume, and I want to remind myself it’s there, even if the focus of this sketch (the Demon‘s snarling face and savage claws) has already determined it won’t remain visible.

This is part of ‘drawing through,’ just as you may note I draw through the thumb of Etrigan‘s left hand (at the right of the drawing itself), through his eyebrows, and so on. All that can be dealt with properly in the final stage.


ERASE THE PENCILS — once the fine-line work has completely dried (make sure it’s dry, or you’ll be soooorrry!), erase the pencil underdrawing. You can’t really see what the sketch is looking like until they’re gone, unless you’re going to work them into the final steps (which can be done and often is, but that’s another matter for another instructional down the road).

Erasing tip: erase in the direction of your primary lines. In this case, since this drawing has a strong set of diagonal lines and shapes framing and/or moving away from Etrigan‘s face, that’s how I erased the pencils. That way, if a line smears, it won’t upset the basic directional aspect of the composition — the direction I want to lead your eye, as the viewer.

After erasing the pencils completely, I now bang in the strongest blacks, using a fresh, new broad-tip marker and a fresh Sharpie. This is quick stuff — bam, bam, bam! — as the strength of the strokes adds to the dramatic pull of the drawing itself.

I’m also still drawing through at this point — if I mess up, I can fix it in cleanup, as long as it’s not a major faux pas.

Also, be sure to put something under the edge of your sketch at this point. Drawing through means carrying your strokes off the edge of the paper — without destroying the surface you’re working on below the board. Any old junk paper will do, it’s just allowing you to draw beyond the boundaries of the paper itself.


OK, time to wrap up! My finishing stage begins with drawing with white correctional pen — in this case, a brand new Liquid Paper Correction Pen (H7) — and this is the last real drawing I do.

Note the details I save for this stage. I always intended to lengthen Etrigan‘s horns; that happens here. Longer, sharper fangs, talons; that’s here. Eyes widened a bit, ears detailed, the edges of his medieval cape, a bit of surface and edge detail on his chest, shoulders, arms.

I’m careful not to be messy here, without being afraid to slightly overdo it. I’m still going back in with black marker and pens to tighten up these details after the white correctional pen dries completely!


The careful attention to detail is final at this point. This is my last few minutes dancing with this devil! This is where I really perfect the aspects important to me: the proper size/shape of his teeth, eyes, and any characteristics that have to be correct.

Don’t be afraid to use your fingers and fingertips at this point. I smear and smudge as necessary, with either the white or black ink; whatever it takes.

And there he is — Jack Kirby’s Etrigan, the Demon, as I see him (today, anyway)!

Etrigan the Demon © and TM DC Comics, Inc.; artwork ©2009 SR Bissette, all rights reserved. The Demon was created by Jack Kirby.


Bissette Sketch Instructional:

Inking Tips for Sketch Art: Drawing Abby & Swamp Thing

How to get from the rough sketch above to the finished sketch below?

It’s a step-by-step process, and though I usually work quickly and instinctively on these kinds of sketches, I’ve carefully prepared scans of each step between the first lines I lay down (above) to the finish, adding hand-written notes of what precisely I’m doing. Hopefully this will be of some use to fellow cartoonists and budding young artists out there!


And here’s the final sketch art, sans notations:


Swamp Thing & Abby are © and TM DC Comics, Inc.; artwork ©2009 SR Bissette, all rights reserved.


Sketch Instructional: Making Man Things

Mucking About With Marvel’s Muck Monster in Eight Easy Steps!

I’m deliberately posting scans that allow you to see my marker strokes; this is for educational purposes, so it’s important you can see what I’m doing, and the marks I’m making…

One damned Thing after another!

I started my spring Man Thing sketch by roughing in the basic shapes of his distinctive—uh, face?

You can do this with pencil, if you’re unsure of the forms, or with pen (as I have) if you know that mossy mug by heart, as I do!
I then go in with archival pens and carve out the shadows. In this case, I chose to start with sepia ink, specifically working with a chisel-point archival pen (Prismacolor Premiere Archival Quality, Chisel Tip Marker). Working in sepia ink first gives me wiggle room to rough out shapes without worrying too much about being definite in my choices, as I would have to be with black ink at this stage.
I now begin to work in black archival ink. I’m showing you the earliest stage here, incomplete, so you can see how I approach this process—here, using the black archival ink Chisel Tip Marker (again, Prismacolor Premiere, for this sketch). I use both the wide, flat edge of the chisel tip to bang in broad strokes in the deep shadows, and the finer edge and tip to ease into more detailed work shaping Man Thing‘s root-like brow ridge and textured eye sockets…
…and I continue until I’m satisfied with this stage of working through the primary forms: Man Thing‘s brow, his forehead, that elongated central nose/trunk/carrot thingie, his shaggy shoulders, the deep shadows hiding what’s under his head and beneath his shoulders. Less is more in a relatively close-up portrait like this one.
Now, I go back in with the sepia ink—this time, using the brush pen (from the same Prismacolor Premiere set). It’s time to render the eyes, knowing that they won’t be finished until I splash white highlights over those burning orbs.

In a way, you see, I’m actually doing the “underdrawing” of the eyes here—using fairly broad strokes to place his eyes in the shadow of his huge brow, and making sure they look like spherical organs deep-set into those nasty sockets.
I now go back in with black archival ink, first using the brush pen. I’m unafraid still of bold strokes; this is less about laying in details at this stage as it is making sure there’s a real sense of mass, of sculpted forms.

I also place incidental elements at this stage. Note the flies (an essential component of all Man Thing and Swamp Thing art—these are stinky dudes, composed of ideal vegetative material for insect life of all kinds).

Again, I render these knowing the real sculpting—with white correctional pen, to catch highlights and final detailing, with another step to go after that—is still ahead of me.
There’s all kinds of white correctional pens on the market; experiment with them, and be sure to settle on a tool that you can draw over again without the white ink/correctional fluid chipping off the board. I sign the art at this stage, too!

Note that some of my white linework isn’t too refined; I can refine and shape some of the white lines in the final stage, when I go back in with black fine-tip archival ink markers—

—like so. I used the black brush pen to shape some lines, but primarily I used the 05 fine point marker for all the final detailing. You could go nuts at this stage, really trying to lovingly pinpoint every bit of lichen, moss, and fungus, but suggestion is more effective—and you don’t want to detract too much from the center of attention, those lovely eyes!

Man Thing® is © and a registered trademark of Marvel Comics, Inc.; sketch artwork ©2011 SR Bissette, all rights reserved.


Bissette Art Instructional Videos:

Drawing Vermonsters Vids by Tim Stout!

ChampVMGcolorproofCenter for Cartoon Studies senior (Class of 2010) and vet filmmaker/videographer Tim Stout shot demo videos of some of my inking work on illustrations for The Vermont Monster Guide in the early winter/spring months of 2009.

My cartooning pal and computer guru Cayetano Garza Jr. took the time to painstakingly prep Tim‘s video for online posting, and we created a page specifically for showcasing of Tim‘s most excellent demo videos. This provides an ideal compliment to the art instructionals I’ll be sharing with you here!


Discussion (9) ¬

  1. Mark Masztal

    I like the draw through comment when dropping in the brush background. Very helpful if you don’t have a lot of drawing in front and utilizing the white out has always been a Bissette standard. Funny how a lot of artists cringe when using white out.

  2. srbissette

    White out — of which there are MANY options these days — is an essential drawing tool! Too many cartoonists think of it only as a clean-up necessity; for me, it’s the point at which a drawing is usually completed, the final inking step, really.

  3. David Paleo

    Hi Steve, what you mean by MANY options of white out? i’m missing something here in Buenos Aires? i use those pencil like squeezers with the metal point that you have to press against the paper to release the white out, and i find the things indispensable, i ink a lot of sections with the brush that i actually “finish” with the white out, not correcting but rather make the black lines and the white lines swim together -inking is all about making liquids bend to your instincts, anyway- no good for lettering though, i still have to “invert” on Photoshop when i want white lettering on black.

  4. srbissette

    David, sorry for the late reply! I work with a variety of white media, from the various ‘pregnant’ whiteout correctional pens (they have built-in bladders you can squeeze to control the flow of white ink as you draw) to the Mean Streak, which is essentially a stick of shoe polish I love to do finishes with in some cases. Given your interest, I’ll be more specific in my next instructional about that stage of the process, and include names of the particular correctional pens or media I’m using. Thanks for the interest!

  5. srbissette

    Just today posted the Demon instructional; hope the extra attention to the final ‘white out’ stage of the process helps explain a bit more, too.

  6. srbissette

    First new instructional of 2010 just posted: Inking Gojira/Godzilla. Enjoy!

  7. pat broderick

    I’d like to run an idea past you,but privatly.

  8. srbissette

    New instructional just up, summer 2011: Man Thing! Enjoy!

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