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How to Draw Kaiju, the Godzilla Sized Step-by-Step Guide

Drawing practice of Godzilla on left and original design Kaiju on right by Gvaat

Kaiju are my favorite type of monsters. The mysterious origin stories, the power struggle, the manifestation of mother nature’s balance as Godzilla, and at times the lack of any sense – it is all just great fun.

Drawing Kaiju is similar to drawing any other animal, fiction or real life. With that, in essence, drawing Kaiju is similar to drawing people as well.

To draw Kaiju, understand the design you want to communicate, begin with a gesture drawing, add the forms for the head, the ribcage and the pelvis, and then model the arms and legs. Finally, refine and add detail to you Kaiju drawing.

Keep refining until you get the results you want. If things seem off, go back to the previous stage to fix it. Remember, without a proper underdrawing of the skeletal structure, the head, ribcage, and pelvis, the Kaiju design will not look realistic.

This would not be a gvaat.com tutorial without breaking the above description down into manageable steps. Without further ado, let’s get to it:

Step 1: Design and gesture – drawing Kaiju

In the next step, we will be working towards a maquette of our Kaiju (top left), for now let’s focus on the gesture drawing.

Searching for a good design requires an iterative approach. Start with many small thumbnails, and slowly refine to the best ones. You can try redrawing Kaiju designs already out there, or you can create your own by creating several small thumbnails of your own design.

In design and illustration, a thumbnail is a small image that represents a larger one. It is about the size of the nail of the thumb finger. The size is kept small purposefully, to deter the artist from drawing in too many details. At that small size, it is easy to work out the proportions and the silhouette of the design.

You may need to fill a few pages with small thumbnails before getting to a few to redraw. Try out different things but don’t get carried away, if you drew five hundred thumbnails and can’t pick one to push further, something is probably going wrong. Perhaps you don’t need to be in love with your thumbnail ideas before you develop them further.

Thumbnail drawing of a design turned into a final rendering on the right – study by Gvaat

If you are creating your own design, remember that most Kaiju seem to have some animal characteristics to help ground their designs in reality. Look at Kaiju designs already out there and try to create one that fits within that lineup. Above is one I made up from the thumbnail on the left.

When doing thumbnails, try to define the overall attitude your Kaiju will portray, and then draw the gesture lines that reflect that attitude.

Gesture lines describe the flow of the figure and its action. A gesture drawing is created by laying in the rhythm of the action and the direction of the pose of the figure.

Gesture drawing (top left) showing the spine and the angle of Godzilla

Your lines can show the general figure or they can be tied to approximate the spine of the Kaiju you are trying to draw.

Tip: you can look at samples of Kaiju you like. Remember to analyze the reference you are looking at instead of copying it. You need to look at an image and try to imagine the anatomy that is not visible, get a grasp of the entire figure. A good exercise to do is to look at a picture of something and try to imagine it as it would appear from another side or another angle of view.

The above drawing of original Kaiju started with a gesture, even before the thumbnail was finished:

Gesture lines blocked in from left to right.

Step 2: Completing the Kaiju maquette for the underdrawing of our Kaiju design.

Now that we have a gesture line that represents the attitude, the action and general pose of our Kaiju, we need to add the head, the ribcage and the pelvis to the drawing represented with simple forms.

For connecting joints and the head, it is okay to draw a circles for now, you will be refining these shapes in the next step.

After doing this, we have the basic structure of the drawing. We now can add spheres and sticks for the joints of the arms and legs.

Of course, Kaiju anatomy, like all anatomy for drawing, gets a lot more complicated. However, at this stage, we only need the basics forms. Try staying away from complicating your drawing until it is further along.

Place the arms. Just indicate the placement and the action in this early sketch. Then place the legs. Again, just indicate the placement and the action.

If you must identify the bone structure for the arms and legs of your Kaiju. Look at bone structures of

  • Cats
  • Dogs
  • Dinosaurs
  • Elephants

And see if any of the above have anything in common with your monster design, if so, adopt some of the structure. For example, cats also have a femur and a tibia like humans, but they end much higher up on the leg. Look at the skeletal structure of various animals and see what you can salvage for your own design.

Completing this stage should give us a basic maquette of the Kaiju we want to draw, one that embodies the original feelings we set out to communicate with the pose and attitude of our design.

Step 3: drawing over the maquette of the Kaiju

Drawing over the maquette stage indicated (purple arrow)

Now that we have a basic maquette in place for the drawing of our Kaiju, we need to add in the details. A couple of things are important to get that right:

  • Use good reference – if you are drawing Kaiju for the first time, it will very difficult to draw much convincingly without good reference. Good reference could include studying films featuring Kaiju monsters, looking at other artists, or looking in nature – and collecting reference pictures of animals and insects that may help you with a convincing portrayal of your design.
  • Make sure that you are following the structure of your maquette as you add in the details. We created the maquette to serve as a guide, use it. With that said, you will see that I change the structure of the arm on one of my drawings in this tutorial since I felt like the original did not serve its purpose.
Refine stage indicated. Once I drew over the maquette, I kept refining over the drawing until I got to a place I was happy with.

Once you complete the drawing over the maquette, set it to 20% transparency, or lightly erase with an eraser, and draw over it with more confident lines.

One the initial design is set, the process is driven to completion with refinement.

Step 4: Rendering and color of your Kaiju monster drawing

At this point, you should have the lineart or the underdrawing stage fully complete, and you can decide if you want to paint over or color your Kaiju in a realistic way or perhaps with flat color, or if you just want to enjoy the line drawing you made.

Rendering Kaiju. The top middle drawing is where shadows were added. The top right and the bottom left are color choice drawings. All of these (shadow and color choices) are put together in one render (bottom middle), which is then further refined (bottom right).

At this step, I color the entire monster with one flat coat that goes under the lineart. I then draw in the shadows. For tips on how to render, check out this tutorial about light and form.

You can change the color of the undercoat layer when you paint digitally to fit your design. For traditional media, try creating a small thumbnail of a colored Kaiju, and once you are happy with the painting, begin to paint in the full lineart illustration. In this way, your color choices are resolved and you don’t have to make mistakes in choice of color on the big original piece you have been working on.

Conclusion – Drawing a Kaiju monster

Gvaat’s original kaiju design drawing progression

In this tutorial, we went over drawing a Kaiju monster from scratch or building on what is already there. We talked about picking a design and the drawing of the initial gesture for your Kaiju drawing, then completing the Kaiju maquette for the underdrawing of the design, then we discussed drawing in the detail for the finalized lineart, and finally, we touched on painting your Kaiju in color.

A fun aspect of Kaiju design is the futuristic look and abilities of the monsters. Drawing Kaiju can be a good exercise for your creative skills when it comes to the shape and cohesiveness of the entire design.

Feel free to let your imagination run wild early in the process, and as you refine limit yourself to specific solutions of the design. A good test to see if you are progressing nicely with your drawing is to ask if your Kaiju design can be placed in a lineup with Kaiju that have already come before it. How does your design hold up to the Godzillas and the Mothras of the Kaiju world?

This tutorial should help you break things down into steps when drawing your Kaiju. Follow along and see how you do. Good luck with your drawing! Unfortunately, our time for this tutorial is at an end, now it is your turn to draw.

Bonus: Drawing Godzilla Step-by-Step