Art Exercise : Muscle Study

Muscle Draw Over

The Idea

When I was a kid, I first learned anatomy and poses by drawing from comic books and magazines.

If I wanted to draw a hugely muscular character, I would reference the Hulk. A sexy woman? A catalog model or MJ or Wonder Woman.

The Process

The idea here is very simple. To help yourself become familiar with musculature, just trace those muscles.

  1.  Get yourself familiar with Google’s Image Search (
  2. Use it to find yourself an image that’s to your liking. (The image seen here, I just used the search string “arnold schwarzenegger bodybuilding wallpaper”)
  3. For the digital illustrator:
    1. Open your reference image in your favorite art application.
    2. Lower the opacity of the reference image (here, I lowered it to 25%).
    3. Create a new layer on top of the reference image and trace the muscles of the reference image below. Bonus: Use different colors to differentiate between different muscle groups.
  4. For traditional media:
    1. Use your printer to print out your reference image.
    2. Use tracing paper to create the same ‘layer’ effect as described above.
    3. Trace the musculature on the tracing paper. Same bonus applies here – use colored pencils to differentiate between the different muscle groups.

More Art Exercises

We’re planning to bring you more art exercises here on Dragonbones. Projects to help improve your art skills and increase your creativity. Just a good, solid, free resource for folks to enjoy. Want to help? Let us know in the comments below. Have an art exercise you especially like? Let us know – we’ll add it to the list and there may even be a little something in it for you.

Share Your Work

We’d love to see what YOU do with this exercise. Post a link in the comments section below!

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How to Draw Female Goblins

Female GoblinAs I’m going through the process of drawing goblins for the card game, I thought I might write up the how of my drawing the critters. You may remember that I did a goblin concept page for the design of goblins recently. This post continues that idea – including female goblins.

Female Goblins

Similar in height to their male counterparts, the females are not without their distinctions. Like many other humanoid species, the female goblins have wider hips and more narrow torsos to their male counterparts.

The females of the goblin race like to adorn themselves with jewelry. The more, the better, and there does not appear to be any ‘norm’ for what constitutes quality.

While still having hairless heads, the rest of the female goblin bodies tend to be more hairy than the males. Specifically in the armpits and pubic areas. The females are very proud of this hair.

Goblin Female

Warts are another point of cosmetic pride for female goblins. So much so that they are known to create false warts by using insect carcasses, mucus, or (in truth) anything they can find that might fit the bill.

Like the males, the clothing worn by female goblins (and the aforementioned jewelry) is frequently based on communal standing and/or position held within the group. These titles are usually profession based and thus a blacksmith might be found in a leather apron. A merchant in finer garb to impress potential buyers.

In most other ways, the females are generally indistinguishable from the males.

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Dinner Sketch

Doodle from dinner... Just a quick little doodle I did last night while I was out to dinner.  Nothing life altering, but I thought it was decent and since I rarely do color stuff these days, I thought I would put it up.

There’s not nearly enough depth of hues in it, but since I did this in between mouthfuls, I figure that’s ok. Color is something I really need to work on / develop anyway.

As a side note, I did this while at Skipper’s ( on Long Island. Fun nautical themed place just off the water in Northport. Good spot.

Oh, and this was done on my Note 10.1 with Sketchbook Pro.

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Half Elf Mage Character Portrait – Traben

Half Elf Mage

Last night I put the finishing touches on a character portrait for a client. For reference, here’s the description I was given (which was the rare combination of brief and highly descriptive):

“The characters name is Traben. He is a half-elf wizard.
Traben looks 17 years of age, stands at 5’4”, with shoulder length brown hair that is disheveled. His cheek bones and jaw are angular. The back of his ears taper to a point. His eyes are a bright emerald green, but not angular as a full elf would have. His face for this portrait, should show a look of concentration and excitement. (I bet I will have more portraits of Traben =-] ).
Traben is a serf by birth, and then lived with a hermit as apprentice. He wears old worn clothing, with little tears and worn appearance. His shirt is a rustic long sleeved faded red. Breeches of brown wool, and worn over all this is a gray wool cloak, hood down. In one hand a Straight Oak staff, charred black on one end. In the other his spell book, a well kept thick tome, full of runes going every which direction on the pages. Bound in deep brown leather, on the cover is a circle with a hexagon inside, each corner touching the circle. I want Traben sitting on a boulder, staff in the crook of his arm, the book cracked open in the other with Traben reading intently and happily”

I sent them both of the versions above because I think I actually like leaving the sketch layer visible (as seen on the left) but I could imagine folks wanting to only see the clean ‘inks’ (on the right).

Which made me curious – what do you think? If you were to commission me for a character portrait, and could only have one or the other, which would you pick? Why?

Leave your thoughts below, and if you have any critiques, I would love to hear it!

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Dwarf Character Portrait

Snowbeard - Dwarven Warrior

Working on a character portrait for a buddy of mine. I’m going to go through all the stages of my illustration process and eventually I’ll post them all as a walkthrough. For now though, here’s the digital inks.

The description of the character was:


He is five feet tall with a slightly receding hairline, his hair is a light grayish and ever so slightly silver on the sides around his ears.  He has a full length beard with tightly woven braids down the sides of his chin.  his eyes are black and deeply shrouded in shadow.  He wears a ornate artifact for a holy symbol.  The implement is diamond shape and has an inscripted jade gem in the center.  He wears full plate mail armor which hugs quite nicely to his older but still strong physic.  In his left arm he carries a full large shield with the same inscription as the holy symbol.

In his right hand he holds a battle axe gleaming in fresh blood from his foes.  Strapped around his neck and back he wears a cloak the color green connected by a silver clamp.  Although his appearance may be gruesome at first, he has a gentle demeanor on his face.”
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