Sketching With Charcoals

When done well, charcoal drawings can look incredibly realistic. In fact, charcoal drawing is a cousin of painting. Because of this, for many artists, charcoal is the medium of choice for portraits, since it can really make them seem to come to life. Charcoal paintings can be preserved as such (see below for notes on fixative spray) and/or can be memorialized by taking a photo and creating some cool unusual objects from it, such as awesome shower curtains, or acrylic blocks.

Great for beginners:

Charcoal drawings are great for people with all levels of skill, but are especially a good option for beginners. Various kinds of lines can be made easily with charcoal, without pressing down too hard, so that it is not tiring. Also, charcoal can be smudged with fingers for different effects, and can also be erased very easily to create additional effects.


Paper: Charcoal sketches are commonly done on paper, but can actually be done on pretty much any medium, as long charcoal marks show up and stay on it.

Charcoal: Decide if you want to work with hard or soft charcoal. Also, while black or gray typically comes to mind when you think of a charcoal pencil, you may also want to have a white pencil on hand. The white pencil is often useful for specific highlights. Compressed charcoal, vine charcoal, charcoal pencils and charcoal powder are some of the forms in which this may be obtained.

Eraser: You need a high-quality, wonderful eraser. Otherwise things can get frustrating quite fast! Ideally, you would use something called a “kneaded eraser” which works especially well with charcoal.

Fixative Spray: Once you are done with the drawing, you should spray it to keep it from smudging. Some people use hair spray rather than a specialized fixative spray for this purpose.

charcoal drawing




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