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Charcoal Sketching Techniques and Tips for Beginners

Updated: Feb 18, 2022

Rad Educators is a 1-year program intended to help beginner artists learn step-by-step techniques from professional artists across different mediums. This is in no way sponsored or promoted by any particular Art Brand.

Amit Kumar Meena is Rad Educator for Charcoal Sketching.

Charcoal is a form of the dry medium made up of organic material bound together with wax. Charcoal is brittle and yet smooth and often preferable over pencils as it can produce light shades as well as the dark one which can be easily erased without leaving marks.

Charcoal is a medium that is dark, but if you learn how to control it, you can make any hyperrealism effect with charcoal. You just have to learn the way. 

In this tutorial, I’d introduce you to charcoal powder and charcoal pencils. I’ve shown how to use them to get that hyperrealistic effect. 

Materials Required: 

1) Camlin compressed charcoal stick

2) Camlin soft charcoal pencil

3) Eye shadow makeup brush

4) Lip filler makeup brush

5) Flat synthetic brush

6) Mono eraser

7) 170 GSM textured drawing paper

Making the Charcoal Powder

Using sandpaper, make a powder out of the charcoal stick. Rub the charcoal stick on the sandpaper. It gets converted to powder. Remember, to sieve/strain it before you use. You can use a sieve, strainer or an old, thin cotton cloth to refine the powder.

Creating strokes with Charcoal and Blending Charcoal

Take a brush and put a little amount of Charcoal Powder in it. You can try different strokes with the brush. Hold the brush as vertical as you can. Move in circular direction to blend the charcoal on paper.

Creating different grades in Charcoal

If you want a lighter shade, take less charcoal in your brush. Use light pressure. For darker shades; take more charcoal or add layers. Your drawing will get better and less messy as you practice.

Smudging and Blending Charcoal

For smudging the charcoal strokes, use an eye shadow brush. Use circular direction. Be gentle. Do not rub the paper, as it might damage it. The more you blend gently, the better blending you can see. This takes practise and patience to achieve a smooth finish.

Detailing using Charcoal

Lip Filler makeup brush can be used for detailing and precision. As the tip is small and hard, details can be made. With more practise and experimentation; you will start seeing hyperrealistic effect using these techniques.

Drawing Hair with Charcoal

A flat brush is perfect for drawing hair using charcoal. You can use a soft Charcoal pencil for more detailing and realistic effect. Use the blending techniques mentioned above with a combination of pencil strokes. Always use a sharp pencil.

Important Tip :

The tools I’ve shown are not important, you can choose any similar grade charcoal pencil and charcoal powder which is easily available to you. Techniques matter, tools don’t. So, start practicing and practice makes everything possible. 

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