7 Charcoal Drawing Tips for Beginners

Drawing with charcoal is addictive, some people simply love working with this medium. Maybe it’s because these drawings are so quick and immediate, or maybe because their final look is often so mesmerizing. Even the great artist Michelangelo created a number of charcoal paintings.

Whatever be the reasons for its popularity as a painting medium, there are some essential drawing techniques you should know before you start working on your first charcoal painting.

  • Find the essence

It is imperative to keep the main thing in the charcoal paintings. Artistically speaking, this main thing is called the essence and is important in any other medium as well. When creating a piece, you need to establish what the image is about, and what you want to convey with it. Once you decide on the essence, everything you do from that point on, every move, every mark and every detail you put in or leave out, should work to strengthen that element of the painting.

For example, in the charcoal drawing above, it is all about the man in the center, rest everything is only supporting the main idea.

  • Know the values

Regardless of color, every image is composed of values.

Simply put, value is a walk from white towards the blacks (light to darkness), on a range of one to 10 wherein one is the white of the page and ten is the black, so, for instance, a five, 50 percent is a medium grey, halfway between white and black.

To get this correctly, work your values from the middle out, keeping your darkest dark (the shadows) no darker than six or seven, and your lightest (the light effect) a three or four. Use the darkest values on the subject or essence of your work.

Go for using a hierarchy of value in your painting, it will allow you to direct the viewer to those aspects that you want them to see first.

  • Explore the thick and thin lines

It is always a good idea to use both thick and thin lines is artworks.

If every line has the same width or is drawn using the same exact pressure in charcoal drawing, it ends up looking more like a coloring book drawing and might come across as something very mundane and boring. Here, using thick and thin lines in your painting will add more life to it.

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Here’s you can do it correctly — always remember that lines on top of things are thinner since light is hitting them while all lines underneath objects can be thicker as there are usually shadows sitting there.

  • Try charcoal pencils

Charcoals for drawing come in many forms, from compressed pencils to thick sticks to chunks or vines, which specific medium you wish to use is something you ought to decide.

Try all these different varieties of charcoal and understand what suits your style and requirements.

  • Use an eraser

The cool thing about using charcoal is that it’s very easy to control, you can even move it around easily.

Once you apply charcoal to your work, you can remove it or erase it where it’s not needed. A number of easers are available which serve different purposes. For example- a kneaded eraser, a soft and flexible one (you can easily bend and squash), is used as a fine-liner eraser. It works by lifting pigment of charcoal off the surface. Because of this, the paper surface is left undamaged with no smears. When you’re working with charcoal, a kneaded eraser is a must!

For those tough, heavy lifting erasing jobs, go for hardcore eraser pen.

  • Get gloves

As hands have oils on the surface, using them to move charcoal can damage the purity of the paper. At times, the oils on your hand can attach to your paper and repel your medium. To get rid of this problem, wear a glove, or place a paper towel under your hand to protect your painting from smearing.

  • Kit more tools

There are many really cool tools for creating charcoal drawings.

One of them is cotton wipes, it is a great tool for making a large mass of charcoal in just one stroke. In case, you can’t get hold of this, you can use your finger to ‘move’ or apply the charcoal, though it might be streaky or too small at times.

You may also want to have another useful tool for your charcoal art — a blending stump. This tool will let you have full control over the blending and smearing of your charcoal helping you create amazing effects.

Also, a must-have is a workable fixative to spray your charcoal paintings, which can be quite messy afterward.

You know the tricks now, use them wisely and create your own charcoal masterpiece!

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Article Author Details

Caroline Johan