While not everyone feels that charcoal is necessarily their favorite form of creation in the world, it is pretty great.
You might be unsure about the mess or even the feel, but don’t worry. Learning how to draw in charcoal is a skill just like any other.
The more you try it out and experiment with it, the better. That is why I took the time to throw together some quick tips on how to draw in charcoal.
You will love what you can do with this amazing medium!
Learn How To Smudge
—The real magic behind drawing in charcoal is that it allows you to smudge. Smudging is an excellent way to create some truly stunning effects when it comes to learning how to draw in charcoal. This is one of the signature things that charcoal is known for.
You can easily create some truly amazing drawings using smudging to add a layer of drama to your image. This is such a great way to use this medium to add texture and complexity to a drawing. It is the heart and soul of charcoal drawing.
Learn To Elevate Your Hand
—A huge part of drawing in charcoal is navigating the charcoal itself once it is on the paper. The last thing that you want is to drag your hand through fresh charcoal or charcoal in any capacity. This will immediately turn that charming smudge effect into a ruined piece of art.
If you are going to effectively work with charcoal, you must be aware that it spreads. This spreading effect means that it will get all over your hands. Many people find that it will end up on a finger and accidentally end up on the page where it isn’t wanted.
Scribble It Out
—Charcoal is a fairly unique medium. Most people who use it for the first time are caught off guard by the texture. If you want to learn how to get better at drawing, you must understand the tool. Drawing in charcoal is a great skill, but you have to start small.
Try scribbling or doodling before going for a full-scale drawing. This is one medium that you will want to mess up in a few times before you get good with it.
Learn About Pressure
—Charcoal, when pressed, can turn darker than a punk high school girl’s eyeliner. Learning how to manage pressure is a huge part of working with it. While it can be pretty amazing to press down and create true darkness, this isn’t always the goal.
Many people find that charcoal can ruin a drawing when you press too hard carelessly. Understanding how your pressure variations can change the overall feel of the piece is crucial. Practice pressing harder and lighter to learn how to control it better.
Try Different Papers For Texture
—When you use charcoal lightly, you can create stunning effects with the right paper. Every paper has its texture and some papers are known for having specific textures. You can easily use these different papers to create cool effects with your art using charcoal.
The right paper can shine through and create different feels to your work. If you want to overshadow the texture in some areas, you can merely press harder to cover it all up. Learning how to draw in charcoal means embracing the way it interacts with other tools.
Try Different Brands
—When it comes to creating great charcoal art, a huge part of finding your success is finding the right charcoal. Not all charcoal products are made equally. You might just find that some suit your tastes more than others. Different brands and different styles of charcoal are known for providing different experiences.
You might learn that one brand, in particular, is better for one style of art than another. Trying out different products for a medium can be a great way to improve your art!
Practice, Practice, Practice
—When it comes right down to it, the best way to improve any craft is through practice. If you are looking to get the most out of something, you need to put in the time and effort. Drawing in charcoal can be fun and lead to some insanely beautiful drawings.
Getting good at it probably won’t happen overnight. Just like you would with anything else, it is important to take the time to improve yourself every single day.
Take A Class
—If you want to get good at something, a great way to go about it is to learn from a professional. Before, you had to go to an actual location to take a class from a trained professional. In this modern world, you don’t even have to leave your house.
Whether you choose to attend a class at a local university, or you opt for an online option instead, a class with a great teacher is an invaluable experience. This is a great way to improve your skills quickly.
Experiment With Different Art Styles
—Improving a skill quickly is generally something that works best if you try a bunch of different approaches. When it comes to making art, there are so many different art styles available that it can be overwhelming.
However, this is part of the genius behind making great art. Experimenting with different styles is an amazing way for you to get more comfortable using charcoal for drawing.
—Drawing in charcoal is something that works best if you have intentions to work with lighting. In some ways, charcoal is the perfect dark product to show off how much light matters. A great approach to improving your skills with charcoal is to practice shading.
Shading is a powerful artistic technique and it works great when you are drawing in charcoal. Practicing shading can help you to improve your control when working with charcoal.
Practice Working With Light
—In the same way that you can use charcoal for amazing shading effects, you can also use it in other ways. A great way to leverage the bold darkness of charcoal is to use it to make cool lighting effects on your art. You can do this by creating a look as if light was being actively shone on your subjects.
Work With Different Subjects
—A great way to improve your craft when it comes to drawing in charcoal is to draw different subjects. You might be surprised to see just how well this helps you to get better control when working with charcoal. It is a great way to ensure that you spend a lot of time working on your craft in different ways.
By focusing on different subjects, you ensure that you will need to take different approaches to completing your task. This makes it easy for you to gain more exposure and improve your art much sooner.
Practice Scraping The Charcoal
—Since so many people use charcoal, it can be incredibly fun to see what new techniques come up. One great technique with charcoal that has come up in recent years is the use of charcoal with a blade or other sharp device. This allows you to use a thick layer of charcoal that can be drawn on with the sharp tool.
This makes it easy for you to draw unique pictures and also scrape away charcoal for exciting results. It is not the most common method, but it can add to your charcoal work.
Photo by Adrien Olichon
Use Blackout Techniques
—The real reason why people love charcoal is simply the fact that it is highly pigmented. Charcoal’s black intensity makes it easy to make some truly amazing things. You can enjoy making high contrast images with some truly amazing looks. Since charcoal is so dark, it is easy to make completely black strokes and sections for a great look.
Use An Edge
—Charcoal is a unique medium that is unlike anything else. What is great about this is the fact that you can well and truly embrace some unique experiments. Charcoal is a tool that you can make your own.
You can press your finger to the pigment, experiment with strokes or even heat tools, and more. Find something unique and bring charcoal as a way to see it through. There is so much available for this medium, you won’t want to miss out.
Draw Something You Know Well
—An excellent way to perfect art with a new tool is to get to work. In the event you find yourself completely unsure about your talents with a new art style, you should start familiar.
Working on drawing something that you know well can help you to learn more about the method. Since you know what you are aiming for, it becomes more about manipulating the medium for a better outcome.
Photo by Jacqueline Day
Don’t Be Afraid To Get Messy
—Charcoal is a notoriously messy tool to create art with. This particular form of artistic expression is known for getting on everything and anything. Instead of trying to control the chaos, open yourself up to it.
When you realize that this mess is part of the charm, it becomes easy to embrace it more fully. Truly lean into this form of art and have fun with it!
Respect the Process
—Many people find that charcoal drawing is just not quite what they are used to. Depending on your usual style, charcoal drawing can feel clumsy or inexact. It is important to remember that this isn’t true while working.
Instead of allowing yourself to focus on the initial crayon-like feeling that can come with it, show charcoal some respect. People who work well with charcoal make truly amazing products.
Focus On The Detail
—Charcoal can be used to make stunning images, particularly portraits. Fortunately, this tool makes it easy for you to have a lot of fun and make great work too. However, if you want to become a master of drawing in charcoal, you must focus on detail.
Many people start vague with charcoal and that is fine. However, the real magic happens when you get detailed with your work. Don’t hesitate to aim for that detailed look and allow yourself to focus a little too hard to make something great.
Have Fun Messing Up
—Drawing in charcoal isn’t just a means to make great artwork. It is also a lot of fun to work with. This unique form of creations makes it possible for you to get experimental. Though it might not be a particularly forgiving medium, it is okay.
Allow yourself to try out something wild, and try to turn your mistakes into something new. The medium allows for added creativity, so think outside of the box. Embrace the chaos!
Learning how to draw in charcoal can be frustrating and messy. Some people find that it feels difficult to control in the beginning. However, charcoal is an amazing tool that makes it possible for you to make great art. It doesn’t have to be your favorite, but most people who experiment with it love it.
If the mess isn’t your thing, don’t worry. You are just focusing on improving your artistic capabilities. The more that you allow yourself to channel the inner child who loves creating and messes, the happier you will be. Now get out there and make something great!
What’s the most difficult thing for you to draw in charcoal? Is charcoal a tool you like to draw with?