Charcoal Drawings - Video & Step-by-step Instruction

Below the charcoal drawings video you will find step-by-step instructions. Charcoal can be used to create subtle gradations and high contrast drama! (8 min.)

Portrait in Charcoal Techniques Video: Portrait in Charcoal

Step 1

Create a field of gray - Vine Charcoal:
Break off a small section and use the broad side to cover your entire page. Blend with a paper towel or soft cloth. Repeat until you've achieved the desired gray (I like to get my paper to a medium gray, but you can go all the way to black if you prefer).

charcoal gray

Step 2

Sketch out your still life - Vine Charcoal:
Erase mistakes easily by blending them back to gray using a paper towel.

charcoal drawings

charcoal drawings

Steps 3 to 6 are interchangeable - they can be done
in any order and repeated as often
as needed.

Step 3

Draw Shadows - Vine and Compressed Charcoal:

At the beginning stages stick to the vine and the hard (lighter) compressed charcoal. Introduce the softer (darker) compressed charcoal in the final stages of your drawing to represent the darkest parts of your still life.

Step 4

Blend Values - paper towel, fingertips or blending stump:
Create gradual gradations and soften values. If you don't want to get your hands dirty use a paper towel, soft cloth or blending stump instead of your fingertips - or wear powder free surgical gloves.

charcoal drawing

kneaded eraser

Step 5

Draw Lights - Kneaded Eraser:
Reveal some of the white paper using this soft, pliable gray eraser to to represent the lighter areas of your still life.

Step 6

Draw Highlights - Gum & White Erasers:
Use the harder erasers to find the lightest lights & highlights.

charcoal banana drawing

Step 7

Draw Details:
Once you have your basic values blended you can draw the details right on top.

Step 8

Spray fixative on your drawing (Optional):
This keeps your drawing from smudging once it's completed. Buy spray fixative at any art store. If you want to store your drawing so that you can work on it over time use a "workable" spray fixative.

IMPORTANT! You must take your drawing OUTSIDE for this step. Avoid breathing the hazardous spray. Read the warning label and follow directions.

Charcoal Links:

Watch the advanced Charcoal Drawing Video: Portrait in Charcoal

Return to the previous page for more examples of charcoal drawings

Learn to Draw - Online Drawing Lessons