How to Create Texture with Charcoal

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Charcoal is a classic material for sketching and drawing. There are a few types of charcoal for art, including "vine charcoal," which are sticks; powdered charcoal; and compressed charcoal, which is fixed by a binder and formed into sticks or pencils. Once you have become familiar with using charcoal, you may be looking for a way to enhance your drawings. Adding texture with charcoal is an easy and traditional way to make your drawings look more real.

Things You'll Need

  • Vine charcoal or compressed charcoal
  • Drawing paper
  • Blending stick or cloth
  • Kneaded eraser
  • Choose the best paper for the effect you are looking for. Some papers naturally have a rough or textured feel while others are smooth. Decide if your overall image has more smooth- or rough-surfaced objects, and start with that type of paper.

  • Plan out the composition of your charcoal drawing before you jump into anything. It's best to know where you want to place your subjects on the paper before you begin.

  • Draw your subjects lightly on the paper and use a kneaded eraser if you make any mistakes.

  • Decide which areas of your drawing should have texture. Skin, metal and cloth are usually smooth whereas hair, grass and stone have rougher textures.

  • Start with the smooth textures. If you work on them first it's less likely you will mess up the rough textures later. Apply charcoal to the paper in the areas that you want shaded.

  • Soften the edges of the shading using a blending stick or cloth. This will make a soft gradient and give the overall impression of a smooth surface.

  • Create a rough texture with your application of charcoal. Use choppy strokes to achieve this effect. Instead of smoothing it out, let your strokes show through in your drawing.

  • For a dappled effect, use your kneaded eraser like a sponge to pick up charcoal and add highlighted texture.

  • Stand back from your charcoal drawing to see if you are satisfied with the texture you have added.

Tips & Warnings

  • When drawing hair, try to make a separate line of charcoal for each strand to create a more realistic texture.
  • Create extra-sharp texture lines with a charcoal pencil.
  • If your drawing didn't come out well the first time, keep practicing. With persistence you can improve by leaps and bounds.

References

  • "Drawing Realistic Textures in Pencil"; J.D. Hillberry; 1999
  • Photo Credit Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images
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