Charcoal Or Graphite For Portraits

By: J. Padilla

Charcoal Or Graphite For Portraits

Many of you artists, especially you new artists may be wondering which is better to use for drawing portraits and realistic drawings. Here in this article I hope I can shine some light on the question and help you out.

First let us take a look a the charcoal. Lets look at the positive attributes and then some of the negative.

First the positive. Well you can get a lot of shading variation with charcoal. You can almost get a painted like quality if you work the charcoal real good. You can get nice tones and depth using a blending stick or tissue paper for drawing skin tones in portraits. Charcoal is also excellent for getting depth using those dark black and subtle changes over to light in your drawings. This will give your artwork a lot of contrast. Charcoal is also easier to blend than Graphite. Now for the negative side of charcoal. Charcoal is a bit more messy than graphite. You may want to put a paper or transparency paper under your drawing hand to prevent smudging your art. Charcoal is not as forgiving as graphite for erasing especially if you went really dark in an area and later changed your mind. You will be left with a grey area if you wan to totally erase that area. It won't be white again that's for sure. One more tip whether using charcoal or graphite is that you must never touch the drawing area with your finger tips or hands in general. Move the paper around from the edges or else you will leave your finger prints or oils from your hands on the paper. You won't notice them until you draw over that area. This mistake is almost never correctable. Parts of your art will look like you dusted for prints at a crime scene and your art work will scream back at you, "BUSTED"! Please keep this in mind.

On to the graphite. Once again we will look at the positive. Graphite is great for getting into the small areas as I call them. You can get some detailed work in using graphite. Graphite is great for slight changes in tone in the eyes and lips in most portraits. Graphite is much more forgiving if you make mistakes than charcoal. Graphite is great for all you cross hatchers out there. You can get great effects using graphite in this way. Graphite blends fairly well if you first lay down an even base layer. You can get a great photo like appearance using graphite. The cons of graphite are as follows. If you try to get out highlights with your erasers you might find it difficult. It is sometimes hard to get in dark areas with graphite without that area becoming shiny. This may give you an unwanted look in your art or portraiture work. Sometimes your final artwork may seem a bit light if you use graphite alone. There have been portraits that I have done that appear too light. This can pose problems if you want to share them via the Internet. Scanning light portraits or drawings will sometimes make them appear lighter as an end result.

My personal opinion about charcoal and graphite is that they are most excellent tools for drawing portraits or drawings in general especially when you combine them. If you use them both together with the proper skills you can create some awesome artwork. I personally like to use them together when drawing. They are great for sketching together or by themselves. If you feel intimidated by charcoal don't be. Your first drawings may not be what you wanted but I feel that you are missing out if you use graphite alone. It's like having strawberry cake (graphite) without the strawberry frosting (charcoal). Its like having cereal with no milk and so on and so on. We have all had those one without the other moments. Don't have one while drawing! Thank you for reading my article. I hope it helped you out.

About the Author:
Las Vegas NM Artist Jerry A. Padilla specializes in charcoal and graphite portraits. Located in Las Vegas New Mexico. Commissioned artwork in portraiture. Portraits from photos, photographs. Artist Jerry A. Padilla


Graphite Pencil Vs. Charcoal Pencil



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