• Kirsty Partridge

How to Keep Charcoal Drawings Clean- Avoiding Messy Smudging!

Charcoal is one of my favourite mediums to work in. I love the rich, dark values you can get with charcoal and how flexible the medium is. However, for all of the positives charcoal has going for it there is one big problem that scares people off trying this medium. That is how messy charcoal can be! But, it doesn't have to be. Here are some tips for how you can keep your workstation and charcoal drawings clean and smudge free!


Blending your charcoal drawings


Avoid using your fingers to blend charcoal. Using your fingers for blending is one of the biggest reasons why your charcoal drawings and workstation becomes messy. This is because when your fingers get covered in charcoal it becomes easy to accidentally smudge your drawing. Also, oils from your fingers can easily damage your paper and give your drawing a blotchy look.


What to do instead


Try using blending tools like paintbrushes, tissues and blending stumps to blend out your charcoal shading instead.


Paintbrushes are great for blending charcoal shading because you are not getting hands on with the charcoal, so it avoids any messiness. Tissue is great for blending out large areas. Wrap a piece of tissue around your finger and blend out your shading using circular motions. This is a great technique if you are used to blending with your finger, as it is the same technique, except you have some tissue wrapped around your finger. Finally, blending stumps are great for blending out tiny details.



Resting your hand on your drawing


The second reason why your charcoal work is messy is because you are resting the side of your hand on your drawing. When you rest your hand on your drawing paper the charcoal will transfer onto the side of your hand, which you can then easily smudge onto other areas of your drawing paper.


What to do instead


I recommend trying to keep your hand a little bit off of your drawing paper to prevent getting charcoal on the side of your hand. Alternatively, you can place a sheet of transfer paper (which will act as a barrier) between your hand and your drawing.



Your drawing strategy



The third reason charcoal can be messy is if you work on your drawing in the wrong order. You want to shade in your drawing in a way that keeps your drawing hand away from resting on charcoal as much as possible. I usually start at the top of the drawing and work downwards. Also, as I am right handed, I work from left to right. If I worked from right to left my hand would constantly be resting on an area of charcoal shading. If you are left handed work from right to left instead. I start my drawings in the top left corner and work my way down to the bottom right corner.



Cleaning up your workstation



There will be times when your hands and desk get messy, it happens to even the most careful artists. I always keep a pack of wet wipes near me as they are great for easily cleaning charcoal from your hands and wiping charcoal from your desk.



If you want to master realistic drawing with charcoal check out my charcoal drawing courses. Learn all of the techniques you need to create realistic drawings yourself!


To see how I keep my drawings clean check out the video:



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