One really must experience how light it feels, to sit with their sketchpad and charcoal for an hour. For the people, out there, who’ve never tried that, this post is for you.

Most of us are self-taught artists, which means our technique and our ideas would differ from one another. Nevertheless, the basics never change and we have some help from Erika, giving us some tricks to create winning sketches.

Create awesome charcoal portraits, no matter how difficult it is!

Always start with enhance the reference image on Photoshop using techniques cropping, so that we have a format and a skeleton for our drawing. Then, print it to the exact size we want our sketch to be.  For example, if our sketch is going to be an 11” x 14” or larger drawing size, print it on a ledger size paper of 14” x 17”.

‘The grid-method’ on drawing paper

Once printed, divide the print-out and the drawing paper in squares of 4 inches, called the ‘Grid-method‘, so the image comes out as a grid. Further divide the face in 2 inch squares, especially around the eyes and mouth. The grid allows us to transfer the portrait proportions as accurately as possible.

Sample of the grid-method used in drawing objects

With the grid in place on the drawing paper, start outlining the head, neck, shoulders, and then the face with a graphite pencil or a black crayon. Further the grid-method helps you to a great extent while drawing the features of the face.


The trick is to start with the top and go downwards of the sketch, so you start with the eyes and end with the mouth/ lips .

Finally, use the charcoal pencil to give the bold strokes to complete the sketch and to do the highlights, always use a mechanical eraser.

Charcoal is a very messy medium, so we really have to be careful as a beginner.