The Monochrome Lover

All about pencil and charcoal sketching

Category: Pencils

Because everyone can draw

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.

Excuse me, do you have a pencil?

No! we are not talking about the normal, graphite pencils that we use to shade our multiple-choice answer sheets, but about the artist-pencils that are used for sketching. Many of us might be shocked to know that there are more than 35 types of pencils available to choose from, depending on the purpose- sketching or shading.

How to choose the right pencil?

My artist- quality drawing pencils- Beginner’s collection

It may be hard to notice, but yes! all drawing pencils don ‘t feel the same when you start working with them. The artist-quality pencils usually range from 9H to 9B with ‘H’ being the hardest and the lightest and ‘B’- the softest and the darkest.

The complete spectrum of artist-pencils
9H, 8H, 7H, 6H, 5H, 4H, 3H, 2H, H, HB, F, B, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B, 8B, 9B

Choosing the right pencil is always a challenge. Depending on what we draw and the detail that would be added to the work, determines the pencil one should be choosing. The ‘H’ series are mostly used for sketching and outlining as they are easy to erase and absolutely forgiving. The pencils in the ’B’ part of the spectrum is used for ‘inking’ and shading.

And we have more….

I love the high and low effect they produce on the sheet-My charcoal pencil tin from Daler Rowney

We all love to have some dark and lights added to our sketches. Which is why we have charcoal pencils at our rescue.  Just like the drawing pencils, charcoal comes in different types and forms too.

Personally, charcoal pencils are my favorite ones due to the untouchable pitch-black effect they produce on the sheet. Agreed! these burnt wings dirty our white sheet within the first minute of sketching, but their versatile nature that makes them blend in with the drawing sheet would make fall in love again and again!

Now you see where we get the 50 shades of grey from?


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