Charcoal Shading and Blending Tips

Artist Kirsty Partridge uses a range of techniques to shade and blend her charcoal drawings for a smooth, realistic look.

1. Paint Brush
Kirsty uses a Daler-Rowney Aquafine 4 Round Brush to gently shade areas of her drawing. The soft bristles and precise tip of the brush give her great control and allow her to get into the smaller, detailed areas of her drawing.

2. Blending Stump
Blending stumps have a pointed tip that allows shading of small areas. They don't have the softness of a brush, so Kirsty uses them when she has sharper, more defined edges to blend versus the lighter, smoother gradations that are achieved with the brush. 

3. Tissue
A tissue wrapped around a finger works great for large areas of shading which don't require as much precision. Kirsty is able to smooth out areas of the background quickly with this technique.
TIP: Don't use tissues with lotion as these don't mix as well with paper and art mediums. 

4. Finger
Good-ol-fashioned fingers will do the trick in a pinch. They're easy to use and give you the control of how much pressure to apply when blending. Two warnings: 1) Fingers contain natural oils that can leave residue on your paper. Oil spots can prevent pigment from laying down evenly onto the paper. 2) If using charcoal, your fingers will be dirty after using them to blend, increasing the potential to accidentally leave smudge marks on other areas of your drawing where you don't want them.

See Kirsty's blending techniques in action in this teaser portrait demo:


Kirsty created a series of 4 tutorials for us on Realistic Charcoal Drawing that you can watch for free on the Strathmore Online Workshop Website. See all 4 videos here


Kirsty Partridge is a self-taught artist who specializes in creating photo-realistic drawings with charcoal and colored pencil, as well as more expressive paintings with watercolor. Kirsty was studying biomedical science at Warwick University before deciding she wanted to follow her true passion of becoming a full time artist. It has been 3 years since and Kirsty has surpassed 500,000 subscribers on her art channel on YouTube, Kirsty Partridge Art. In her videos, Kirsty teaches her drawing and painting techniques for a range of different mediums and subject matters. In total, her art channel has amassed over 21 million views.

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