How To Draw A Flower In Charcoal

How To Draw A Flower In Charcoal
How To Draw A Flower In Charcoal

Do you want to learn how to draw a flower in charcoal? If so, then you've chosen and exciting medium to work in that is extremely versatile and fun as well. 

Drawing in charcoal is very different than drawing in graphite, and to succeed at using charcoal, it is will to take time and practice. 

But, the time you put into learning how to draw a flower in charcoal or anything in charcoal for that matter, is time well spent. 

Drawing with charcoal will add an exciting new dimension to your artwork. It allows you to create bolder artwork with striking marks, or subtle and soft artwork that is delicately blended together. When it comes to charcoal, the possibilities in how you use it are nearly endless.


How to Draw a Flower? 

  1. Choose the Correct Quality Paper to Draw On
  2. Charcoal Drawing basics
  3. Draw the Outline of the Flower
  4. Sketch the Basic Shapes and Proportions of the Flower
  5. Apply Value and Tone to Your Drawing
  6. Add Fine Detail to Enhance and Improve Your Drawing

First, you need to choose the right surface to work on. Charcoal works best on a surface with some tooth that it can grab onto. But, many artists have mastered using it on bristol board, which is very smooth. For someone trying to draw a flower, that is new to using charcoal, a heavier paper with some tooth is preferable. There are papers explicitly designed for use with charcoal that come with a grid-like pattern. If you don't want this type of pattern on your paper, you can opt for pastel paper, which has the bonus of coming in a variety of colors. If neither of these works for you, then you can even use watercolor paper.

Once you have chosen the right paper, you need to select the kind of charcoal you are going to work with. You can use charcoal pencils, or you can use vine charcoal that comes in a stick form. You can also use white charcoal, which is great for adding highlights to your artwork. If you want to draw a realistic flower, then using photo reference is helpful.

Start your charcoal flower drawing by sketching in shapes lightly. Try to keep your wrist loose and move your entire arm as you make strokes, resist the urge only to move your wrist as you draw. Next, look at your reference photo and examine where there are shadows and where there are highlights. Start to add those in, then finish your drawing by adding more delicate details, a charcoal pencil works best for this. You also need to decide for how you want your piece to look, if you want a softer look then using your finger, or a blending stub is very helpful. When your drawing is finished, you'll need to protect it by using workable fixative. Whatever you do, don't use hairspray, which won't work as well, and it will also cause your paper to yellow over time.

How To Sketch A Flower In Charcoal

If you want to learn how to draw a flower in charcoal, then starting with some rough sketches can help you to get used to working with charcoal. They can also let you figure out what type of style works best for you. Always loosen up and use loose, light strokes when you are sketching. One of the beautiful things about sketching in charcoal is that if you like a sketch, you can always work on it until it is a finished piece. When you are sketching you might want to use a cheaper paper since these are only sketches, so using newsprint is a good option.

Why Draw With Charcoal?

Charcoal is messy and more difficult to control than graphite, so why would anyone want to learn how to draw with it? Because it is incredibly versatile and allows you to obtain a range of values that graphite cannot compete with. A light touch of charcoal can add just a hint of grey, while bolder strokes can achieve an ink-black consistency. Charcoal is also extremely versatile and works well with many other art mediums. Charcoal can be used under an oil painting to establish form, or it can be used over acrylic paint or watercolors. Charcoal can even be wet with a brush creating an ink wash type of effect. If you decide to try using charcoal with water, make sure that you use a heavy watercolor paper. The ways that you can use charcoal to create artwork are vast, which is why this messy medium is worth your time.

Charcoal Drawing Basics

The first thing you need to know about drawing with charcoal is that it's messy. Does that mean you can't create fine details in your artwork? No, it just means that you'll have to learn how to control charcoal in order to create features. Charcoal is also very unstable after it has been applied to paper, so you need to be careful not accidentally to smear it as you draw. Using workable fixative can help to protect your drawing while still allowing you to work on it. Just make sure that you use workable fixative, if you use a final fixative it will be challenging to do any more work on your drawing.

As with any other type of drawing, when you are drawing with charcoal, you should start your drawing with light lines and basic shapes. Continue to develop your drawing by slowly adding more darks. If you find that you have gotten too dark, you can erase charcoal, but you need an eraser explicitly designed for charcoal. You also have to be careful not to tear the paper, and realize that no matter how much you work on it, the paper will still be a little grey after there has been a dense layer of charcoal on it. After you've established your irregular forms and values, keep working on the piece until it feels finished.

Sketching The Outline Of A Flower

Before you start to add detail or dark areas on your charcoal flower drawing, sketching in a light and loose outline can be very beneficial. It's kind of like a road map that can help you to get where you are going. When you sketch the outline of a flower, keep your strokes light so that you'll be able to erase or cover them later. Keep your strokes loose as well. This isn't a finished piece. It's merely the framework that you are building your finished piece on.

Basic Shapes And Proportion

When sketching your flower, you need to have a solid foundation to work on. That solid foundation should be built on basic shapes and the right proportions. If you draw flower where the leaves are too big, or the pedals are out of proportion, it will be flawed. No matter how much time you spend rendering the drawing and working on it if basic proportions are off, it will never look right. This is another place where having a photo for reference, or even a flower is beneficial.

Creating Value In Charcoal Drawings

One of the things that people love most about working in charcoal is the amazing range of values you can get. You can have a very light hint of grey or ink-black lines. It's all a matter of the amount of pressure you apply. Charcoal is particularly well versed for blending. It's messy to work with, but you can get an amazing range of value by using either your finger or a blending stub to work the charcoal after it has been applied to your paper. If you get too dark, you can use a charcoal eraser to remove some charcoal. You can also use white charcoal, or white Conte crayon to add white over the dark values that you create.

Adding Fine Detail Enhance And Improve Your Drawing

One area that you may struggle with is adding fine details to your charcoal drawing. Whether you are drawing a flower, a portrait, or a landscape, fine details can make a significant impact on the overall look of your drawing. But, given how soft charcoal is, can you add fine details with it? Yes, you can. One trick to adding fine details is only to indicate the details. You don't need to draw every strand of hair on a person's head. You can simply suggest that the hair is there. When drawing a flower, a few well-placed lines can give an indication of a stem. Another trick that many artists find helpful is using workable fixative to fix a charcoal sketch that has value added to it, then using white and black charcoal over the fixative to add finer details.

Don't Be Intimidated By Charcoal, Embrace It!

If you've always wanted to work in charcoal, but were intimidated by it, there's no need to be. Charcoal is very messy to work with, but with time, patience, and practice, you can learn to control it. Once you begin to draw with charcoal, you'll quickly understand why it's such a popular drawing medium for artists. Charcoal is amazingly diverse, can be used for a wide variety of artistic styles, and can produce a vast range of values.


Ian Walsh is the creator and author of and an Art teacher based in Merseyside in the United Kingdom. He holds a BA in Fine Art and a PGCE in teaching Art and Design. He has been teaching Art for over 24 Years in different parts of the UK. When not teaching Ian spending his time developing this website and creating content for the improvedrawing channel.

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