I've been drawing Wonder Woman for quite a long time. Since she has a lot of bare skin, it's kinda hard to draw it without pencils, using only charcoal.
Here's the reference image I'm using:

enter image description here
Artwork by Shierly Lin. Click for larger version.

  • Related: crafts.stackexchange.com/questions/8281/… and crafts.stackexchange.com/questions/532/…. I think your question could be a duplicate of the second question linked, but that consideration left me wondering what exactly you're asking for here: how to draw skin, or how to control the blending of charcoal. Can you specify that in your question? – Joachim Jan 4 at 20:03
  • Thank you, Isaac :) By the way, can you answer the question in my first comment? I feel like this thread at the moment is a duplicate of either/both of the threads I linked. – Joachim Jan 5 at 8:29
  • yes!, the question was at the title😂, how to blend it, like, a techinique – Isaac750 Jan 5 at 18:43
  • do you guys see a "duplicate" on title? why is this happening?? – Isaac750 Jan 5 at 22:14
  • Isaac, I turned two of your questions into duplicates, because there are very similar threads here already, and this way we can keep this platform clean and organized. This is also the reason I asked what exactly your question was. If you don't agree with the closure, please let us know how your questions differ, and why you think they deserve their own threads. – Joachim Jan 5 at 22:24

You will probably need medium and soft charcoal for creating smoothly blended surfaces (like her skin), and some hard charcoals or perhaps even a carbon pencil (which contains a mixture of charcoal and graphite) for the crisp textures of her armor and the fine lines of her hair.

For blending, you may want to use a tortillion or a blending stump and a kneaded eraser.

Tortillons and blending stumps

Source: https://rapidfireart.com/ <-- also has many great tutorials on how to shade

Tortillons and blending stumps are tightly rolled pieces of paper with a tapered tip. You can either buy them from an art store or make one yourself. They can be used with both pencil and charcoal, and they're better for blending than using your fingers, since your skin contains moisture and oils, which can cause the charcoal to clump to smear unevenly.

Here is a thorough response describing how you can use a blending stump or tortillon for blending: How do I get a blur effect in pencil drawings?

Kneaded eraser Source: https://thevirtualinstructor.com/blog/10-essential-drawing-materials-and-tools-for-beginners

A kneaded eraser is a soft, stretchy, gummy material that can be used for lifting, removing, and blending charcoal or pencil. Aside from removing "mistakes," erasers are also great for blending. This video does a nice job of demonstrating some different techniques for using kneaded erasers with charcoal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIAKBVfl_YU

Strathmore charcoal paper Source: https://phoenixartsupplies.com/art-supplies/strathmore-500-series-charcoal-sheets/

As for paper - there are many different types of paper out there for use with charcoal. You can usually find charcoal paper pads at art stores. You could draw on white paper, like the original pencil drawing. But if you have white charcoals (for drawing highlights), you could use toned paper. This can help make your subject "pop" off the page. For sketching and practicing, newsprint paper is a great (cheaper) alternative.

Here are some good resources for learning about types of charcoal paper and their characteristics:

  1. https://nitramcharcoal.com/selecting-perfect-paper-charcoal-drawing/
  2. https://www.artistsnetwork.com/art-mediums/drawing/best-paper-for-charcoal-drawing/

Hopefully this helps! Feel free to ask any questions. I'm not a professional artist, but I've had some experience with charcoals and pastels. If anyone else has additional tips, feel free to comment below.

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    @Isaac750 I think Flora mentions soft charcoal not for the intensity of colour, but for the ease with which it can be blended. The harder the charcoal, the harder it will be to blend. As for the difference between the tortillon and blending stump, see the linked thread (here). – Joachim Jan 5 at 8:27
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    @Isaac750 intensity/darkness of the resultant image really depends on how you use the charcoal and how you aply the other tools. a very light pass with soft charcoal followed by appropriate erasing and blending will likely get you much better results (albeit for a lot more effort) than trying to use medium or hard charcoal for the skin. Soft charcoal, just like soft graphite and softer oil pastels, quite simply blends more smoothly than harder media, making it much easier to get the kind of smooth non-linear gradients your reference image has. – Austin Hemmelgarn Jan 5 at 13:00
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    @Isaac750 Don't press so hard. Try doing some practice exercises so that you're not worried about messing up something important. The normal exercise is to draw "solids" (sphere, cone, cylinder, cube, etc.) to quickly practice shading. – user3067860 Jan 5 at 20:03
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    With respect to blending & paper texture - I've found that it partly depends on how thickly you're applying the charcoal. If you're using a palette of different shades of charcoal (e.g. white, gray, & black), you can apply soft charcoals quite thickly on a very rough paper, & it can still blend somewhat smoothly (though it might have a "grainy" look). – Flora Su Jan 5 at 21:38
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    Continued: But this depends on what style of markings you're using for your drawing. If you want the white of the paper to show through for highlights, like in the original drawing, then you'll want to use smoother or finer-toothed paper. You'll still want paper with some "tooth" to it, so that the charcoal has something to grab onto. – Flora Su Jan 5 at 21:41

I'm not a charcoal artist, so this is more in the nature of observation and very general theory. This question and your other one about drawing the scratches in the armor are about getting very fine and subtle texture, detail, and gradients using charcoal. Charcoal is a relatively "crude" medium; this kind of life-like detail takes skill.

People who work with charcoal may be able to address media and technique.

My suggestion is to use size. Think of a B&W laser printer. It can create reasonable photographic images from just blobs of pitch-black toner by building the image from things that are tiny in relation to the size you see. If a medium has poorer detail, darkness control, and gradients than you want for realism, its characteristics could be adequate if they are in smaller proportion to a larger picture. The larger you make the picture, the easier it will be to create detail, shading, and smooth gradients in proportion to it.

That said, Joachim makes a good point in a comment. Size can be a tool to get more realism from the medium and your skill with it. But if your goal is to develop your skill, it wouldn't be helpful to use size as a "cheat" instead of developing the skill.

  • so our telling me to go big, can you give me a link of where I can buy that big paper? Thanks! – Isaac750 Jan 4 at 22:59
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    @Isaac750, I would guess typical art supply sources. Perhaps a reader who is more familiar with it can add suggestions. – fixer1234 Jan 4 at 23:51
  • You can buy charcoal paper pads from many art stores. Charcoal paper comes in a variety of paper colors - you can use white if you want your finished piece to look like the original pencil drawing. If you have white charcoal (for highlights), you can try drawing on a colored or toned background to help give your portrait some depth :) You can also try toned paper later as you become more comfortable with the medium. – Flora Su Jan 5 at 0:53
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    @Isaac750, Joachim makes a good point about the emphasis on size. Realistic portraits can be made with charcoal; it takes skill. Not being an artist, I just did a little research after Joachim's comment, and was amazed at the realism that is possible when someone has the skill. With less skill, going bigger would make it easier to get realism. If you already have the skill, going bigger lets you squeeze more realism from it. You're trying to learn and develop the skill. Relying on size would be kind of a crutch to make skill less important. (cont'd) – fixer1234 Jan 5 at 10:27
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    That won't help you get good at it. By not going big, the less-than-perfect results along the way will be more obvious and are what will provide the learning. So my answer isn't the best advice for someone early into charcoal, and doesn't really address how to do it. You might want to consider retracting the checkmark and applying it to a better answer. :-) – fixer1234 Jan 5 at 10:27

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