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Charcoal and mixed media portrait step by step painting tutorial

Charcoal portrait on paper step by step : Beehive

Charcoal Portrait on paper: You might be familiar with charcoal from life drawing classes, it is a great medium to use for life drawing short poses because it is easy to smudge, take off and quick to add. You also get a very dark black that would be difficult to obtain with graphite.

Charcoal is also very well suited for more detailed portraits. I wanted to try it in a mixed media painting that would be done on paper mounted on a 48 x 48 inches board.


Here is how you can paint a charcoal portrait on paper mounted on board


I bought a roll of watercolor paper that has a width of 51 inches so I am able to mount it on a 48 x 48 inches board.


mounting watercolor paper on board

Mounting watercolor paper on board.

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I let the paper dry overnight before trimming the sides with a cutter.

The charcoal portrait

painting with charcoal

I am working with charcoal powder and brushes

painting a charcoal portrait

And with charcoal sticks for darker areas and details

applying charcoal with a brush

I start working on the portrait using big brushes for the powder and a charcoal stick for details.

painting a charcoal portrait with brushes

Charcoal powder and brushes

eyes in charcoal portrait

The charcoal stick is convenient to draw details like eyebrows, lashes…

layering charcoal to paint a portrait

Building the portrait layer by layer.

lips with charcoal on portrait

painting upside down Sometimes it is easier to look at the drawing upside down to compare it to your reference picture.
taking off charcoal with a kneadable eraser

A kneadable eraser is very convenient to take off some of the extra charcoal.

lifting off charcoal with a brush

Brushes are also convenient to lift off a bit of charcoal from the paper

Working on the background with fluid acrylics

mixing acrylics and charcoal

I want to start working on the background patterns with fluid acrylics before the painting is done because I want some of the patterns to be visible through the areas on the edge of the hair. I already delimited the area where the hair will be with a transparent layer of charcoal.fluid acrylic washes on  charcoal portrait

I am mixing up a few fluid acrylic washes to start working on the background pattern.

acrylic background on charcoal portrait

With a flat brush I am drawing a variety of circles with each of the colors I mixed.

mixing acrylics and charcoal

I am painting the patterns also through the edges of the hair area.

painting a charcoal portrait step by step

I am working with each color, one at a time, painting a series of circular shapesmixed media portrait with acrylics and charcoal

I like that this pattern has a retro feel.

Finishing the portrait

painting hair with charcoal

Once the background has been painted, I am working on the hair, drawing the beehive hairdo.
charcoal bees

I am also drawing a few charcoal bees painting a charcoal portrait step by step

drawing charcoal bees

varnish on top of charcoal

I am finishing the painting by spraying a layer of fixative and brushing on some Gamvar varnish.

charcoal portrait with mixed media background on paper mounted on board

Slice of Life- Beehive: Mixed media on paper mounted on board


Charcoal portrait on paper step by step : Beehive
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