OCAD Studio: Charcoal Portrait Part 1

This series of lessons will walk you through the complete process for drawing a detailed portrait in charcoal paper.

The first session will focus on getting an accurate block-in of the basic shadow shapes and darker tones that make up the drawing.


  • Toned paper
  • Charcoal
  • Kneadable Eraser
  • Sanding Block
  • Sharpener
  • Drawing Board
  • Easel
  • Tape your piece of paper to the board – if you want an extra nice drawing suface you can put an extra sheet of paper below.
  • Begin by marking in the biggest proportions; height of the head, width of the head, body etc.
  • Sketch these in very lightly with soft lines that will be easy to erase.
  • Then you need to find the outside ‘envelope’ of the head – a simple set of lines that captures all the major changes of direction around the figure.
  • Keep correcting things until everything is setting in the right place.
  • Finally, make a mark for the height of the eyes, base of the nose, centreline of the mouth and a vertical line for the middle of the face.
  • It is important that you don’t rush the early stages.

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