How To Use Graphite Or Charcoal Pencil In Hyper realistic Portraits

Categories: Pencil PerceptionsPublished On: September 21, 20220 Comments38 min read
Komal Thoria

Do you wish to draw Crazy Hyper realistic Portraits? If the answer is a big YESSSSS! Then let’s go ahead to knowing every detail you got to know about it! 

Realism is a learnable skill. You can develop by learning in detail and practising consistently. This is a blog wherein you get all the information at one place. However, for structural learning, you can check out our online drawing course which is a no shortcut, detailed, structured process of learning just within 8 months!


Material for drawing

Materials are extremely important as we begin with the process. For black and white portraits, you can use charcoal or graphite or use both. Graphite is shiny and hence while combining both, you will notice that charcoal wouldn’t work on top of multiple graphite layers.

Check out my Material List and a detailed description about my experience with each brand and strongest recommendations. 

Always keep a rough book handy to make small thumbnail scribbles of your imaginations, ideas and concepts. It really helps in the most unexpected times. Also, even if you are into hyper realism or wanting to get started, it is extremely important to sketch daily. Daily sketching must include drawing from life, doodles, anatomical studies, gestures, colour study, creative expression etc. It could be anything that you want your mind to dwell into! Daily sketching develops rhythm in your art and serves a collection of your ideas.

Shading with Pencils

Graphite and charcoal includes a variety of materials like sticks, chalk, and powder. Every type has its own advantages yet using a pencil helps in creating extreme minute details and textures. 

Methods of Shading

types of shading

There are various methods of shading any hyper realistic portraits. For hyper realism, the texture has to look realistic, hence it is preferred to shade either by blending or layering or combining both. My personal opinion is layering as the uniform texture grain is appealing and creating textures becomes easy! In the process of shading, it is extremely important to understand and develop a strong observation on tonal values. 

  • One side Hatching 
  • Cross hatching
  • Blending
  • Layering

Blending and Value scale

inaccurate values

Value means the darkness or lightness of anything. How dark or how light it is, is defined by Value. Between black and white lies various shades of grey, and there is no exact count of these in between. We can develop the value scale as a step-by-step or transition of tones. The actual struggle in bringing realism is the struggle of application of graceless. When the exact tone is rendered in the exact place, automatically the artwork looks realistic. And once this skill is mastered, you can apply the same in colour medium. Generally we look for shortcuts such as blending due to which we miss accurate placement of tonal values. You must be thinking, then how to blend or shade? Check out our guide to learning hyper realistic portrait drawing which has all the information you need!

Reading References

Do you draw a black and white portrait using a colour reference? If yes, then I think it’s a better idea if you convert the reference into black and white by desaturating the image. How? You can edit your image using the saturation tool and make it -100. Then, you can adjust the brightness and contrast and get started. I am sure this will impact much more than you think just by changing this simple thing. Now comes, how to read the references? 

  • Understand the play of light on form, Learn to see big masses of light and shadow first, rather than individual features
  • Make a judgement of the direction of strokes, 
  • Create the Base layers
  • Add textures in the later stage
  • Use a magnifying glass to understand the abstraction of textures in detail

Bonus Tip: Mark the lightest and the darkest tone in your reference and create the same in your drawing too. And always compare the tones with these two extremes. This will help you in consciously creating depth and repetitive practice will refine your ability to master this subject.

For such more bonus tips and in depth learning, check out our realistic pencil drawing course which is appropriate for absolute beginners too.

Let’s Discuss some important aspects of drawing portraits!

  • Understanding the structure and anatomy of every feature is extremely important.

Hyperrealism is not just copying the exact reference, It is a skill which needs to be tactfully applied. Many of us rush to learn realism and not focus on learning drawing or understanding how an actual human face is designed, its structural anatomy. This negligence will affect you in the long term.

  • Every line of your drawing must be a part of conveying the form and shading to add the mass to the form. 

Every line you draw must have a purpose, a meaning. So do not draw randomly. Similarly, every stroke of rendering serves a purpose to reflect third dimension and depth. Some may fear to shade it dark and so they keep the overall portrait light and others render so dark that eventually they have to spend most of their time in repairing.

Do not get confused. Use a value scale and follow it. Then emphasise on anything that inspires you. Example, I like to create emphasis in the highlight of the eye by increasing its contrast. 

  • Perceptual errors

We all have this ability to make a perpetual error of overemphasising individual contrast. Learn to  observe relatively with elements around. This error is actually an error of perceptions. When drawing hyper realistic portraits, as much as you focus on individual areas, apply the same focus to observe the overall areas of the portrait. Do this often. 

Our eyes often get tired seeing the same detail repeatedly. Take breaks to analyse, to summarise every step of the process. 

  • No shortcuts

There is a greater amount of patience required to create hyper realistic portraits. There are going to be times where you feel it is better to ‘finish it off’, that eagerness to post on social media, or several other reasons. Decide to create the best out if you. Commit to it even if it takes weeks, months or even years. 

  • Commit to Light and Shadow

Light is everything. It gives anything a structure, it shows our eyes how the object is seen, it helps us to develop a perception, focus to capture, capture that feeling or emotion through art. The illusion of space and depth can be achieved only after a technical study of light and form on every texture, every single form, every detail you look into. The stronger the commitment, the better the results!

  • Artistry with Edges

I still believe there is no camera equivalent to the power of the human eye. What we look at (directly) is the most detailed whereas the rest are blurred and general. Aim to mimic this! Drawing is all about creating a balance and a focal point. Aim to create areas of detail and sharp edges and areas of simplicity and soft edges. Remember, there are no outlines. 

  • Creative decisions

In the process of realism, there are many intentional, intuitive, advanced and creative decisions that take you back to the fundamentals and concepts of drawing and painting ; experiment with it to create what is ‘beyond realism’. 

Learn the fundamentals as they are the core to any creative expression. We have a structured roadmap to deepen your understanding and simplify the process. Check out our online sketching course with affordable mentorship!

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