Charcoal Drawing and Smooth Paper

Typically the paper that charcoal artists use has a relatively rough texture, filled with tiny bumps to “catch” the fine granules of charcoal which inevitably fall onto the page when drawing with your charcoal baton. This paper has a bumpy, snake-like texture and is often also utilized by pastel artists. Canson Mi-Teintes carries a pastel/charcoal paper which has a medium grain size, and is popular among charcoal artists.
Charcoal Drawing and Smooth Paper
Charcoal sketch A3 size on smooth paper by Arti Anim

For those artists who want to “go against the grain” (literally), there are numerous smooth papers which can be fun to experiment with. If you would like to test this out before purchasing smooth paper, simply flip your Canson Mi-Teintes (or almost any other brand) over to the “wrong” side. Most toothy papers have a bumpy side and a far less textured side. Typically, the side with the Canson sticker will be much smoother than the rough opposite side - which is intended for drawing.

To blend charcoal, try using your fingers- or for larger projects, kleenex tissues can help achieve a well-blended surface. However, it's helpful to bear in mind that sometimes the tiny bits of oily residue on your fingers can accidentally adhere to the surface of your paper leaving a fingerprint type mark. A blending tool, such as Caran D'Ache's blending stumps, can eliminate this issue.

Matt Cory
Since charcoal is not typically paired with smooth papers, it can also be helpful to use charcoal along with a charcoal pencil. The charcoal pencil's marks will be a bit easier to control, and can create an interesting effect when paired with the darker, rougher textures of the charcoal pencil.
For the smoothest possible paper, try a newsprint paper. Yes, this paper is exactly the same type of ultra smooth paper typically utilized by newspaper agencies. Seth Cole makes a superb newsprint paper, which is perfect for those looking for an ultra-smooth texture. Collage artists often use newsprint along with pastels, charcoal, and other found materials (like cardboard and metals) to create mixed media works, rough sketching, and gesture drawing. The only thing to be aware of is that the newsprint will slowly yellow over time, creating an “antique” look similar to a sepia tone photograph. To prevent yellowing, use Krylon's Make it Acid-Free spray on finished work. Newspaper is quite acidic and that's why it yellows and becomes brittle.

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