View Full Version : Charcoal in a sketchbook???

07-28-2013, 08:12 PM
I've just discovered the wonders of charcoal. I've been practicing portraits in charcoal on newsprint paper. It works, but the pad is old and worn around the edges so, I got to thinking that the paper in my S&B 11 x 14 Alpha journal would be a good size and I think the paper would be good. But, I'm wondering if even after spraying with SpectraFix fixative, if it would still smear off.
Does anyone have experience with charcoal in journals?

I've attached a photo of a charcoal drawing I did today to show how much charcoal I use, as that may make a difference.

07-29-2013, 03:49 AM
I frequently use charcoal in sketchbooks and as long as you fix it, no smears.

I used it recently in both alpha and beta. You can see drawings in both threads I've done on S&B books.

Several light coats of fixative or hair spray does it. It also enables you to work further, deepening darks.

Nice sketch :)

07-29-2013, 09:43 AM
Thanks for the response. It's good to know I have the option of charcoal in journals.

Joan T
08-01-2013, 04:15 PM
This is lovely!!! I hope we get to see more!

08-01-2013, 09:10 PM
Thanks Joan.
I'm just getting back into art after a bit of a hiatus. I think journals always help with the re-entering process.

08-01-2013, 09:58 PM
Charcoal and Conte or other hard pastels work well in sketchbooks. The main thing is to use fixative. Spectrafix is better than most at it, but it really helps to do several light layers. Tricky getting light layers without it puddling. The main problem I have with it is that if the previous layer isn't completely dry, it will puddle and sometimes move the pigment around or change textures. But not always.

The alcohol takes longer to dry than the stuff in aerosol cans, which is dry almost instantly. It's faster than water mist but the same basic process - which means that you do have to wait at least ten or fifteen minutes between coats. A little annoying but when it's not toxic, not hurting the environment and genuinely more archival it's well worth the trouble!

I love that charcoal sketch. You got some glorious soft value shifts in it, good likeness, great drama.

08-02-2013, 12:19 AM
Thanks Robert. The shading and such does look better in real life, but removing pixels to make the picture small enough to upload, is making it look blotchy.

It seems that when spray the SpectraFix, it makes large droplets, not really a mist. I've only used it on the newsprint so far but am a bit worried about using it on a real project.

08-02-2013, 03:10 AM
Spray from a couple of feet above the picture and if droplets are too big, try spraying horizontally and letting the mist drift down onto the image.

There is a casein one that I've been meaning to try. I've heard very good reports on it and it is now available here ...... just wish I could remember what it is called!

08-02-2013, 04:24 AM
I tried Derwent's tinted charcoal pencils in my general sketchbook, which worked well til I sprayed it, and the image went very diffuse. The paper is very smooth, and maybe I used too much fixative, don;t know, but it was a bit disappointing. However, I think it would be OK on paper with a bit more tooth..

Interesting pose for your portrait, nice drawing.


08-02-2013, 11:27 AM
Spectra fix has casein. I don't know if its the only one though.
Thanks for the advice, I'll try that.

08-02-2013, 11:42 AM
I have no experience with charcoal in a sketchbook, but I have to say that I love your sketch!