Charcoal Drawing with Photoshop

Here’s a tutorial on how you can apply charcoal drawing effect to your photos using photoshop;


Step 1. Open your image in photoshop (ctrl-o). I’ll be using this beautiful bride photo by papaleguas.

step 1

Step 2. Add new layer (Shift+ctrl+N), let’s name this layer ‘paper’ and fill this layer with the desired color of your charcoal paper. Mine is #c5b88f

step 2

Step 3. Copy the background layer, place it on top of the stack of layers, then apply ‘glowing edges effect’ (filter > stylize > Glowing Edges Filter). Experiment with the sliders in the dialoque box to your taste.

step 3

Step 4. Now invert this layer (image > adjustments > invert) and make it b&w (image > adjustments > desaturate) to create black and white drawing

step 4

Step 5. Set the blending mode of that drawing layer to multiply. Here’s what you should come up to..

step 5

Step 6. Copy your background layer, desaturate it (image > adjustments > desaturate) and place it on the top of your layer stack, and add some noise to this layer. (filter > noise > add noise > monochromatic & gaussian). Set the opacity to 75%

step 6

Step 7. Add a layer mask on that layer (layer > layer masks > hide all), select the charcoal large smear brush and paint with white on the mask to reveal the charcoal specks.

step 7

Step 8. Select the layer mask, and apply motion blur (filter > blur > motion blur). Still on the same layer mask, apply crosshatch brush strokes (filter > brush strokes > crosshatch)

step 8

Step 9. Select the paper layer, and fill it with pattern (new fill layer > pattern). You can choose any pattern you like. I just chose the charcoal flecks pattern. Then change the layer blending mode to multiply

step 9

Step 10. Copy your color layer, and place it on top of the stack of layers, change the layer blend mode to ‘color’ and from here you can add a curve adjustment layer to increase the contrast, play with the color balance and so on.. Here’s my final result;


Have fun!

See also: Photoshop Tutorials

Share your photos with our readers, make your own profile page, create blog, get unlimited storage for your photos, discuss photography equipment & techniques by joining our photo community

Subscribe for our latest updates sent to your e-mail (no spam)

Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

RSS feed


Comment by Steve
2007-05-10 08:02:52

Good Job thanks for tutorial

Comment by kevin
2007-07-25 01:31:39

I am stuck trying to find the desired color of the charcoal paper I want to do it exactly as this tutorial states. I cant find the option to add #c5b88f. What version do I need.

Comment by jaz
2008-11-18 12:48:00

hey i am also stuck on how to fill the layer?

Comment by mo
2009-05-08 17:51:18

yes. im definitley confused on the ” select the charcoal large smear brush and paint with white on the mask to reveal the charcoal specks.” ??

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Comment by evilkitty75 Subscribed to comments via email
2009-12-02 23:56:31

lol its simple
shes written a nice clean tut

Comment by crystal
2009-06-13 18:00:28

to fill with the pattern, layer>show all menue items>new fill layer>pattern. to fill paper layer choose color, alt+backspace on windows.

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Comment by uttam kumar Subscribed to comments via email
2009-08-10 02:10:52

select the set colour option
and once the color picker opens
in the bottom right the last but one option is # enter c5b88f over there.
once the color is selected
use paint bucket tool to paint the layer

Comment by Mo
2010-02-27 05:13:25

Go to the Color Picker and go to the Bottom and it has a number on it Color Picker is where it says Color, Switches and Styles.

Comment by angela
2011-03-11 08:15:30

go to layer> New fill layer> solid color> ok > in the dialog box of pick a color..on the end there is # sign and a box…just type c5b88f and then ok

Comment by marie
2008-01-01 05:45:34

what are you doing! you are not drawing and you are on the web under charcoal drawing! photoshop and others are taking away from people that enjoy what comes naturally!

Comment by anna
2008-06-24 19:00:32

yes I agree. People doing this lower the standard. This is usually for people with no artistic talent and can only rely on computer programs to generate their cheap looking so-called art

Comment by Fihena
2008-10-26 13:29:08

Some people are born with the talent. Others develope it. I can do both; photoshop and real; and i love both. It is not so-called art- lots of artists these days use stencils. Yet you would not know, and it does not matter, as art is always left to personal interpretation.

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Comment by Dave Subscribed to comments via email
2009-02-13 09:04:17

I went through four years of art classes in high school and four years of art training in college and I’m here to learn how to do it on Photoshop. I enjoy working with the computer more than actually using charcoal. What’s so wrong with that?

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Comment by realistic Subscribed to comments via email
2010-06-16 06:31:33

its not just being artistic or not being creative..its how you use and maximized it..dont be so dumb..

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Comment by BetterThanYou
2008-07-09 11:33:11

Your looking at it in the wrong way, photoshop allows others to enjoy what normally only comes naturally to some.

Comment by Rin Subscribed to comments via email
2009-11-30 16:57:32

O.K. Photoshop and other computer programs are art. Just because they are “non-traditional” does not mean they don’t count. As a painter and an avid photoshop user, I say that art is creation. Obviously you use a computer, every program you use is a work of art. Someone had to create the computer you’re useing now… Could you have done that? Try to build yourself a simple flash game, and then say computer programs are not art. Thank you.

Comment by realistic Subscribed to comments via email
2010-06-16 06:37:36

hey im kind a confuse in step 8..i did exactly what the procedure says..but its not working…please tell me…thanks

Comment by Katie
2007-05-15 11:26:32

Wow, amazing! Thanks so much! Now if I can just remember all of these steps..

Comment by Edward
2007-05-18 13:49:06

Wicked tutorial. thanks for sharing it.

Comment by Kick
2007-06-02 08:48:35

what am I doing wrong here. Your last instruction is to ‘Copy your color layer’, by that I’m taking it’s the first layer I used? IE the original photo? So why do I copy this to put it on top of the stack of layers? Surely that just takes me back to the start. The last instruction makes no sense, which is a shame, as the tutorial seemed good till that point!

Comment by crystal
2009-06-13 18:08:54

no hun, color layer ur copying is the “paper” layer. copy it or “duplicate” it, then move it to the top of the list. then go to blending options and scroll down to color. then click ok.

Comment by Dphotojournal com
2007-06-02 11:02:21’s not the original photo layer.. It’s the color layer you’ve created on step 2..

Comment by gilbert
2007-06-10 18:46:20

sumthings wrong with this turtorial… something was missing from the procedure.. i hope it could be fixed.. this one was awesome.. i love charcoal picture,,

Comment by piggy
2007-06-10 18:49:14

I had a problem while trying this tutorial.

Where to select the charcoal large smear brush?

Comment by Dphotojournal com
2007-06-10 22:12:57

Hi Piggy, try this..
- Choose your brush tool
- Open the brush presert picker
- choose text only
- Load Dry Media Brush
- FInd the charcoal brush..

Comment by David
2007-06-17 14:28:15

hey there,
when you say load dry media brush,
what do you mean by that?
i cant find it anywhere

Comment by Dphotojournal com
2007-06-19 21:13:14

After you’ve got your brush preset picker open, do this to find your dry media brushes..

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Comment by bartlet
2008-05-14 18:32:08

thank you thank you :)

Comment by marie
2007-06-15 03:29:37

hi, with regards to step 2 “fill this layer with the desired color of your charcoal paper” , I cant seem to be able to colour my layer with any colour at all.
Can you help? tks.

Comment by Dphotojournal com
2007-06-19 21:15:11

Use alt +del to fill your layer with foreground color

Comment by Beyota
2009-11-17 22:03:59

Thanks… finally I can do it!!!

Comment by gilbert
2007-06-19 19:43:42


it says “copy your color layer” on step 10.. what do you mean by that? i’ve been trying this tutorial for many times but that’s the part the i got a problem.. i hope you can help me with that.. i really love this photo effect.. help pls.

Comment by Dphotojournal com
2007-06-19 21:16:16

Copy the layer you’ve created on step 2

Comment by gilbert
2007-06-20 14:35:18

omg.. i can’t really make this work…. i don’t know what’s wrong.. or where did i get wrong.. i really love this..


how many layers do you have when you finish this effect?
when i copy the layer i’ve created on step 2 and put it on the top of all the other layer.. i just cover them.. where did i get wrong? help pls

Comment by Dphotojournal com
2007-06-20 15:44:33

after you copy and move the layer, don’t forget to change the layer blend mode to ‘color’

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Comment by crystal
2009-06-13 18:01:30

duplicate layer, just means copy.

Comment by Kazper Subscribed to comments via email
2007-06-22 15:09:42

Can someone help me getting over step 7 :(

Comment by pRinceT
2007-06-30 00:31:35

after applying the layer mask, simply select brush from the tools window, and have white as the foreground color, then simply rub over the charcoal area..
thanks for a great tutorial!

Comment by Dakota Subscribed to comments via email
2007-07-13 13:28:49

Yea Im stuck on step six exactly what layer am i doing this to.

Comment by Daniel
2007-08-10 10:34:25

everything went smoothly, but i don’t have a charcoal option in my patterns.. is there a way to mimic it?

Comment by Crissy
2007-08-29 05:02:15

have the same problem..done everything except for the charcoal brush tingy.. what could be used as a substitute for the charcoal brush? may i know what photoshop you’re using?

Comment by mustafa sazak
2007-10-03 02:45:27

thank you all. these are very helpful for beginners.

Comment by squirt
2007-10-06 07:17:09

i’m stuck on step 6 what happened?? im a little bit confused.. pls help me.. and STEP 7 im so confused on this step.. can someone help me pls…

Comment by crystal
2009-06-13 18:03:24

step six. alls u do is copy the background layer. desaturate it (image adjustments>desaturate) then move it to the top of all ur layers.

Comment by A.Hamid Brohi Artist
2007-11-29 01:37:05

its nice do u have any other tips

Comment by george von strangle
2007-12-06 05:36:21

this helped alot thx luv ya

Comment by hussein
2007-12-25 05:48:38

thanks dear

i cant stand step 7 please

thanks again

Comment by Kriti
2008-02-04 22:33:20

Hey. it was going rly well, but i’m stucj at Step 7 now… could you PLEASE clarify that?! anyone?

For eg. where do I get the large charcoal smear brush from?

PLS reply.. it’ll rly help!

Comment by Eddie
2008-03-13 19:31:05

Okay I must be doing something wrong. Would anyone know why my layer mask is not allowing me to show the charcoal layer in step 7? I’ve redone this tutorial several times and cant get it to work. I know which brush and white as the forecolor and to make sure the mask is picked, but still nothing :(

Comment by Eddie
2008-03-13 19:39:34

Does anyone know why my layer mask is not allowing me to paint the white to reveal my charcoal image? I have the layer mask selected, my forground color is white, and I have the charcoal brush selected still nothing is happening? Please help!

Comment by anam
2008-05-12 14:38:19

where to i get photosshop

Comment by Suzanne
2008-05-15 22:16:13

Great tutorial. I have been looking around to try and find different ways to create charcoal portraits from photos and trying out every tutorial.
So far, I have found a few ways, but still it required some practice. The first few tries were really not that nice.
Lovely job you did above. But I think it is still a little too dotted to resemble a real charcoal portrait.

Comment by jaz
2008-05-30 05:52:31

i have a problem in the last step. i dont know the color layer. which one should i copy?

Comment by Hahn
2008-07-03 10:18:06

Nice. . .
Thanks for the tutorial, I really need it.

Comment by tArKi
2008-08-08 10:43:04

Thanks for the tutorial! Nice work!

Comment by Dwain Subscribed to comments via email
2009-01-25 17:21:16

The instructions were a little confused. Too many ambiguities to be useful to everyone and not enough detail for the beginners. Nice results if you managed to find your way through the maze.

Comment by McCurdy
2009-01-28 19:45:16

In step 9, I can’t seem to find the pattern ‘Charcoal Fleck’ at all. I see other types of patterns, but not the Charcoal Fleck one.

Comment by Picchu Subscribed to comments via email
2009-11-11 09:20:14

I have the same problem as McCurdy, Daniel and others – no ‘Charcoal Fleck Pattern’. Is it standard Photoshop type of patterns? Please tell me where can I find it

Comment by Henk
2010-12-22 13:52:57

click on the menu with shows the patterns you have. then click on the arrow to the right. You get a menu, then click on grayscale paper. It is located there ;-)

Comment by max
2009-02-07 23:56:10

This is not intended for beginners. The author may have assumed that everyone already knows photoshop. It would have been nice if the steps where explained fully.

Comment by crystal
2009-06-13 18:05:31

im new to photoshop. everything ive learned ive learned from tutorials. and this is by far the best one that ive ever came acrossed. i love the explinations of where to find everything. this was my first time doin the charcoal thing. i was confused a few times. but nothing i couldnt figure out. if someone needs help, just ask :)

Comment by Newbie
2009-02-08 21:54:25

Head? meet desk.

Comment by Amanda Subscribed to comments via email
2009-02-27 20:12:44

i am trying to do this drawing and i was following everything but now i am stuck where do u find the charcoal large smear brush.. i cant find it..

Comment by Liz Subscribed to comments via email
2009-03-19 08:58:48

I got up to step 7, created the layer mask but can’t get it all to work. Any ideas?

Comment by Benny
2009-04-06 16:27:02

Hi. This tutorial works perfectly.
Thanks a lot.

Comment by Davo
2009-08-14 17:11:23

Hi guys,

There seems to be a bit of confusion around how to do this… anyone fancy fleshing it out a bit with menu grabs and screen shots for each step? I would, but got lost myself ;-)


Comment by Giuseppe
2009-11-12 17:35:23

Charcoal flecks

I’ve spent 3 hours trying to find the pattern Charcoal flecks, thats what happens to newbies.
No one was nice enough to say where it was, and you dont even need to subscribe. Anyway.

For who doesnt know it’s already in photoshop, in the “pattern fill” window open the patterns list,there is a little arrow pointing right click it and in the drop down menu select grayscale paper and then use your Charcoal flecks.

I did mine and it doesnt look very good. you still need to be expert with the program to get some good resoults, nice tutorial anyway.

Comment by Mo
2010-02-27 02:12:13

Thank you I love this Tutorial I was trying to do this for a young lady I really care about but it is to hard I mean damn. I don’t think it was explained to well the person explained it because they was well advanced. I mean I can’t figure out the key commands even other Tutorials I struggled but I figured out how to do them. I think people got to remember that you gotta always go in baby steps just in case you have those trying to keep up.

Comment by Nadoo
2009-12-24 12:37:23

Thanks u Giuseppe !

Comment by Ana Subscribed to comments via email
2010-01-23 20:02:22

how do i do this…..Add a layer mask on that layer (layer > layer masks > hide all)

when i click layer there is no layer masks option

i am using photoshop elements 5.0

i can do all the other parts of this tutorial except this part.

someone please help =D

Comment by enas Subscribed to comments via email
2010-03-29 17:22:09

Thank alot for this information ,,,,,,,,i want some lesson about photoshop,,,,plesae,,,,,i want learn photoshop ,,,,,,

Comment by juancasdt Subscribed to comments via email
2010-05-16 13:21:37

Me parece super malo este tutorial…
Para empezar, enseñan con detalle “como abrir una foto en photoshop” , y luego a las cosas realmente importantes, las pasa de largo y no especifica NADA!!!
Gracias por tu tiempo en subir a la red estos tutoriales, sin embargo, tu esfuerzo no valio de mucho.

Comment by eve Subscribed to comments via email
2010-05-19 17:42:49

where i can get that photoshop?

Comment by ay4tocreation Subscribed to comments via email
2010-05-20 12:36:20

hi. what up ?room whatis going on here …..talking abt softwear for what lol?

Comment by DerekS
2010-06-27 10:01:21


Im having a little problem with step 7, on layer mask i cant find the >hide all> option. And my psp its in spanish, so i may confuse it a bit. Any how, do i have to instal that option? Could u help me, I’ll be checkin to see your answer.

And for those who critizise the use of psp, well, i do a little drawing by hand to and this is a new way of creating. We all have to go with the flow, and computers are what we have naw; computers we use. Beside, u dnt use your art in webs or comercial adds, and even so, u would take a week to do the same you do in 30 min w psp.

Im not sayins its better, im saying its new, and i like both.

Comment by Nynke Arends
2010-07-06 13:30:31

When i try to save the picture as JPEG, the woman turns grey again. What am i doing wrong?

Comment by jay Subscribed to comments via email
2010-08-23 07:07:33

i quite confused with step 9, where i have to use the charcoal flecks pattern, i cant find it inside pattern. do i need to install any plugins for this???

Comment by bri
2010-08-29 13:42:26

Step 7 is tricky – you cannot paint with white on white mask! But you can paint with black revealing background around your target – use any brush you like with proper size.
also “hide all” is not necessary.

Motion blur and crosshatch do not bring great results everytime.

Comment by surya
2010-10-05 10:09:13

this photo shop exercise very useful for me,and i feel very happy to see this ,and learn something in it.

Comment by ziba
2010-11-13 02:24:44

I’m ziba from iran

Comment by Ariel
2011-02-02 03:33:49

It works perfect, thank you so much!!!!

Comment by marco Subscribed to comments via email
2011-02-05 19:56:46

hi. the last step is very confused.
copy the your color level and put at the top.
I putted the yellow level but i see just the yellow level that cover everything and noting else.
Was ok till last step but is not easy to understand which level i have to put on top.

Comment by raikaned
2011-09-26 09:31:11

This is not for first timer in PS

Comment by Melissa
2012-04-15 22:15:29

I need the pattern please!

Comment by JULS
2012-06-02 04:34:42



Have Your Say

Your Comment may not appear immediately due to moderation
Name (required)
E-mail (required - never shown publicly)
Your Comment (smaller size | larger size)
You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> in your Comment.