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!

85 Responses to “Charcoal Drawing with Photoshop”

  1. Steve says:

    Good Job thanks for tutorial

  2. Katie says:

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

  3. Edward says:

    Wicked tutorial. thanks for sharing it.

  4. Kick says:

    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!

  5.’s not the original photo layer.. It’s the color layer you’ve created on step 2..

  6. gilbert says:

    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,,

  7. piggy says:

    I had a problem while trying this tutorial.

    Where to select the charcoal large smear brush?

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

  9. marie says:

    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.

  10. David says:

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

  11. gilbert says:


    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.

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

  13. Use alt +del to fill your layer with foreground color

  14. Copy the layer you’ve created on step 2

  15. gilbert says:

    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

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

  17. Kazper says:

    Can someone help me getting over step 7 🙁

  18. pRinceT says:

    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!

  19. Dakota says:

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

  20. kevin says:

    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.

  21. Daniel says:

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

  22. Crissy says:

    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?

  23. mustafa sazak says:

    thank you all. these are very helpful for beginners.

  24. squirt says:

    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…

  25. A.Hamid Brohi Artist says:

    its nice do u have any other tips

  26. george von strangle says:

    this helped alot thx luv ya

  27. hussein says:

    thanks dear

    i cant stand step 7 please

    thanks again

  28. marie says:

    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!

  29. Kriti says:

    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!

  30. Eddie says:

    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 🙁

  31. Eddie says:

    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!

  32. anam says:

    where to i get photosshop

  33. bartlet says:

    thank you thank you 🙂

  34. Suzanne says:

    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.

  35. jaz says:

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

  36. anna says:

    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

  37. Hahn says:

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

  38. BetterThanYou says:

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

  39. tArKi says:

    Thanks for the tutorial! Nice work!

  40. Fihena says:

    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.

  41. jaz says:

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

  42. Dwain says:

    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.

  43. McCurdy says:

    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.

  44. max says:

    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.

  45. Newbie says:

    Head? meet desk.

  46. Dave says:

    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?

  47. Amanda says:

    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..

  48. Liz says:

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

  49. Benny says:

    Hi. This tutorial works perfectly.
    Thanks a lot.

  50. mo says:

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

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