Acrylic and charcoal are two very popular mediums used by artists all over the world. But what if I told you that you could use these mediums together on canvas? You would probably be surprised at how well they work together! In this post, I will explain to you how to use charcoal and acrylic on canvas – so get ready to be creative!
It’s easy to use charcoal and acrylic to paint a canvas. There are many ways to use both mediums on the same painting. Most artists will use charcoal to create an image on the canvas and then apply acrylic paint.
Another way is to actually mix them together as a mixed media type painting.
Either way, we need to ensure that we don’t end up blending or smudging the charcoal with acrylics unless that is the desired result.
How To Use Charcoal And Acrylic On Canvas
Painting over charcoal with acrylic paint
When using charcoal and acrylic on canvas, it’s essential to use a fixative. A fixative (such as a spray fixative) will hold the charcoal in place so that it doesn’t get smudged when you’re painting over it with acrylics.
If you don’t use a fixative, your charcoal lines may disappear as you paint over them with acrylics.
To use a fixative, simply spray it over the area where you’ve drawn with charcoal. Allow the fixative to dry completely before continuing to paint over it with acrylics.
If you want to mix charcoal and acrylics together, one way to do so is by using a medium. There are many acrylic mediums available, but we recommend using an opaque white gel medium.
Mixing charcoal with acrylic paint
To use the medium, simply mix it with your charcoal to create a paste. Then, apply the paste to your canvas using a brush or other painting tool.
The gel medium will hold the charcoal in place and allow you to create interesting effects by mixing the two media together.
Using charcoal over acrylic paint
Another way to combine charcoal and acrylic paint is by using charcoal over dry acrylic paint. This technique can be used to create a variety of different effects.
For example, you can use charcoal to draw lines over your acrylic painting. The lines will appear darker where they overlap the acrylic paint, creating a unique effect.
You can also use charcoal to add shading and depth to your painting. Simply apply the charcoal over the lightest areas of your painting to create a shadow effect.
I love drawing over my acrylic paintings with other media such as paint pens but when you use something like charcoal over acrylic paint it gives the industrial and plastic feel of acrylic paint a more natural feeling of depth.
I use charcoals to enhance shadows and shades and to introduce a level of grittiness to the usually slick look of acrylic paint.
Using charcoal as a stencil for painting with acrylic paint
You can also use charcoal to create stencils of drawings which are then overlaid onto canvas. In the old days, artists would make drawings on paper and then place tiny pin holes into the paper and then apply charcoal dust to transfer the image onto canvas.
You can also transfer a drawing from paper onto canvas by mirroring the drawing as you lay it over the canvas.
To do this, you can use plain paper or transfer paper (you can also use rolls of baking paper if you need to complete a larger image).
Transfer paper is your best bet if you’re new to painting. Since you’re drawing on the paper, not the canvas, the canvas will stay clean. But first you’ll want to draw the picture on a plain white piece of paper. This way you can erase and correct mistakes along the way.
When applying a drawing on a canvas with charcoal, you’ll want to use a tight canvas as opposed to a loose one. This makes drawing a picture on it easier. But you’ll also want to have a kneaded eraser available if you make mistakes drawing with the charcoal. You’ll find that because canvases are grainy (also known as having ‘tooth’), the charcoal adheres to it easily.
When you’ve finished drawing your picture with the charcoal, you can then paint over it with acrylic paint. You don’t have to use a fixative before painting with acrylics, as they won’t smudge the charcoal lines.
Avoiding The Use Of Transfer Paper
If you don’t want to use transfer paper, take a charcoal pencil and shade the drawing on plain white paper. After that, you’ll need to apply graphite to the back of the paper.. Using the pencil, trace your image repeatedly so that it ends up on the canvas. Once this is done, you can fill it in with acrylic paint.
Drawing with acrylic paint and charcoal
It is possible to use acrylic paint to draw on a canvas. With some practice, you’ll be able to create a rough sketch this way. Some artists prefer this because the drawing dries quickly, so you can get right into the painting.
Here’s what you need to do:
1. Choose a color of acrylic paint that you want to use for your drawing.
4. Allow the paint to dry completely before adding any charcoal.
Adding charcoal to an acrylic painting
If you’ve already started painting with acrylics and want to add some charcoal to your work, there are a few things that you need to do in order to avoid smudging the paint.
1. Wait for the paint to dry completely before adding any charcoal.
2. Use a fixative to hold the charcoal in place.
3. Work on a small area at a time and fix the charcoal before moving on.
If you do want to smudge the paint or charcoal then get creative and see what happens when you apply the two together.
Now that you know how to use charcoal and acrylic paint together, you can create some stunning mixed media paintings! Just remember to work slowly and carefully.
Surface or substrates to use for acrylic and charcoal
While you can apply charcoal to paper, if you are mixing charcoal and acrylic paint on the same artwork I suggest using a canvas substrate.
The type of canvas you use when drawing with acrylic paint is important. It’s recommended that beginners start out with a canvas made entirely from cotton or canvas boards. While these canvases aren’t ideal for large paintings, you’ll probably have better luck sticking to small paintings until you perfect your technique until you get good enough to tackle a larger work.
A canvas made from linen has a tougher surface and is generally only used by professional artists. However, these canvases support larger paintings. That being said, you’ll want to purchase a pre-primed canvas to start with. Priming is the only way to get acrylic paint to stick to the canvas. One that has been primed has a sealed, smooth surface.
When you want to get started on your painting, note that with acrylics it’s best to start by drawing the darkest objects in the picture first. Slowly work your way down to drawing the lightest objects in your picture to finish it up. Throughout your painting, make sure you are applying thin layers. The thinner a layer is, the easier it is to make changes to it and the faster it will dry when you’re done.
Apply a varnish
Finishing your painting may require you to switch from acrylic back to charcoal. This is the easiest way to draw abstract figures and add small lines of details. And once it’s completed, the final step is to apply a varnish to the surface of it. The varnish will prevent the colors in the painting from fading over time.
Then you’ll be able to proudly display your artwork for years.
How To Use Charcoal And Acrylic On Canvas – Wrap up!
Now that you know how to use charcoal and acrylic on canvas, surprise your friends and family with your mixed media paintings. Be sure to practice beforehand so that you can get the perfect results. And don’t forget to share your pictures with me once you’re done! I can’t wait to see what you create.
“Mixed Media – charcoal, Acrylic and gesso on Paper 11” x 15” 2019” by bellamarcella1212 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
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Joseph Colella is a frustrated artist with over 40 years experience making art (who moonlights as a certified Business Analyst with over 20 years of experience in tech). While he holds a Diploma in Information Technology, in true wasted talent style he spent years trying to get into various Art degrees from the Accademia di Belle Arti (Napoli), and failed to get into the Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) at the University of Western Sydney. His goal is to attend the Julian Ashton School of Art at The Rocks Sydney when he retires from full time work. In his spare time, he writes for the this blog, WastedTalentInc, where he shares practical advice on art, making art, and art materials. Joseph’s art has been sold to collectors all over the world from the USA, Europe and Australasia. He is a trusted source for reliable art and copyright/fair use advice and is committed to helping his readers make informed decisions about making them a better artist.
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