photoshop creative

How to make a charcoal portrait in four easy steps!

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by The Photoshop Creative Team
September 8, 2014

Transform any portrait into a charcoal masterpiece in no time at all!

Charcoal is a lovely medium, but man is it messy! It’s therefore good to know that a very realistic charcoal effect can be achieved in Photoshop.

Remember, charcoal images usually have areas of smudging, either deliberately or because a hand has inadvertently smudged something. Simply scan in real charcoal marks and incorporate using blend modes for the ultimate realistic touch!

1. Isolate your subject

Charcoal portraits are usually on a plan background so make a selection of the subject. A simple Lasso will suffice. Copy and paste onto a new layer and turn off the Background layer.

2. Quick Tidy

If any areas were missed, pick the eraser tool to get rid of them. This can be quite rudimentary because any mistakes can be sorted. Convert the image to black and white.

3. Bump up the contrast

Most filters work best with a decent amount of contrast. Either use the Brightness/Contrast command or pick Vibrance. Keep tones but aim for deep shadows and bright highlights.

4. The filter

Duplicate and go to Filter>Artistic>Palette Knife. This softens the edges. As a general rule, go for a Stroke Size of 45%, Stroke Detail of 3 and a Softness of 8. Transfer to the canvas.