It is often necessary to build up large black areas in pencil drawings, either for backgrounds or clothing.

If you try to make blacks by using soft graphite pencil and “scrubbing” the paper …

… the result will be uneven and shiny rather than a flat black.

Using a charcoal pencil is an improvement, but it will still be an extremely painstaking, laborious process.

The best solution is to branch out and use a combination of willow charcoal, charcoal pencil, and sometimes graphite pencil last of all. Begin by flattening the edge of a stick of willow charcoal against the sandpaper block to give yourself the largest surface area you can.

Cross-hatch strokes of willow charcoal until the entire dark area is covered. Because willow charcoal is so soft, it will be helpful to protect any edges you wish to remain white before you begin.

Blend the willow charcoal smooth with a chamois or stomp,and go back into the area with a stick of harder charcoal that has once again been flattened on one side with sandpaper.

If the area is small enough, you can use a charcoal pencil instead, laying down tone in smooth strokes or small circles. Blend this layer as well.

For the smoothest finish, blend first with a tortillon and then with felt.

Depending on the texture you’re trying to achieve, you may want to go over the charcoal layer a third time with graphite, which will fill in the tooth of the paper even more. It will also give the area a silvery sheen which may or may not be desireable.

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