smudged charcoal sketch

5 Foolproof Ways to Stop Smudging Your Drawings

Use these simple tips and tools to keep from smudging your own pencil and charcoal drawings.

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Is there anything worse than spending hours pouring your heart and soul into a drawing, only to accidentally smudge it at the end?

The same hands you relied on to sketch your masterpiece can also work against you, smearing the graphite across the page and obliterating your beautiful details.

You’re not alone in the battle against smudges. It’s a war artists have been fighting for centuries and luckily, there are a few solutions out there to keep in your arsenal.

We’ll show how you can stop smudging your drawings with these simple tips and tools below.

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Place a sheet of paper under your hand

One of the simplest solutions is to place a piece of scrap paper under your hand. By placing a barrier between your sketch and your hand it prevents the warmth and oils in your skin from picking up the graphite as you draw.

As long as you continue to move the paper as you draw and don’t drag it across the sketch page, you can avoid most smudges.

Use an artist glove

The exotic two finger artist glove might look like some sort of Halloween accessory, but it’s actually incredibly practical. Usually marketed towards digital artists as a way to keep their palm from triggering the touchscreen, the glove is also a great way to prevent pencil smudges too.

The glove leaves the first three fingers exposed for better grip and covers the rest of the hand and wrist that contacts the paper. Once it’s on there’s nothing you need to move or adjust, so it’s easy to forget the glove is even there.

This highly recommended model from Huion can be worn on the right or left hand and is made from soft lycra and nylon.

Work with a mahl stick

Self-portrait by Sofonisba Anguissola using a mahl stick

Don’t worry, a mahl stick is not some type of Klingon weapon! It’s actually a common painting tool that acts as a support for the brush hand instead of touching the canvas directly.

Also called ‘maulsticks’ they’re essentially a light stick with a pad at the end that lean against the edge of the canvas or drawing easel.

While some people make their own, this adjustable aluminum model uses a smudge-free rubber tip and adjusts between 10″ to 30″.

Use a leaning bridge

If you use soft leads or charcoal, touching the paper at all can be a serious smudging hazard. That’s where a leaning bridge comes in. These small shelves go across the paper and provide a stable support to lean your wrist on as you draw.

Typically made from clear acrylic, you can also see through the bridge as you work. By elevating your hand 1.5″ above the paper it makes smudging your drawing pretty much impossible.

This highly reviewed model measures 18″ across, but other sizes are available.

Plan your page flow (it’s free)

There’s one way to prevent smudging your art that requires nothing but a little forethought. If you approach your drawing the same way you would read a page in a book, you can avoid a lot of smudges from the start.

Work from the top of the paper down, drawing from the left side to the right side. That way your hand won’t have to move over sections you’ve already worked on.

The under-drawing might blur as you go, but each new layer of graphite should remain pristine. It’s simple, but it works!


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