The Graphite Powder Experiment Findings

My experimentation with graphite powder had gotten off to slow start. My first attempt at it was on hot press illustration board. This is the board I normally use for my finished drawings and so I wanted to see how it would react and how I could incorporate it into my existing work style.

I had started by treating it a little like charcoal and toning my board. It did create a nice mid-tone that could be easily pulled out with a kneaded eraser but I was not able to get any of the rich darks that I have seen others achieve through using it dry with a brush.  I then started to apply it wet with a blending stomp and denatured alcohol. It did give me the darks but it started to have a more painterly style to it when applied in that manner.

Graphite Powder on Hot Press Illustration Board using both Wet/Dry Technique:

Graphite Powder Experimentation on Hot Press Illustration Board

My next attempt was to see how the graphite powder would react on a more textured surface. I started with the same technique of toning the paper first. This time I used a cold press watercolor paper. The graphite didn’t lift well using the kneaded eraser and I still couldn’t achieve the darks that I was hoping for.

Graphite Powder on Cold Press Watercolor Paper using a Dry Technique:
Graphite Powder Experimentation on Watercolor Paper

They say that the third time is the charm and this seemed to ring true here as well. I decided to try a light weight vellum bristol board. There seemed to be just enough surface/slickness ratio to give me what I was looking for. As you can see below, I was able to achieve a great variety of applications all with success.

Graphite Powder on Vellum Bristol Board using both a Wet/Dry Techniques:
Graphite Powder Experimentation on Vellum Paper

The graphite powder with denatured alcohol created ink like washes that were somewhat permanent once applied. The eraser did not erase them well but they were able to be blended out with more alcohol.

The dry brush graphite powder layered nicely and when I used the blending stomp it created nice darks. The kneaded eraser pulled out highlights easily.

Lastly, I tried a technique that I found while doing a little research on the various techniques. I used the dry brush to apply the graphite and then between layers I sprayed workable fixative on the area. This created beautiful soft layers that I was able to create great darks with.

I will continue to play with this now that I think I have found my groove with it. It is a fun variation that feels a little like painting, drawing and charcoal all combined. I like the feel of it and how it sort of brings out a new creative approach to my drawing style.

Has anyone else had experience with graphite powder and found successful methods of application or papers? Please share with us all below!

17 thoughts on “The Graphite Powder Experiment Findings

  1. I haven’t used graphite powder yet, but have been looking to try it out after seeing an article about it recently. Thanks for posting your experiments, I’m sure to use your tips when I give it a go.


  2. hi Rebecca,
    love the experimentation you’re doing. It sounds like a fun medium.

    Have you heard of something called liquid pencil. It is an Australian product and I am not sure if it widely available yet. I’ve not tried it, but my friend has – it’s a thick paint-like medium and you apply it with a paint brush. But the end result looks like a graphite pencil (and it does look like a pencil drawing too!)
    I’ve sent you a link to the manufacturer’s website. If you find it difficult to get hold of any and would like to try some, I could post a jar out to you.

    good luck with your experimentation, and keep posting them!


  3. Hello Rebecca,

    I live down under in Australia.
    The Derivan products are good. I’ve found with too thin a wash though and you will start seeing the graphite particles though.
    There is also Artgraf products from the Portuguese company Viarco which are good for adding water too.
    Another cool thing to try is mixing graphite powder with gum arabic or you can purchase the graphite watercolour stick or graphite watercolour tube paint from Daniel Smith which is premixed graphite powder and gum arabic.
    Also its probably good to point out that water soluble graphite pictures need to be fixed too.
    Speaking of fixative, I believe Degas used the method of applying fixative between the layers of his pastel work.
    I haven’t found any denatured alcohol here, I’m guessing that is just a different name for methylated spirits?


  4. Sandy, thanks so much for sharing this great information. I want to find that Daniel Smith paint, it sounds really cool. I bet it would work great with my encaustic too.

    As for the methylated spirits…it’s possible that it is similar and worth a try.


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