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How to Prevent Smudging while Drawing (Top 10+ Tips and Guide)

Artist drawing a portrait

Many artists need help with how to stop smudging while drawing. Whether you’re left-handed or right-handed, using graphite, charcoal, or even pen, we’ve all struggled with preventing smudging.

  • Is there a solution to get rid of smudges without ripping your paper or completely ruining your drawing?
  • Or even worse, maybe you’ve finished your masterpiece, and now you want to protect your art from smudging in the future (…ha!, like I’ve ever fully finished a drawing that I was totally happy with)

In fact, so many artists struggle with accidentally smudging while drawing that we’ve included it in our top 15 drawing tips for beginners.

Here are our top recommended ways to stop smudging while drawing.

  1. Place a Clean Piece of Paper Under Your Hand
  2. Use Cellophane
  3. Use a Rod (mahl stick)
  4. Use a Drawing Bridge
  5. Use an Artists Glove
  6. Use an Inclined Disk or Easel
  7. Consider Different Ways to Hold your Pencil
  8. Be Aware of Hand Placement
  9. Keep Your Hands Clean
  10. Choose Your Pencils Wisely ( B range Pencils are softer and may smudge more)
  11. Plan the Flow and Composition of your Drawing

Table of Contents

    How to Prevent Smudging While Drawing 

    For artists, especially when using pencils or charcoal, dealing with and avoiding smudges is a constant struggle.

    Smudging happens when the graphite or charcoal transfers onto your hand or when you accidentally smear your work.

    However, it is possible to avoid smudging and maintain the cleanliness of your drawings with several techniques.

    Here are some of the ways to prevent smudging:

    1. Place a Clean Piece of Paper Under Your Hand

    To avoid smearing your work, try sketching with a clean piece of paper under your hand. Doing so will prevent you from accidentally smudging your drawing by being in contact with the paper. 

    If you want it not to stick to your hand or move along with you while working, secure it to your table using masking tape.

    2. Use Cellophane

    Another effective method for preventing smudging is to use cellophane. 

    Cellophane is a transparent, thin plastic sheet you can place over the drawing surface to prevent hands from touching the drawing surface. Unlike paper, which blocks your view in some parts of your drawing, tracing paper lets you see your whole work while protecting it from smudging.

    But if you don’t have a cellophane, tracing paper too.

    3. Use a Rod (mahl stick)

    A rod is a long, thin instrument that you may use to help steady your hand while drawing. It is also often referred to as a mahl stick. 

    For it to work, place the ball part of the mahl stick at the end of your paper or easel. Hold the opposite end with your free hand, rest your drawing hand on the rod, and use it as a support to keep it stable to avoid smudging.

    Here is a video to guide you on how to use and make your very own mahl stick:

    4. Use a Drawing Bridge

    A drawing bridge, also known as an artist’s leaning bridge, is a tool with a similar purpose to a mahl stick. 

    It comprises a flat acrylic or wood plank with legs on both sides. This tool primarily serves as a handrest but can also help you refrain from smudging your work since your hand will be away from the surface of the paper.

    5. Use an Artists Glove

    A hand wearing a drawing glove

    Artists wear drawing gloves to prevent oil and sweat from being able to smear or smudge the artwork and transfer the ink or charcoal marks to their skin. 

    Most drawing gloves are made of cotton or synthetic fibers and are used to protect the two fingers, most commonly in contact with the drawing surface.

    6. Use an Inclined Desk or Easel

    Picture of a drawing desk and easel

    An inclined desk or easel allows you to angle your drawing surface, making it simpler to view your work and reducing the risk of smudging your work.

    Both materials are adjustable. By using the angle that is most comfortable for you, you may be able to lessen the amount of contact your hand has with the drawing surface, making it easier to avoid smearing.

    7. Consider Different Ways to Hold your Pencil

    Considering different ways to hold your pencil is essential when avoiding smudging. The amount of control you have over your pencil is directly related to the degree of contact between your hand and the drawing surface.

    The following are several ways to hold a pencil for drawing to minimize smudging: 

    • Tripod Grip – typical pencil grip consists of a tripod formed by the thumb, index finger, and middle finger. With this grip, you can have much control and draw precise lines and curves.
    • Overhand Grip – also known as knuckle grip, involves holding the pencil near the tip. This hold is more suited for covering more significant areas with broader strokes. 
    • Underhand Grip – this grip resembles the overhand; however, the pencil is held in the middle. If you want to put additional pressure on the paper for shading, this grip might help. This grip also has the least contact with paper or surface.

    Try out several grips until you find the one that feels most natural, be conscious of where your hands are, and attempt to maintain as much stability and cleanliness as possible.

    8. Be Aware of Hand Placement

    Awareness of your hand placement while drawing is essential to avoiding smudging. Maintaining your hand steady and having as little touch as possible with the paper is crucial. 

    To do this, place your hand in a position that provides a firm grasp on the pencil. If you’re sketching, especially something very detailed, you shouldn’t put your hand on your drawing but instead, hold your pencil a few centimeters above or in the blank space on your paper.

    9. Keep Your Hands Clean

    It’s important to note that if you are working on a drawing, clean your hands frequently by taking breaks. This practice will help to keep your hands clean and reduce the chances of smudging.

    One might transfer oils, sweat, and moisture from their skin to the paper when their hand touches the drawing surface, resulting in smudging.

    When you start drawing, wash your hands well with soap and water or spray alcohol or sanitizer on them. Avoid touching anything that can leave traces of oil, dirt, or even food on your hands before beginning to sketch.

    And if you see any ink or pencil marks on your hands, be sure to remove them right away.

    10. Choose Your Pencils Wisely

    Choosing your pencils wisely is crucial when drawing. Pencils range in hardness from 9H (hardest) to 9B (softest).

    When it comes to preventing smearing, it is better to use pencils that have a harder lead. H pencil graphite is less prone to smear than other kinds since the graphite particles are more compacted.

    B pencils tend to have a softer lead. They may be more easily absorbed by the skin, making it prone to smudging.

    11. Plan the Flow and Composition of your Drawing

    Planning the flow and composition of your drawing before beginning may lessen the possibility of smudging occurring if you anticipate probable smudging places and take preventive steps simultaneously.

    Try to imagine working on hair for a portrait. Strategize how the subject’s hair is going, its arrangement, and overall composition. Know where to start and the places where your hand can avoid graphite or charcoal particles. 

    How do I Stop Smudging When Drawing Left Handed?

    Left hand holding a pencil

    Smudging is a common problem for left-handed artists since their hand is closer to the paper and in a different position than the right-handed ones. Though it can be a frustrating problem for left-handed artists, there are a few things to do to prevent it.

    You may avoid smudging your left hand when drawing by following these tips:

    • Hold the pencil correctly. A firm grip on the pencil will allow you to impose more control over it, leading to less smudging.
    • Use a pencil extender.
    • Use a piece of paper or a ruler to protect your hand from the drawing.
    • Sketch lightly.
    • Use a fixative spray.
    • You can use pencils that produce less smudge, such as charcoal and pastels, as an alternative.

    How Do You Not Smudge Charcoal When Drawing?

    When using charcoal to draw, smudging is a problem that often occurs. Nevertheless, you may use a few different methods to reduce the probability of such a situation and produce a more controlled and clean drawing.

    The recommended ways above are applicable in avoiding smudges when using charcoal. 

    In addition, while drawing with charcoal-which can be very messy and smudgy, try to work from light to dark shading. With this, you can make any necessary changes before adding deeper tones, which will help lessen the likelihood of smudging later. 

    How to Not Smudge Pen

    Utilizing a barrier is the approach to prevent the ink of the pen from smudging while using a pen or marker. A paper or plastic sheet should be between your hand and the sketching surface. You may also apply glue to the areas of your hands in contact with the paper.  

    A well-suited type of paper for pens and markers can also help you avoid smudging, such as smooth Bristol paper that lets you draw with consistent ink flow. 

    Also, allow or give time for your ink to dry before working on another area, and test your pens on scratch paper before drawing to avoid leaks. Try to do this at time intervals to clean your pen.

    How to Get Rid of Smudges in your Drawing (How to Erase Pencil Smudges)

    There are several ways to get rid of smudges in your drawing, depending on the type of smudge and the medium you use. A soft eraser is the most popular and effective tool for removing pencil marks. Use a clean eraser carefully and work gently to eliminate the smear. 

    An eraser pen might come in handy when trying to remove a smudge from a small area or near a delicate feature with its fine point. 

    For graphite marks and particles, a kneaded eraser is recommended. It is used to lift and remove the graphite from the paper without leaving any eraser dust behind. Since it can be reformed and resized, it is also great for erasing fine details in your work.  

    Sometimes, you may need to use a combination of techniques or make many passes over the area to eliminate the smear. Being gentle is also crucial.

    How to Protect Your Drawings and Avoid Smudge After Finishing Them

    Protecting your drawings and avoiding smudging after finishing them is an essential step in ensuring the longevity and preservation of your artwork.

    Several methods exist, including using fixative sprays or UV-protective varnishes, using archival-grade materials, and framing your artwork.

    Take special care while handling your drawings. Keep them out of direct sunshine and high humidity, and store and handle your artwork correctly.

    Fixative Spray for Drawing 

    A fixative spray is a solution used to fix or hold charcoal, graphite, and pastel on a drawing surface. It is a barrier to keep the drawing material from smudging, rubbing off, or fading over time.

    There are several types of fixative spray available for use on drawings, including:

    • Final fixative spray – the finished work is often sealed with this to prevent the artwork from being smudged, faded, or discolored. The finish produced by this fixative is irreversible. You can make no further changes after it has been applied.
    •  Workable fixative spray after using this fixative, the artist may keep working, make changes and add layers to the drawing without worrying about smudging the surface.
    • Matte Fixative spray creates a matte finish on drawings.
    • Glossy fixative spray – creates a glossy finish on drawings.
    • Archival fixative spray – artwork meant to last for a long time may be protected using this fixative, made of acid-free materials. 

    Before spraying on fixative, ensure the drawing surface is dust-free and completely dry. Lightly and evenly spray the drawing with the fixative from 8 to 12 inches away. Wear a mask to avoid inhaling any fumes.

    Pencil Fixative Spray

    A pencil fixative spray is like any fixative, but it is designed explicitly for pencil drawings. 

    Most fixatives are workable. They may be used while drawing to keep pencil markings in place so the artist can without having to clean up smudged pencil lines constantly.

    Can You Use Hairspray to Fix Drawings?

    You can use hairspray as a fixative for drawings, but it is not recommended.

    Hairspray may serve as a short-term fixative, but it includes chemicals that can discolor or degrade the paper over time, which might have an undesirable impact on the final artwork.

    Not only is hairspray not meant for use on drawings, but the amount of protection it offers is weak in comparison to that of a fixative spray made for that purpose.

    Framing Your Drawings

    Framing your drawings is a great way to protect them. 

    When a drawing is framed, it is sealed and shielded from environmental variables such as light, dust, and other particles that might cause harm if left unprotected. 

    If you want to preserve your drawings from the damaging effects of light, using acrylic or glass with UV protection is a good idea. And remember always to use acid-free matting and backing materials when framing your work to keep the paper from yellowing or deteriorating.

    What is Smudging Art?

    What is smudging art?

    Say you like how smudging looks and want to smudge more!? – well, we’ve got some great news. There’s an entire genre of art called smudging art. This art can be beautiful and an entirely new way to express yourself and your artwork.

    Smudging art is the accidental or intentional blending of colors or lines on a drawing or painting. Smudging can soften or blend colors, create texture, or create a sense of movement in a piece.

    You may smudge using your fingertips, a paper blending tool, a chamois, or a blending stump. You can use either dry or wet material.

    Smudging Art provides a sense of depth and movement to works created with dry media. It gives the impression of a more authentic or natural appearance. Suppose you are using a wet medium, like watercolor paint. In that case, smudging is a great way to mix colors and give the impression of motion.

    How to Prevent Smudging while Drawing – Final Thoughts

    Smudging can be a desired effect in some drawings, but it can also be an unwanted effect that can ruin them.

    Experimenting with different techniques and tools and following the tips and guides in this blog can help you find the best method to prevent smudging while drawing. 

    If you have any other questions about preventing smudging, we would be happy to assist and guide you in finding the best solutions for your artistic needs. You can contact us for more information.

    Thanks for reading, and see you at the next one!

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