Sonia writes:Hi, I have a graphite related question. I wanted to know how you manage to do graphite portraits without that shine that is left there from the graphite? I don’t know if in your videos it isn’t visible. Can fixative help get rid of some of that shine? I have been watching your videos for a while now & really enjoy them. I am an art major so watching other artists really helps to inspire me & keep me motivated. Thanks.

The shine from graphite usually happens when you’re pushing too hard with the pencil. What you end up doing is polishing the graphite to a high shine. If you can keep a light hand as you work, this will help avoid the problem. The brand of pencil you use will make a big difference too. For example, the prismacolor ebony pencil starts off more silvery than say a Faber – Castell 9000 8b pencil (plus the Faber-Castell will get darker anyway).

Recently I reviewed the Caran d’Ache Grafwood pencils and those tended to polish to high shine faster/easier than the Faber-Castell. Generally, just remember to work with lots of light layers to help avoid this if the shine bothers you. The shine of graphite isn’t a deal breaker for me, it just makes it harder to photograph accurately. Some people HATE shine, it’s all personal preference.

There are matte sprays that will tone down that shine as well. Krylon makes one I’ve used. If you apply a heavy coat it does a pretty good job of taking down the shine, but it also has a tendency to darken up the graphite, so that can be a negative if you don’t want your work darker. Some may love having the contrast hyped up like this, so I recommend testing it first to see how you like it before you spray a completed piece of art. You also have to be careful with the sprays because if you apply it too heavily it can sort  of spot the dark portions of the paper making it look MUCH MUCH worse.