Best real pencil and charcoal brushes for Photoshop


I love the look of traditional pencil & charcoal. There’s no denying the beautiful textures and tones you can create with a pencil on paper. However, I prefer to work digitally due to the convenience, lack of mess, and the ability to take all of my tools with me wherever I go. I also don’t have to constantly sharpen a pencil when I work digitally (I have a heavy hand). So I’ve been on the hunt for Photoshop brushes that allow me to recreate the traditional look as authentically as possible.

My problem is that I’m super picky about what looks authentic because I’ve been drawing portraits with pencils for over 13 years now. I know pencils very well and how they behave. I’ve tried so many Photoshop brushes that claim they’re like real pencils. Most aren’t up to par, but here are a few brush sets I love and that feel the most authentic to me.

The Sketcher Collection Brushes

Hands down this is the best pencil set I’ve come across. There are beautiful brushes for line, for shading, for grading, and everything in between. There’s even frotage brushes! The variety is amazing and if you combine multiple brushes it feels very true to real pencils. This set is my workhouse. I grabbed it for free when it was a weekly freebie on Creative Market, but it’s definitely worth the $11.

Charcoal Look Brushes

The charcoal brushes in this set are the best. The brushes are tilt enabled, so some of them feel like you’re using a charcoal stick on its side. The purchase even comes with a video tutorial on how to achieve the look and also some Photoshop patterns. This one has a higher price tag at $15 but it’s worth it if you’re wanting charcoal brushes.

MG’s Super Watercolor & Pencils Set

This is the newest brush set in my collection and already I’m really impressed with it (especially at $8)! I can easily create authentic textures and lines. There’s a large variety and it also includes some watercolor brushes too. It’s a great supplement to the other sets and worth the purchase.

Kyle’s Megapack

If you’re an Adobe CC user, included in your subscription is access to Kyle’s brushes for free. He has quite a few good charcoal and pencil brushes in his Megapack brush set (my favorites specifically are the wet charcoal brush and vine charcoal brush). This is worth a try especially since it’s free!

I feel like all of these brush sets work really well together and purchasing all will give you the best range and variety. If you only purchase one, I suggest getting The Sketcher Collection Brushes since that one is my favorite but all are worth buying if you can. Side note: the drawing in this blog post was created using The Sketcher Collection Brushes & Charcoal Look Brushes.

Since getting these brushes my work has drastically changed in the best way—I’m getting the results I’ve wanted all along… the look of traditional with the ease of digital. Best of both worlds.

Tools & TipsSadie LewComment