How to draw smoke with a pencil

Written by carl hose
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Drawing smoke in one of your sketches isn't difficult, but giving it the shading and texture necessary to make it appear realistic can offer a challenge. To draw smoke, you have to capture something that is almost elusive in quality. Using a variety of shading and texturing techniques, it is possible to recreate this elusive subject on paper.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Draw a light outline of the smoke pattern you want to create. Start in the centre of your paper and draw a cloudlike pattern. Keep in mind that smoke isn't perfect, so add a few thin, curled lines rising from this pattern to give the illusion of curls of smoke drifting from the cloud.

  2. 2

    Sketch random lines throughout your smoke cloud that will give it texture. Some of these lines will be squiggly and others will be curved.There isn't a set number of these lines to draw, but they should be distributed throughout your cloud.

  3. 3

    Colour your smoke. This can be the tricky part. Use colour pencils. Apply a layer of white colouring over the smoke cloud, then colour over this with grey. Use your finger to blend or smudge the colours into a smooth texture. Apply the grey over the white using side-to-side strokes and continue to blend until you have the greyish-white tone that looks like smoke.

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