Mastering the Charles Bargue method

It is known that the Charles Bargue method helps observational skills, enhance creativity, proportion and helps the individual’s technical skills in being precise.

One must need:

  • Good lighting
  • Fine Paper
  • A set of Pencils from H to 9B
  • An Eraser and a Patty Rubber
  • A String or a Compass

First things first, always have good lighting while drawing. Lighting can change the way you see tonality in shading drastically. The Barque method is a specific technique to master in copying a specific image precisely, so a very fine paper is needed.

For a beginner stage, choose an easy image from the Charles Bargue book. Starting from finding the middle of both the Charles Barque image and your blank page create a y axis and an x axis lightly using an HB pencil.


Using either a string or a compass, start measuring each part of the image ( for example: the distance from the middle point to the inner corner of the lips) and draw points or lines on the blank page. Some, use the tip of pencil to measure. Repeat this method until you have all points or linear forms of the whole image. Then, start joining each line/point to create the form of the image.

When you are finished from line drawing, you can now start with shading. Starting always from light to dark (just in case you go far to dark, it will be difficult to erase) start from shading lighter tones using 2B, gradually going all the way up to 9B. Always use a patty rubber to erase any unwanted lines; to master the Charles Bargue method, you need to be clean and shading has to be smooth. I suggest using the cross hatching technique to create fine shading.


One of my tricks is to photograph the image and the drawing; mistakes and tonality can be evidently shown on photographs more than in real life. Taking small breaks can help you de-stress and makes you focus better. If the image chosen has a very dark shade, after you are ready, you can use charcoal instead of pencils to opt for a darker shade.

Finally, always use a setting spray in order to avoid smudging. Practice will eventually makes the method easier to draw and by time you will see that observational skills had improved and you would no longer need a compass for measuring. Technical skills and proportions will improve rapidly through practice and that is how one can master the Charles Bargue method.



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