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Tutorial: AKVIS Charcoal



AKVIS Charcoal converts a digital photo into a drawing made with charcoal and chalk. This artistic software can be used independently as a standalone program or in a photo editor as a plugin filter.

  • Standalone is an independent program; you can open it by clicking on the program's icon.

    To launch the standalone version, run the program directly:

      On a Windows computer - select it from the Start menu or use the program's shortcut.

      On a Mac computer - launch the app from the Application folder.

  • Plugin is an add-on for a photo editor, for example for Photoshop.

    To call the plugin, select it from filters of your image editing program.


The program's workspace looks like this:

Workspace of AKVIS Charcoal
Workspace of AKVIS Charcoal

The left part of the AKVIS Charcoal window is taken by the Image Window with two tabs: Before and After. The Before tab shows the original photo, the After tab - the result. You can switch between them by left-clicking on the tab with mouse button. To compare the original and the resulting images, click on the image and hold the button pressed - the program will currently switch between tabs.


In the upper part of the program's window you can see the Control Panel.

  • The button opens the home page of AKVIS Charcoal.
  • The button is used for managing the loading operations.

    Right mouse click on this button displays the list of recent images. You can change their number in the program’s Preferences.

    Left mouse click shows the list of the commands:

      The button (available only in the standalone version) - It opens an image. The hot-keys are Ctrl+O on Windows, +O on Mac.

      The button - It loads saved guiding lines (.direction file).

      The button - It loads a list of presets (.charcoal file).

  • The button shows the list of the saving commands:

      The button (available only in the standalone version) - It saves the image in the chosen format. The hot-keys are Ctrl+S on Windows, +S on Mac.

      The button - It saves the guiding lines to a .direction file.

      The button - It saves user presets to a file with the .charcoal extension.

  • The button (only in the standalone version) calls the Print dialog box. The hot-keys are Ctrl+P on Windows, +P on Mac.
  • The button lets posting pictures from the program to the social networks: Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, Google+.
  • The button / shows/hides the guiding lines.
  • The button cancels the last operation (with the tools). It is possible to cancel several operations in a row. The hotkeys are Ctrl+Z on Windows, +Z on Mac.
  • The button returns the last cancelled operation. It is possible to return several operations in a row. The hotkeys are Ctrl+Y on Windows, +Y on Mac.
  • The button (only in the standalone version) opens the Batch Processing dialog to automatically process a series of images.
  • The button initiates image processing with the current settings. The resulting image is shown in the After tab.
  • The button (only in the plugin version) applies the result to the image and closes the plugin.
  • The button shows information about the program: version, trial period, license.
  • The button calls the Help files. The hot-key is F1.
  • The button calls the Preferences dialog box for changing the program’s options.


To the left of the main window there is the Toolbar. Different tools appear depending on the active tab, Before or After. The tools are divided into the groups: pre-processing (in the Before tab), post-processing (in the After tab), and additional tools (available in both tabs).


You can navigate and scale the image using the Navigator. The frame in the Navigator surrounds the area of the image which is visible in the Image Window; the area outside of the frame will be shaded. The frame can be dragged, thereby changing the visible portion of the image. To move the frame, place the cursor within it, left click the mouse, and then drag.


To scroll the image in the Image Window you can press the spacebar on the keyboard and drag the image with the left mouse button. Use the scroll wheel of the mouse to move the image up/down, by keeping the Ctrl key pressed – to the left/to the right, by keeping the Alt key pressed − scale the image. Right-click on the scroll bar to activate the quick navigation menu.

Use the slider or the buttons and , to scale the image. When you click on the button or move the slider to the right, the image scale increases. When you click on the button or move the slider to the left, the image scale reduces.

You can also change the image scale by entering a new coefficient into the scale field. The fall-down menu shows some frequently used coefficients.

You can use hot-keys to change the image scale + and Ctrl++ (++ in Mac) to increase the image scale and - and Ctrl+- (+- in Mac) to reduce the scale.


Under the Navigator there is the Settings Panel with the Drawing and Decoration tabs:

  • Drawing: Here you can adjust the settings for photo-to-painting conversion.
  • Decoration: You can add text to your image, adjust the canvas, and apply a frame.


Below, in the Presets field you can save the current settings as a preset to use them in the future. The current settings can be saved, edited, deleted. When you launch the program, it uses the settings of the last used preset.

Under the Settings Panel you can see Hints for the parameters and buttons when you hover over them with the cursor. You can choose where the hints will be shown or hide them in the program's Preferences.

How It Works How It Works
   — Workspace — Workspace
   — Using the Program — Using the Program
   — Drawing — Drawing
   — Timeline — Timeline
   — Toolbar — Toolbar
   — Canvas — Canvas
   — Frames — Frames
   — Text — Text
   — Presets — Presets
   — Preferences — Preferences
   — Batch Processing — Batch Processing
Examples Examples
   — Gallery of Works — Gallery of Works
   — Charcoal Sketch — Charcoal Sketch
   — Book Illustration — Book Illustration


Charcoal v. 3.0 - Free 10-day Trial    Download


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