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Art Supplies, Charcoal Drawing: Charcoal Pencil

-Excellent for adding very thin, refined lines to a charcoal drawing.

-Difficult to erase.

-Best used when a drawing is almost finished.

-Use in conjunction with compressed charcoal and vine charcoal.

-Is quite permanent and doesn’t smudge easily.

-Can be used with an eraser stick to draw with cross-hatching.

-Great for achieving tiny details in a charcoal drawing.

Art Supplies: Charcoal Pencil

Video Transcript

“Charcoal pencils are great for adding details into your drawing. You can buy them in soft medium and hard. The soft ones are the easiest ones to use. I find that the hard ones are sometimes too stiff and scratchy.

Sharpening a charcoal pencil can be tricky because the charcoal inside the pencil is really fragile and breaks easily. You don’t want to use a manual pencil sharpener and, you also don’t want to use an electric pencil sharpener. In both instances the charcoal almost always breaks.

You want to use a utility knife or a razor blade, but make sure if you use a utility knife that you don’t use it like this; not only is the charcoal pretty much guaranteed to break, but you’ll probably slash anybody who’s standing nearby.

Instead, you want to position your thumb behind the blade and, use your thumb to gently push the blade upwards to carve out the wood surrounding the charcoal and, then leaving the charcoal intact.

Keep in mind that charcoal pencils don’t erase easily so, they’re no good in the beginning part of the drawing when you want to make a lot of mistakes and erase a lot of areas. Make sure that your charcoal pencil is always late to the party. At the end of the drawing it can help you articulate many details.”

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5 responses on "Charcoal Pencil"

  1. Thanks, Clara! Yes, your advice is helpful!

  2. I’m sorry if this question is in the wrong place, but I didn’t see a way to comment on the woodless pencils. How do you recommend sharpening the tips of the woodless pencil? I’m definitely a fan of them after watching Clara and then using them myself.

    • No worries! Comment wherever you like, that’s the “right place”! I usually sharpen the woodless pencils with an electric pencil sharpener, although I’m sure an X-acto knife or a utility knife would work just as well if you want to be able to sculpt the tip into a specific shape. Personally, I don’t like the pencil to be too sharp, I like it better when it’s slightly rounded so that I can get wider marks as well! Hope that helps!

  3. This tool is definitely one to use at the end of the drawing, to add detail and finish up with some nice small points. When I first started playing around with charcoal I used the pencil to start and (like Prof Lieu and Casey said) found it really unforgiving and didn’t provide the effect that I wanted out of charcoal in the first place. I had to get charcoal pencils away from me for a few drawings, just to get myself to explore the medium without the pencil-like application I was used to.

  4. When I was learning how to draw in charcoal this was the first material I bought (presumably because it looks like a normal, familiar pencil) but it was the last one i learned how to use properly… I think the relative permanence of the charcoal pencil is definitely the important thing to know before you get started. Unlike a graphite pencil, you really can’t erase this stuff, and it’s certainly not what you want to begin a sketch with!

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