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Art Supplies, Charcoal Drawing: Vine Charcoal

-Excellent tool for sketching in the beginning part of a drawing.

-Very easy to erase and smudge, even just a wipe with your hand can be enough!

-Is very grey, cannot compete with the darkness of compressed charcoal.

-Super flexible and forgiving drawing material.

-Use in conjunction with compressed charcoal.

-Very fragile, drawings are easily damaged.

Art Supplies: Vine Charcoal

Video transcript

“Vine charcoal is a terrific tool for sketching. I recommend using soft vine charcoal. Hard vine charcoal can sometimes be too stiff and inconsistent.

Make sure that you have thin sticks and also thick sticks. The thick sticks are especially useful when you want to cover a very large area in your drawing. Vine charcoal is super easy to erase, you don’t even need an eraser. In fact,  just a quick wipe of your hand will get rid of it. This is great because you can relax and feel like you can make tons of mistakes on the paper.

A lot of people really like vine charcoal because it’s such a forgiving medium, but I actually think that vine charcoal is a little bit two faced. You’ll think it’s your best friend until it betrays you with its shortcomings.

For example, one big disadvantage is that a vine charcoal drawing is really fragile. Just the slightest nudge of your hand can ruin an area of your drawing that you’ve worked so hard on.

Another problem with vine charcoal is that it’s inherently gray, so no matter how hard you push down with that vine charcoal, it’s never going to compete with the deep rich blacks that you can get with compressed charcoal.

The trick to using vine charcoal is to not use it for too long. Once you have the initial sketch of the beginning part of your drawing finished,  you want to leave the vine charcoal behind and move on to the compressed charcoal. Vine charcoal definitely has its own special talents, but beware of its limitations as well.”

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3 responses on "Vine Charcoal"

  1. An absolute essential for charcoal drawing. I don’t understand why some students complain about toning the paper because it means when sketching the base layer of the composition, mistakes can be simply smudged away. It’s magic. Completely worth it. Also: I only buy the softest available, I have some hard somewhere in my kit and I never reach for it. If I were to buy it again, I would only buy the softest and skip the hard stuff.

    • Yeah, I don’t even know why they bother making hard vine charcoal??? Every time I’ve tried to use the hard vine charcoal it’s so scratchy and inconsistent, to the point that sometimes it scratches up your paper and leaves marks!

  2. This tool is insanely helpful when it comes to building a drawing!! It’s easy to work with and perfect for a “first draft”. I find it super convenient as well, because if I don’t end up liking what I’ve done, I can just smudge it out completely and start over.

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