Charcoal Drawing: How to Draw with Charcoal

Charcoal Drawing: How to Draw with Charcoal

Do you enjoy the look and feel of charcoal drawings? They can be so striking and unique compared to other mediums. In this article, we’ll discuss the basics of charcoal drawing and I’m going to share with you some of the things you should keep in mind when drawing with charcoal.

What is a Charcoal Drawing?

A charcoal drawing is a drawing in which the medium used is compressed charcoal powder. Charcoal is made by burning sticks of wood and then grinding them into a fine powder. It has been used by artists for centuries because it can create intense shades of black and gray. Charcoal can be used in a variety of ways, from loose sketches to very detailed drawings.

Charcoal Drawing

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Charcoal vs. Graphite

Some people confuse charcoal with graphite, but these are two different drawing utensils that vary in a few ways.

Graphite leads are much harder and smoother compared to charcoal. You can see this wonderfully because pencil drawings shimmer in the light and reflect the light, but charcoal drawings are matte.

A graphite pencil can be used to create finer lines and more detailed drawings. Charcoal is better for large shapes and shadows.

Pencil Drawing

What Do You Need to Draw with Charcoal?

Similar to pencils, the degree of hardness is important when drawing with charcoal. Very hard material creates crisp lines, while soft material is easier to smudge, allowing you to create smooth transitions. Similarly, hard material is prone to breakage or splintering, while soft material can smear in unwanted places.

For blending, it is best to work with a blending stump. This allows you to work more cleanly and in a more controlled manner than with your finger. In addition, when you smudge with your finger, you transfer body fat onto the paper, which is rather suboptimal for drawing.

The Different Ways to Draw with Charcoal

Now that we know the basics, let’s talk about the different ways you can draw with charcoal.


The first and most common way to use charcoal is to sketch your ideas. Charcoal is perfect for this because it allows you to get your ideas down on paper quickly and easily without having to worry about every detail. Just start with a few basic shapes and lines and build up from there.


Once you’ve completed your sketch, you can add shading to give your drawing more depth and dimension. Charcoal is great for shading because it can create deep blacks and grays. Experiment with different pressures and strokes to see what effects you can achieve.

Protect Your Charcoal Drawing

Once you’re happy with your drawing, it’s time to protect it. This is especially important with charcoal, as the pigments don’t adhere firmly to the paper and your drawing can quickly smudge without any protection.

To do this, simply spray the drawing with a fixative spray and let it dry. After that, your drawing is protected from smudging.

By the way: A cheaper alternative is regular transparent hairspray.

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