Charcoal Art Supplies: Top 6 Items for Beginners & Experts

Are you new at drawing? While pencil may seem like a good way to start, charcoal will give you more power and create a more natural look.

This material can also be used to create bolder images, with less effort.

Charcoal offers you an unrivaled range of contrasts, and there’s a whole world of possibilities to the sorts of marks you can make.

Before you start drawing with charcoal, you need to have a few things.

Here is my list of essential charcoal art supplies that beginners and professionals will find useful.

Let’s jump in.

1. Charcoal paper

Charcoal has a powdery texture. You can achieve this by applying it to smooth paper such as the regular drawing paperIt will not stick very well.

That’s why you need special charcoal paper. This paper has a slightly textured finish that gives charcoal the grip it needs to stay put.

2. Vine charcoal

Vine charcoal is made from long, slender charcoal sticks that are made from grape vines. These sticks are excellent especially for a beginner because they’re soft and easy to use. It’s also easy to erase the drawing. You can even erase a light drawing with your palm. It’s a great drawing material!

If you want to be able to make light sketches and make changes to the drawing without a hitch, you’ll find vine charcoal very useful.

Vine charcoal sticks are an excellent tool because they can cover a large surface quickly. But this material doesn’t come without downsides. It helps to be aware of these issues. about charcoal art supplies, you can get creative and make them look a little more, as we’ve done on another page.

It is very fragile. It is easy to damage a part made with vine charcoal by simply touching it with your fingers.

That is why it is recommended that you don’t use vine charcoal in more that 20 percent of the drawing. Once you have completed your sketch with vine charcoal use compressed charcoal for the final step.

It has a limit on the amount of dark tones it can offer. Even if you press harder, you won’t achieve a nice, deep, black tone.

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Drawings made solely with vine charcoal look a little grey and lack permanence. To achieve a deep black tone with permanence, you can use compressed charcoal.

To tone the entire paper, I recommend using a stick of vine-charcoal. To achieve a uniformly smooth grey tone, wipe your hands across the paper.

So, any line drawings you make with your hand and erase with it will quickly disappear into the tone which is already grey. It will be easy to fix your mistakes.

3. Compressed charcoal

By now, I bet you’ve noted the differences between compressed charcoal and vine charcoal. The main differences are: compressed charcoal has a darker color and is permanent. Vine charcoal is lighter and more fragile.

The charcoal sticks must be dark and strong. However, they should be strong and dark enough to allow you to draw.

Can I lighten a compressed charcoal line? That’s a question I get a lot. While you can, using an eraser, you got to realize that the area won’t go back to absolute white. Compressed charcoal is very durable and requires a lot of dedication.

Compressed charcoal offers a darker tone than any other material, despite the hassle of hiding mistakes. This material is strong and has a great body!

To avoid making mistakes, use vine charcoal to make the foundations. Then, finish the drawing with compressed charcoal.

Remember the 20/80 rule. 20% with vine charcoal and 80% with compressed coal.

4. Charcoal pencil

Once you have drawn the basic parts of your drawing with vine and compressed carbon, it is time for the details and small areas to be added. For this, you will need a charcoal pencil.

Cross-hatching is also possible with charcoal pencils. Cross hatching is when you use fine lines to give your drawing the illusion that it has texture or shade.  

These pencils come in many hardness levels, but I prefer the soft. Soft charcoal pencils have greater flexibility and are easier for you to use.

Many people make the mistake of using charcoal pencils too early in their drawings. If you want to achieve good results, you must first establish the basics of your drawing.

A manual or an electric sharpener is another mistake you should avoid. The charcoal core is weak and will break every single time. A razor blade is the best tool to sharpen a charcoal pencil.

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5. Fixative

Charcoal art is susceptible to damage. A simple touch can ruin an area you spent years perfecting. But worry not – fixative is there to help you get around the issue.

This is a spray that you apply to the drawing to give them permanence. After the fixative has been applied, you can touch the drawing and it will not be damaged.

Do not spray fixative outside as it contains dangerous chemicals.

There are two types of fixative – the workable type and the permanent type.

The workable fixative allows you to work on the image even after spraying. On the downside, it doesn’t offer good permanence.

Once applied, the permanent fixative doesn’t let you go back and work on the drawing. However, the permanent fixative is permanent as its name suggests.

6. Erasers

While erasers are often used to correct mistakes, they can also be useful in charcoal drawing.

For example, if your paper is toned as I suggested earlier you can erase any highlights with your eraser. On The eraser marks can be seen on the grey tone paper. This allows you to use the eraser in a white drawing tool or paint.

Here are some types of erasers that you should have in your collection.

White plastic eraser

White plastic erasers are very powerful. It’s able to make a bold light passage on a paper tone with vine charcoal. The eraser is useful for blocking out highlighter areas.

I have heard students and others complain that the eraser does not remove the grey tone. What that means, almost always, is that they’re not exerting enough pressure. If you want to remove the vine charcoal grey tone from your paper, you will need to press down on the white plastic eraser.

Kneaded eraser

You will often want to make subtle changes after you have drawn the image. You should not use white plastic erasers to make subtle changes. This is why the kneaded eraser is so suitable.

First, this eraser does not have the same strength or stiffness as the plastic eraser. It will not alter the image in any way. It can also be molded into any shape you like. This versatility allows you to make any mark with it.

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You can also use the kneaded eraser to smudge the drawing. Smudging your image with your fingers may seem like a good idea. However, this will cause the image to appear too smooth and give it a fake look.

The kneaded eraser gives you more control so you can create as many textures as you like.

Eraser stick

The eraser stick is like the charcoal pencil – it is for the finishing touches. This tool is not to be used too soon, as it can lead you to pay more attention to the details before you’re dome with the fundamental parts.

I encourage learners not to mix the eraser stick and charcoal pencil. The eraser stick should be used to correct mistakes made with the charcoal pencil. Or you can just add highlights to it. 

Look for an eraser stick that is not too broad when you are shopping. You want something that produces thin lines. Here is our recommended charcoal eraser For the expert user.


Before I go, I have to remind you – layering and mixing is extremely important in art. You will likely end up with a dull, washed-out drawing if you use only a vine charcoalstick.

Try to incorporate all the supplies I have written about – the vine charcoal, compressed charcoal, charcoal pencil, and the erasers. You can create different levels of boldness or tone with the vine and compressed charcoal.

The erasers and charcoal pencils can be used to add effects like cross hatching, which will make your image more vibrant.

Did I leave out something you consider essential to charcoal art? Please comment.


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