Compressed charcoal pencils are a type of drawing tool that can create rich and expressive marks on paper. Unlike regular charcoal sticks, which are made from pure charcoal, compressed charcoal pencils have a binder added to them, such as clay or wax, that makes them harder and less crumbly. This also allows them to have different degrees of hardness, from soft to hard, like graphite pencils.
Compressed charcoal pencils are ideal for creating strong contrasts, shading large areas, and adding texture and depth to your drawings. They can be used on their own or in combination with other drawing media, such as graphite, pastel, or watercolor. Compressed charcoal pencils can also be sharpened to a fine point for detailed work or used on the side for broad strokes.
To use compressed charcoal pencils, you will need a few basic supplies, such as paper, eraser, sharpener, and blending tools. Paper is an important factor in how your charcoal drawings will look. You can use any kind of paper that suits your preference, but generally speaking, rougher papers will give more texture and smoother papers will give more detail.
An eraser is essential for correcting mistakes and creating highlights. You can use any kind of eraser that works well with charcoal, such as kneaded eraser, vinyl eraser, or gum eraser.
A sharpener is needed to keep your pencils in good shape and ready for use. You can use a regular pencil sharpener or a craft knife to sharpen your compressed charcoal pencils.
Blending tools are optional but useful for creating smooth transitions and soft effects. You can use your fingers, a paper stump, a cotton swab, or a tissue to blend your charcoal marks.
Drawing with compressed charcoal pencils
To start drawing you can follow these simple steps:
- Choose a subject that you want to draw and sketch it lightly with a hard compressed charcoal pencil. You can also use a graphite pencil for this step if you prefer.
- Define the main shapes and contours of your subject with a medium or soft compressed charcoal pencil. Use the tip of the pencil for thin lines and the side of the pencil for thick lines.
- Add shading and values to your subject with a soft or extra soft compressed charcoal pencil. Use different pressure and direction to create different tones and textures. You can also use hatching or cross-hatching techniques to create more interest and variety.
- Blend your charcoal marks with a blending tool of your choice to create smooth gradations and soft edges. You can also leave some areas unblended for contrast and definition.
- Erase some areas with an eraser to create highlights and negative spaces. You can also use an eraser to refine the shape and details of your subject.
- Add finishing touches and details with a hard or medium compressed charcoal pencil. You can also use a white charcoal pencil or a white pastel pencil to add more highlights and accents.
Compressed charcoal pencils are a versatile and expressive drawing medium that can help you create stunning artworks. They are easy to use and fun to experiment with.
Compressed charcoal pencils and the Author
The two drawings on this page were drawn with two brands of compressed charcoal pencils. The drawings are life sized and drawn on Fabriano paper.
The backgrounds were drawn with Derwent charcoal pencils which tend to be softer and facilitated a lot of smudging with one’s fingers. The soft and medium charcoal pencils were found to be the most suitable.
The details were drawn in with Mont Matre charcoal pencil which were purchased from Amazon, The Mont Matre pencils tend to be waxier than the Derwent pencils and allowed for drawing in the fine details.
The MONT MARTE charcoal pencils are available in a 12-pack. The set includes 6 soft pencils, 4 pencils of medium hardness and 2 hard pencils. This way, you always have the choice to draw and can easily achieve the desired effects when working with charcoal.
Charcoal pencils are a lot better than pure drawing charcoal, because they are much handier with their wooden coating. This makes it much easier for you to structure your drawings and, for example, to draw out contours.
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