How to Use Charcoal Pencils: Step by Step Guide for Beginners

Charcoal pencils are a popular medium for artists to use because they can create both light and dark tones. They are preferred over graphite because it is softer, which means that the artist does not have to work as hard with the paper.

The texture of charcoal also creates an effect that is more interesting than using graphite. It is important to use charcoal pencils with a soft touch.

The softer the graphite, the more detailed you can be when creating your work of art. This blog post will show you how to use charcoal so you can start creating your own art.

Let’s collect the material to be used for charcoal pencil drawing.

Materials required for drawing with Charcoal:

Paper to use for charcoal drawing:-

Use paper that has a bit more tooth and texture to it, like watercolour paper. The paper needs to be able to grip through multiple layers of charcoal, which means that you don’t really want the paper that is too smooth. If the paper is too smooth, the pencils can slip and cause a lot of smudging.

Our suggestion is to use Strathmore Bristol vellum paper.

You can also use hot-pressed watercolour paper, but it’s important to remember that you may need two sheets of this paper so one can be drawing on the top while the other is underneath.

The underlying layer will help keep everything from getting dirty or dusty, which means less cleanup down the line when you’re finally finished with your project.

Charcoal Pencils:-

Use H pencil for lighter shading and 2B charcoal  pencil for the shadows. You can also use a Charcoal block for shading in large areas quickly and make charcoal powder to add to the drawing with the paintbrush.

Blending Tools:-

In blending tools blending pencils can help thin down the thick layers of shading in areas.

Use paintbrush, tissue, and blending stumps for blending out the charcoal lines.

Paintbrushes are really good for blending and softening charcoal lines, especially at the edges, and are easy to control in your hand.

The tissue helps to blend out rough spots in your shading. You can get really smooth results with tissues as well. In fact it removes even more graininess than a paintbrush. To use the tissue perfectly, wrap it around your finger and then blend using the tissue in circular motions.

While a blending stump is useful for blending out small or tiny details like the eyes, that you may not do with paintbrushes and tissues. These are really affordable because they are made from compressed paper, and you can get them at any art store.


Highlights are the main part of drawing with charcoal pencil. We recommend using an eraser as a highlighter. The top choices are Tombow mono eraser and Lyra kneadable eraser. These will help you to add detailed highlights and  also to add texture to the drawing.

Now that you have all the materials needed for charcoal pencil drawing we can proceed to the drawing part.

Step by step process of how to draw using charcoal pencil:

  1. Start by having the sketch outlined on the paper first before you go in with any charcoal pencils to do the shading.

  2. For the sketch outline, you can also use graphite pencil. The reason is graphite is easier to erase if you make a mistake, and it tends to be a lot lighter in colour, which would help you out.

  3. Avoid pressing too hard with your graphite pencil because the harder you press, the darker in colour it will become.

  4. After your sketch is completely outlined go ahead and start to use a softer charcoal pencil to do some of the highlights.

  5. This could be either highlight on an object like a person’s hair, highlighting areas that are shinier such as skin and metals. It is important to use charcoal pencils with a soft touch.

  6. Another thing you can do with a softer charcoal pencil is to create shadows, this would be just like drawing the opposite of what’s on top so it will create some depth and definition in your sketch.

  7. The first layer of shading should be done with H and HB pencils, this will provide a more gradient look to your sketch which is great for creating light shadows in faces or the natural curve of an object like an apple.

  8. Once you are done with your first layer of shading, it’s time to blend out the drawing using a blending stump. If you find that your layers still look too dark, then just use an eraser to gently lighten it up.

  9. Start blending with a paintbrush to soften out the shading and erase any unwanted lines or smudging. You can add some charcoal powder to the brush instead of using a charcoal pencil directly so that it will be easy to erase. If some areas seem lighter than others after shading them, add extra layers until they blend together nicely as needed.

  10. In large areas like backgrounds, use tissue by wrapping it around your finger to blend the shading. For smaller areas like hair and clothing, use the blending stump.

  11. Once you’re done blending, use a kneaded eraser for the finishing touches and the textures.

  12. It’s time to darken up the shadows, which got lighten because we used paintbrush with charcoal powder. With the use of charcoal pencil and the eraser, add more detail and texture to your drawing.

  13. Make sure the pencil is sharp. Now we will use an eraser like the Tombow mono stick and add in the highlights.

  14. In the whole process, to avoid smudging while using charcoal pencil, place a sheet of tracing paper over the drawing.

So hope you find this guide helpful. We will be coming up with more blogs on charcoal pencils.

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