Beginner's Tips for Charcoal Drawing

Beginner’s Tips for Charcoal Drawing: Everything You Need to Know

Professionals and those with great natural talent need not be professionals when it comes to charcoal drawing. The right tools and determination can help anyone learn to draw. 

If you are using a vine charcoal stick, you can tone your drawing with a piece of commercial toned paper. After sketching, use your charcoal pencil to fill in the details, blending and highlighting as you go. Last but not least, dust and smudging can be prevented by sealing your artwork with a fixative.

We will give you a beginner’s guide to charcoal drawing, including how to select the right materials, how to fix your mistakes, and how to fix your mistakes.


In addition to other media, people also use charcoal for drawing as it is highly forgiving. Unlike other media, it is much easier to correct mistakes made with charcoal. 

The charcoal, fingers, or paper stump can easily be manipulated, toned, blended, and blended. Mastering charcoal drawing can help you create fantastic art that can be exhibited.


Get to know the terms used frequently in this tutorial so that you can follow along better. Each of them is related to another, and their purpose is to create the illusion of three-dimensionality in your drawings. 

This will allow your viewer to see nuances of a person’s face even if you don’t use colors. When you use these techniques, your animal drawing will show the fur, your still life will show the lighting changes, and your flowers will show the texture.


When applying charcoal to a piece of paper, a painter creates tone by controlling the pressure. 

By brushing powdered charcoal onto white paper, you can add tone and then smooth it out evenly with tissue paper. The effect is subtle but effective. However, you apply charcoal directly to paper to create darker tones, which you can smooth with tissue paper or artist’s chamois.


Color value refers to how light or dark a color is relative to another. A tonal value will be higher on a 0-100% scale if there is more black and white (or gray) in it. 0 represents pure black, 50% represents dark gray, and 85% represents white glow.


An object’s form is shaded by creating shadows either by contrast (by using different colors) or blending (by blending areas that are lighter and darker). Shadows can also be created by utilizing light sources coming from various directions to render three-dimensional objects realistically.

Rendering of the highlights

Have you ever tried drawing with an eraser? This drawing technique, also called reductive drawing, is called for after smearing charcoal on your paper with a dark tone. 

Highlights can be accomplished with a kneaded eraser and an eraser pencil. When drawing with charcoal, this method is an excellent way to learn about value and how it affects the finished piece. Compressed charcoal is not recommended since its darker value makes it difficult to erase.

Keeping a flock together and cross-keeping

Using hatching, you can create darker areas in a drawing by employing unidirectional lines. By contrast, cross-hatching is a method of creating tones and shades using criss crossed lines. A line can be layered on top of another, or a line can be crossed over another (horizontally), creating a form that looks like an X.

By adding shadows gradually by layering, you can control the level of darkness or lightness. The two may be blended together for a realistic appearance or left as is for a rugged appearance. Using charcoal pencils or sharpened charcoal sticks will give you the desired effect.


Art teachers emphasize blending when drawing with charcoal as one of the essential techniques. Your artwork is more cohesive than one that is penciled in when you use this technique. The most commonly used tool for blending this way are your fingers (and they can sometimes be very erroneous).


You may have read or watched something about charcoal drawing somewhere else, but what you read here may not be the same as what you have seen elsewhere. 

charcoal sketching techniques

Nonetheless, be assured that the following steps are as accurate as possible, and that these techniques have produced excellent outcomes.

1. Assume the following. Define your paper’s tone.

Tones make drawing more enjoyable because they set the background for charcoal drawings and eliminate light values that may affect their quality. 

When you want your entire drawing sketched, make the first few sketches in a lighter tone. Vine charcoal can be used directly on your paper to create a dark background, then you can blend it with a chamois cloth to refine it.

2. Create a sketch

Your sketch helps you plan out the composition of your piece and serves as the basis for your drawing. After you’ve sketched these features, it will be easier to manipulate them after you’ve left a little space blank. Consider how much space to leave blank before you create highlights such as facial features or clothing.

As you draw lightly with your graphite pencil, add fine lines as you go so you can easily cover them with charcoal later on. In addition to vine charcoal, you can also use a charcoal pencil, but don’t be tempted to exert more pressure on quick sketches because you can erase them without damaging the paper if you need to.

3. Draw your picture

Using a charcoal pencil, fill in the drawing after you have set the tone and sketched it out. The 2B pencil should be used for dark shades, and the H pencil should be used for midtones.

4. Highlight and Blend the Image

Adding highlights and blending to your charcoal drawing will give it more dimension and make it appear more lifelike.

Use a paintbrush when smoothing the skin to soften your strokes for blending. When blending large areas, a tissue-covered index finger works well, while a stump covered in paper works well for small areas.

Depending on your requirements, either a kneaded eraser or a pen-style eraser can be used to highlight. An electric eraser is used by some, but it’s usually a matter of preference rather than necessity.

5. Make sure your artwork is finished

If you don’t frame a charcoal drawing, it turns into a faded piece over time since some of the charcoal blows away. You may also damage your work if clueless art enthusiasts touch it. 

Make sure your charcoal drawing is compatible with the fixative you choose before finishing it.

This video shows you how to draw charcoal step-by-step:


Identify what materials you need first before you start making beautiful sketches with charcoal.


Charcoal is a very versatile medium that can be used for a wide range of purposes. To help you play with colors and contrast better, try colored charcoal pencils whenever you’re ready to amp up your drawing skills.

  • Drawing with charcoal 

It is possible to find pencils of varying hardness and blackness when it comes to charcoal. The H number increases the hardness of charcoal pencils and makes them less prone to smudging. In the case of B pencils, the softening effect is opposite, as the number increases. 

Experts say, however, that beginners can use a 2B pencil and an H pencil when using charcoal.

  • Charcoal sticks

A softer charcoal made from grapevine twigs or willow twigs, these are also known as vine charcoal or willow charcoal. Whether toning or filling large areas of drawing paper, charcoal sticks are a brittle medium. 

Due to its reduced powderiness, reduced intensity, and reduced brittleness, vine charcoal is preferred by artists. It is, however, easier to erase with willow charcoal powder and it makes better homemade charcoal powder.

  • Charcoal that has been compressed

Another medium to try is compressed charcoal. Because of its composition, it is harder due to the binding components (wax and gum). 

As a result, they have better structural characteristics, are easier to work with than vine or willow charcoal, and are able to create better details due to their shape. Woodless charcoal comes in rectangular blocks, sticks, or pencils without wood.

  • The powdered form of charcoal

If you want to add mid-tones to your paper, charcoal powder is a great medium. You should use a paintbrush to apply charcoal powder, but be sure to work on a piece of paper or other surface where no air can move. Charcoal powder is not costly. However, compressed charcoal and other soft charcoal can be easily made out of it.


Contrary to a writing paper where you want to go with the smoothest ones, charcoal drawing paper needs texture, also known to artists as the tooth.

  • Paper for sketching

Toned paper is preferred by many artists when drawing with charcoal because it transforms the final artwork. A grayscale or sepia effect can be achieved based on the tone of the image. 

Other artists make charcoal drawings on white paper and tone them with charcoal powder. It should be thick enough to be useful, usually 100 lbs or more.

  • Paper for watercolors

Drawing papers that are made of cotton, such as watercolor paper, are more durable than other types. This is especially true if you intend to use a different medium on top. Charcoal drawings require a toothy, textured surface.


You can control the mess and smudge using other tools besides your fingers.

  • Paint Brushes for artists

When applying charcoal powder or you are blending charcoal hatches on your drawing, paintbrushes are the best tool to use. You will achieve a smooth transition if you use a fluffy brush rather than a stiff one.

  • Chamois cloth or tissue paper

The best choice is tissue paper or artist chamois for large areas you want to blend. To wipe over charcoal, either wrap it around your finger or crumple it.

  • Stump made of paper

The best way to blend in tight spaces is to use blending stumps or tortillons. Compared to other blending tools, it gives you a lot more control. Different sizes are also available. 

In technical terms, a tortillon has only one tapered end and is wound less tightly than a blending stump.


Erasers can enhance your drawing by adding details and highlights. Various shapes and sizes are available.

  • Eraser for pens

Mechanical pencils have leads, but pen erasers have a stick eraser inside in place of the lead. However, an eraser pencil looks similar to a pencil, only it has an eraser rather than a lead. It can be sharpened to keep its point fine as well. 

  • Eraser kneaded with your hands

Beginners and professional artists alike need kneaded charcoal. The kneaded eraser needs to be pulled several times between each use to activate. Charcoal can be shaped for fine details on eyes, hair, fur, and feathers of your drawings.

  • Activated Charcoal White

Technically speaking, charcoal is a pastel with a white hue, making it an ideal way to play with light without erasing it. White charcoal can also be blended or erased to soften it.


If someone accidentally touches your art, protect it with the proper fixative to prevent smudging, dusting off, or smudging.

  • Fixative that works

The fixative helps protect the rest of the charcoal drawing from smudging as you work on it.

  • Fixative that is permanent

If you are unsure that you won’t change your artwork, don’t use permanent fixative.

6. Instruments and miscellaneous supplies

Additionally to the usual tools and supplies, you might also want to purchase these extras to make your drawing process easier. 

  • Assembler

A newbie may find it difficult to use an easel, but it’s also a great way to learn to use different tools for writing and drawing

  • Mandel Stick

Wood or aluminum mahl sticks are used to provide a rest for your hands while protecting your work from smudges and oil. 

  • Tape for draftsmanship

Drawing tapes are low-tack tapes that help keep your artwork in place without damaging your paper. 


You might encounter issues when drawing with charcoal, so art teachers offer a few tips on how to overcome them. You can enroll in any of these online drawing classes if you want to improve your technique.

1. The charcoal drawing I made has smudges.

Using this medium for the first time will result in smudges for newbie artists. When holding your charcoal, make sure that your hand does not touch the paper so as not to smudge your drawing. An easel might also work. 

As an alternative, you can use parchment paper if you prefer to work on a table to protect your hand without affecting the drawing.

2. There is a sketchy quality to my charcoal drawing.

For your drawings to have a smooth finish, you must employ blending.  See how your art will improve after using the blending tools we’ve listed here.

3. I’m having trouble reading my charcoal drawing.

Dust can rub off on your drawing if you leave it untouched for too long, making it appear faded and dull. Use a workable fixative if you can’t continue your project for an extended period of time. In addition to protecting your work, it also gives you the option of working on your project if you have time.

4. It’s too black in my drawing.

Charcoal comes in several varieties, and knowing how to choose one is crucial to creating great art. Depending on how much pressure is applied while drawing, black charcoal can cover a wide range of tones. 

Working with figures requires a lot of layers rather than using a lot of color at once to achieve an even tone. It is beneficial to blend as you proceed.


A favorite hobby of mine is charcoal drawing. The activity can also be beneficial for expressing creativity, relieving stress, and keeping your brain active as you age. The technique for drawing with charcoal pencils can be mastered with practice (and these tips). 

It could be something fun and relaxing you can do while you’re waiting for inspiration or trying to find a new creative outlet as part of your balance in life. Here we go!

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