Tips on How to Draw With Pencil and Charcoal: 4 Quick Pros and Cons of Each Method

 Graphite Pencil and charcoal are two of the most popular tools for creating drawings. Both materials have their pros and cons, but that doesn’t mean you can only use one or the other. In fact, artists who use both pencil and charcoal together can achieve a more complete range of tones than those who use only one medium.

 In this article, we’ll explore tips on how to draw with pencil and charcoal. You’ll get step-by-step instructions on how to draw with each medium, as well as information about which techniques work best with each tool.

Related Article: Photo Quality Pencil Drawing Techniques

What Is Pencil Drawing?

 Pencil drawings are created by pressing a pencil (or a graphite pencil) onto paper to leave behind a mark. Think of them as an in-between option between a sketch and a fully fleshed-out drawing.

 In some cases, artists will create a loose sketch with a pencil before moving to a more detailed medium like pen or ink. Other artists prefer to use a pencil throughout the entire creation process, from sketching out ideas to adding shading and detail.

 Because pencil sketches can be erased, you can clean up your work as you go. This allows you to create an accurate sketch, then experiment with different ideas in the same space.

 It’s also a great way to correct your mistakes, like if you accidentally erase a line that shouldn’t be erased.

Pros Of Pencil Drawings

– Ease of Use – Graphite pencils are easy to use and almost anyone can pick one up and create a sketch. Whether you’re a beginner or advanced artist, it’s easy to get started using a pencil.

– Versatility – While pencil sketches have a looser look than other sketching mediums, you can also control your marks. This gives you the ability to create a variety of different line styles.

– Erasability – Because pencil is erasable, you can experiment with different line styles until you find the perfect one for your drawing. This is especially helpful for beginners who are still finding their artistic style.

– Non-permanent – Unlike other sketching methods like pen and ink, you don’t have to worry about your pencil lines staying behind once you’re done creating your drawing.

Cons Of Pencil Drawings

– Lack of Depth – Because pencil sketches are generally light and airy, they lack the volume and depth of other mediums. This can make your sketches look two-dimensional.

– Susceptible to smudging – While pencil is erasable and non-permanent, it’s also susceptible to smudging. If you accidentally touch your sketch or the paper gets wet, your pencil markings could bleed into the paper.

– Susceptible to Scratching – Because it’s a softer material, pencil can scratch the surface of certain papers. This can be especially problematic if you’re creating a sketch on an expensive pad of paper.

– Inability to Hold Detail – The graphite in a pencil is light and soft, which means it doesn’t hold a lot of detail. If you want to create a precise sketch, pencil is not the best option.

Pencil Drawing

Photo by Messala Ciulla, Courtesy of

What Is Charcoal Drawing?

Charcoal drawing is a unique artistic medium. It can be used to create either realistic or abstract works, and it can be created in a variety of formats.

Because of its versatility, charcoal drawing is an appealing option for many artists. However, there are some important things to keep in mind before starting a charcoal drawing project.

These include the pros and cons of charcoal drawing, as well as the potential health implications. Keep reading to learn more about these topics. 

Just like pencil drawing, charcoal drawing is done with a piece of charcoal and paper. The difference is the material the charcoal is made from. Whereas a pencil is made from graphite, charcoal is made from burnt wood.

 The difference in materials produces a different tone and texture in the final artwork. Charcoal drawing is a sketching technique that uses a piece of charcoal and paper to create loose, expressive lines.

 Unlike a pencil sketch, however, you can’t correct a mistake with a standard eraser. Instead, you use a kneaded clay eraser to smudge out lines, or a sandpaper block to remove them entirely.

While charcoal is a more expressive medium than graphite, it can be less precise.

 This can be both a positive and negative factor depending on your goals. If you want to create a messy, expressive sketch, charcoal is a great choice. If you want a more precise sketch, you’ll want to stick to pencil.

Pros Of Charcoal Drawings

– Volume – Because charcoal comes from tree bark, it contains tannin, a brown pigment that gives it a rich and deep color. This pigment gives charcoal drawings a lot of volume and depth, making them a more traditional sketching method.

– Versatility – You can use charcoal to create loose sketches or more precise drawings. This makes it a great tool for all skill levels, including beginners.

– Easy Erasability – Unlike with a pencil sketch, you can use a kneaded eraser to remove charcoal lines without damaging the paper. This gives you a lot of control over the amount of detail in your drawing.

– Smudging – Charcoal is one of the few sketching methods where you can use the material to add incredible shading and contrast by simply smudging the charcoal to add definition.

Cons Of Charcoal Drawings

– Susceptible to Scratching – Because charcoal is a harder, more brittle material than pencil, it’s more likely to scratch the paper. If you’re creating a sketch on a very expensive pad of paper, you may want to use a pencil.

– Inability to Hold Detail – While you can erase charcoal lines, they don’t hold as much detail as pencil sketches. This means your sketch won’t be as accurate as a pencil drawing.

– Messy – Charcoal can be messy and hard to clean up after use. The charcoal dust can get everywhere, and it can be difficult to keep the paper clean while you’re drawing with charcoal.

– Dusty – Charcoal dust easily becomes airborne and is not good for people with asthma or allergies. Keep in mind that charcoal is not safe for children under the age of 3 years old due to the risk of inhalation issues.

Charcoal Drawing

Photo by Olya Kobruseva, Courtesy of

Which Tools Are Best For Pencil And Charcoal Drawing?

 Like many other artistic mediums, artists use a variety of tools when creating pencil and charcoal drawings. Each specific tool will come with its own set of pros and cons, but there are a few general guidelines you can follow.

Pencils: There are many different types of pencils available, so you need to know what type is best for your project. Different types of pencils have different characteristics that make them good or bad for different types of projects.

The most important thing is to find one that works for your personal style.

We’ll discuss some of the basic types of pencils and some important things to consider when choosing a type: You will probably want to choose between a mechanical pencil and an erasable pencil, but it depends on the type of project you’re working on.

Mechanical pencils are usually preferred for drawing or writing, while erasable pencils are better suited for coloring or other non-linear projects.

If you’re drawing a portrait, stick with a mechanical pencil since you’ll be able to erase mistakes more easily. 

Charcoal: There are many types of charcoal you can use when drawing, including charcoal sticks and charcoal pencils.

Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Sticks come in a variety of lengths and diameters, so you can choose one that’s right for your particular needs. There are also more affordable types of charcoal, but they can be messy to work with and tend to break easily.

Charcoal pencils are more expensive than sticks but are much easier to draw with, as there is no mess involved. They are also long lasting, unlike sticks which usually end up breaking at some point in time due to the uneven nature of their construction.

There are three main factors to consider when choosing a charcoal: hardness, density and stickiness.

“Hardness” refers to how hard the charcoal is.

“Density” refers to how much the charcoal contains in terms of weight per volume.

Hardness and density are directly proportional, so the harder the charcoals are the denser they will be.

“Stickiness” refers to how much the charcoal adheres to paper in comparison with how much it adheres to itself compared to paper.

The more stickiness you want, the more densely packed your charcoal should be. When you are choosing a type of soft charcoal, look at its hardness and density to determine which is most suitable for your needs.

Paper: Just like you can use a variety of pencils, you can use different types of paper, too. Whether you choose a standard sketchpad or a thicker watercolor pad, you can create a pencil or charcoal drawing on any paper type.

Some Final Words

 There are many ways to draw, and sketching is one of the most accessible methods for artists at any skill level. There are many types of sketching techniques, from doodling with a pencil to creating more serious sketches with charcoal.

 If you’ve ever wanted to try sketching but weren’t sure where to start, this article will give you all the information you need. Remember that sketching is more about capturing an idea than it is about creating a finished work of art.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. Was there a particular part of this article that helped you? Was there something that you’re going to try and implement moving forward?

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