The Charcoal Drawing Tools You Need for Your Art Kit
When you’re an artist you have unlimited tools at your disposal – pencils, oil, acrylic, are just a few of the many. However, a good artist usually works with only a specific type of medium and suitable tools for it. If drawing is your passion, charcoal is a great way to start sketching before you continue with more advanced options.
Charcoal is a burnt organic material that comes from burned woods. If you ever had a chance to touch cold charcoal (from burned pieces of woods in a fireplace, for example) you’ve noticed how it easily leaves black stains. Well, those black stains are excellent for drawing. Even pre-historic people used it to draw in caves.
Charcoal is easy to use and can help you discover your personal drawing style, practice details and improve your technique. Charcoal drawing tools are available at every art supply store and are usually inexpensive. If you’re a beginner, here’s a list of the supplies you will need.
Different Types of Charcoal
Charcoal is available in different forms for drawing. Depending on the charcoal drawing techniques you use, you may need one or several types of charcoal.
This is a type of charcoal drawing equipment that is also known as ‘vine charcoal’. It’s mainly made of charred twigs of willow wood. ‘Vine charcoal’ has various density and thicknesses; it can be soft, medium and hard, which gives you a wide range of tones. It’s an excellent way to create sharp lines, lighter shadow tones and create dimension. ‘Vine charcoal’ is also easy to smudge.
Pencils are a compressed form of charcoal which is connected with clay and encased in wood to get the form of a pencil. Compared to charcoal sticks, charcoal pencils are harder to erase and don’t smudge easily. Charcoal pencils come in three grades, light medium and dark, providing you with a range of tones. They can be sharpened to any point you want (just like a pencil) and aren’t as messy as ‘vine charcoals’. If you need a tool for more detailed drawing, then this one is an excellent option for you.
Charcoal (Conté) Crayons
Charcoal crayons, (known originally as Conté crayons), are made of powdered charcoal blended with a clay, wax, or gum binder. They come in the form of round or square sticks which you can find in light, medium and dark hues. The darkest crayons are smudgy and soft because they contain more charcoal pigment in relation to the binder. This makes them a good option for expressive and bold drawing.
The lighter ones, on the other hand, contain less charcoal, are harder and are more suitable for drawing cleaner and sharper lines. Unlike charcoal drawing tools like pencils and sticks, conté crayons can be found in various colours. They were traditionally made in black, brown, red and white tones, but today you can find them in other hues as well. Conté crayons were an especially popular medium for drawings in the 18th and 19th centuries.
White Chalk and Pastel Pencils
Charcoal is often used in combination with white chalk on a neutral-coloured paper. A simple school blackboard chalk is an excellent medium for adding light tones to a charcoal drawing. It’s hard and thick and you can sharpen it to a fine point if you need to do detailed work. It can also be applied expressively and smudged if you need to create soft and natural effects.
White pastel pencils are a bit pricier and also more refined than blackboard chalk. White pencils have an opaque pigment which is better for adding bright highlights. Some white pencils options have a more transparent pigment which is better if you need it for softer effects.
Tortillons – Paper Blending Stumps
Another essential type of charcoal art supplies is a blending stump. Tortillons, as blending stumps are also known, will give you better control over the shading and blending of the charcoal. Besides buying, you might also be able to create a blending stump yourself by tightly rolling up drawing paper to a point. If you’re drawing on a flat surface, a paper towel will be a good thing to have. Put the paper towel between your hand and the surface you draw on, so your hand won’t smear the art while you’re blending.
You know that this is essential, no matter if you use pastel pencils, sticks, or chalk. Sharpeners have a small barrel for pencils and a large one for sharpening sticks or blackboard chalk to a fine point. You can also get pastel pencil sharpeners that are specially designed to cut a shallow angle to prevent them from breaking.
Yes, even artists make mistakes that need to be erased. So, to keep things going according to your vision, erasers will help you. Create light tones by removing layers of charcoal from the surface of your drawing. You can sharpen the eraser and cut fine lines of light into a dark area of the charcoal.
Every artist needs suitable tools to express their ideas, creativity and talent. If you’re new to this, I hope that this list helped you learn what you need. Stay creative.