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4 Tips on Drawing with Charcoal

Learn four tips on how to draw with charcoal from artist Rebecca Schweiger in this Howcast drawing tutorial.


Charcoal is a terrific tool to use when drawing. I'm going to show you a few tips that you can learn and practice at home when using charcoal.

First of all, charcoal comes in different ways and forms. This is called vine charcoal. The top is round, it's very, very delicate, and you can always break it into pieces. There's something called compressed charcoal, which is more of a square shape. It's much harder and it's much darker.

What I suggest when you use charcoal is to just experiment with the material first. Go ahead and press down on your paper as hard as you can and keep going, pressing a little softer. Keep going, pressing a little softer, a little softer, and a little softer, until there's barely a mark on the paper. Now we're just going to blend it. Charcoal's excellent for blending, excellent for any sort of dimension. We take our fingertip and we just very lightly rub right over the charcoal. You can see that you can create different gradations of tone.

Let's do the same thing with a compressed charcoal. You can see right away how much darker it is. It also has a little bit of a different texture. You can use both types of charcoal together or you can use them separately. This also blends, and blends very beautifully. One thing that I love to do with charcoal is to use my eraser as a tool. This is called a gum eraser. It literally looks like chewing gum. You can break it apart, you can break off pieces, you can sculpt it, and you can create even sharp edges to erase right into your charcoal. I also like to use a regular eraser at the tip of a pencil, and with that, you can get finer lines. You can really sculpt right into your charcoal with the edge of your eraser.

I suggest exploring, trying as many possible things with your charcoal. Find something to draw, anything will do. Use the tip sometimes. Draw hard edges, draw soft edges, draw with the side of the charcoal. Move the charcoal around in all sorts of ways. Most importantly relax, enjoy, and see how you can best express yourself with the material of charcoal.

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