How to choose charcoal for drawing?


Beginners in drawing may not yet know that there are different types, sizes and degrees of hardness of charcoal for drawing. If you decide to draw in such a pleasant and interesting technique, like drawing with a charcoal, you need to know by what criteria it is right to choose the charcoal, and find out the difference before going to the store. Otherwise, you will listen the ideas of a store manager which may differ from yours.

COAL for drawing is literally a charcoal.

Without a doubt, this is the most ancient material for drawing. Today there are two main types of charcoal for drawing:

1) Grape and willow charcoal

Some manufacturers use the word “wine” (or “Vine”), others – “willow”. But essentially this is the same thing.  Charcoal for drawing is made by burning or carbonizing wood sticks. The most common option – willow and grape, as you might have guessed. The picture shows the usual willow charcoal. You can see that it comes in a variety of sizes: thin sticks, medium, thick and very thick.

willow charcoal

Manufacturers, such as Grumbacher and others, offer various degrees of hardness of coal: hard, medium, soft and super-soft. Hard charcoal will give you light lines, and soft charcoal will give you dark and thick ones.

The softer the charcoal, the richer will be the print.

Here I must note that grape and willow charcoal breaks easily, especially if the wand is thin. This is normal, it is soft and fragile. You can specifically break the charcoal pencils into smaller pieces, with which you may find more convenient to draw.

2) Compressed charcoal

Here beginners often make mistakes when purchasing it at an art store. “It’s a charcoal too, isn’t it”? Not quite. Compressed charcoal is not a carbonized twigs straight from the furnace. In fact, it is made by mixing charcoal powder with a binder and pressing the mixture. Compressed charcoal gives hard, dark lines; and its harder to erase than the natural charcoal.  Compressed charcoal also has different degrees of hardness, which may differ slightly from different manufacturers. The example of the Derwent charcoal chalks (in the photo below) shows light, medium and dark:

Other manufacturers produce compressed charcoal in degrees: super-soft, soft, medium, hard.  Compressed charcoal is also used to make wooden charcoal pencils. They are very convenient for drawing small details.

Want to know what are the best materials for drawing? Click here!

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