Charcoal is a very versitle material and a basic component of most drawing classes. It is a natural material, usually wood, that has been burned into a dark, soft material. Charcoal comes in several forms including sticks and pencils. The advantage of using charcoal is that the artist can quickly lay down a variety of lines and shades, and the tones are easily blended. Charcoal is bolld and expressive. The disadvatage is that it is fairly messy. Caution must be used to not accidentally smear the art and to preserve the drawing once it is complete.
In some ways, charcoal techniques are similar to pencil techniques. Experiment with tonal shading, hatching/crosshatching, scumbling, etc. Remember charcoal is a lot messier than pencils and you may struggle to get the range of values available in pencil. Supply List Charcoal Burned willow vines, charcoal pencils and compressed sticks are the most common forms of charcoal.
Vines are soft and easily blended but the values tend to be a little lighter.
Pencils and sticks have a gum binder added to make them harder. This allows for a sharper tip for details and creates darker values, but do not blend as easily as vine charcoal. Pencils or sticks also come in graded values like drawing pencils so that the artist can control how hard or soft the charcoal is when creating a variety of values. SInce the pencil is encased in wood, it helps prevent some of the messiness found when holding vines or sticks. The wood encasement also prevents the pencil from laying large areas of value like those that can be done with a vine or stick. Pencils should be sharpened with an Xacto knife.
White charcoal is used to add highlights to charcoal drawings or alone on dark paper. Erase out or leave the area to be covered with the white charcoal empty. When you layer white charcoal over black it appears dirty and no longer white.
Paper The best types of papers to use with charcoal are those that have "tooth" or texture rather than smooth paper. Charcoal can be used on diffeerent colors as well. Many artist use tan or grey paper, but there are many other colors.
Erasers Kneaded erasers are the one of the best types of erasers to use with charcoal. They allow the artists to create soft edges, erase out highlights, and create textures.
Gum erasers are also great for erasing charcoal especially hard edges.
Blending Tools Since charcoal smears easily, place a piece of scrap paper under your hand as you work to prevent smearing and transferring charcoal with the side of your hand
Fixative Workable fixative is sprayed on to the artwork when it is finished to prevent spearing. Avoid spraying too close to the artwork and always spray in a well venilated area.
Write the Tips & Tricks listed at the bottom of the chart below in your sketchbook
Charcoal Drawing Techniques Charcoal drawing is similar to pencil drawing in many ways. You will want to include a wide range of values from highlights to shadows. Other techniques like hatching, cross hatching, and scumbling can also be used. Just remember that the charcoal is much softer and blends (or smears) very easily.
Write the terms and definitions below in your sketchbook Additive Drawing When you draw by adding the shadows leaving the white or highlight areas of the paper. This is typically how we draw with pencil on white paper.
Reductive (or Subtractive) Drawing The paper is toned with a layer of charcoal first. Darks are added and highlights are erased out. Basically you smear the charcoal all over the paper and erase out the lighter areas and highlights. Then you add the darker shadows.