Charcoal Drawing Tutorials

Our charcoal drawing tutorials teach you to how to draw using traditional charcoal media. On this page you will find information on charcoal drawing supplies.

Charcoal Drawing Supplies:

  • Paper -
    Choose a white, thicker paper with a slight texture. If it's too smooth the charcoal wont stick to the paper. If it's too textured you'll have a hard time drawing details. The texture on paper pictured below is just right! It came from a Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Board Vellum Pad. Some watercolor and printmaking papers are also excellent choices (for example: Rives BFK white). Avoid cream or colored papers. If it's your first time buying art paper I recommend visiting an art store in person so that you may feel and compare a wide variety of papers.

charcoal paper

  • Vine Charcoal -
    (also called Willow charcoal) This is uncompressed charcoal that's easy to erase.

  • Compressed Charcoal -
    (pencil or stick) Comes in soft, medium and hard - just like graphite, soft is darker and hard is lighter!

  • Kneaded Eraser -
    Soft, pliable gray eraser that you can
    squeeze into any shape (good for creating subtle gradations).

  • Gum and/or white erasers -
    Harder erasers (good for erasing the most charcoal to reveal white highlights).

  • Blending stump (also called tortillon) - Good for blending smaller detail areas.

  • Paper towels -
    Good for blending large areas and "erasing" vine charcoal sketches.

  • Spray Fixative (Optional)-
    Spray fix helps to protect a drawing once it's finished by preventing smearing. It "fixes" or sets the media onto the paper.

    It's not completely smudge-proof however! The best protection you can offer a drawing is to frame it under glass or plexi-glass (always leave a little room between the glass and drawing as anything that touches the final drawing has the potential to smear/damage it).
    IMPORTANT: You must go outside before spraying fixative. Avoid breathing the hazardous fumes, read all warning labels and follow directions.

charcoal supplies

Drawing with Charcoal Menu:
Video: Beginning Charcoal
Video: Portrait in Charcoal
Charcoal Drawing Lesson:
How to Draw a Dog
Charcoal characteristics:

  • Vine charcoal erases easily - Start out with vine charcoal, erasing mistakes as you go.

  • Compressed charcoal has more staying power - Once you have a good vine charcoal sketch, move on to your compressed charcoal pencils. Just like with graphite pencils, start out with your harder(ligher) charcoal and end with the softer(darker) charcoal pencils.

  • Charcoal Pencils - Charcoal pencils give you more control and are best for adding detail.

High Contrast vs. Low Contrast:

Charcoal has the ability to go rich dark black. Give your drawing more pop and drama by including areas of white, various shades of gray, as well as areas of black in your composition. Low contrast drawings tend to look unfinished - avoid low contrast compositions unless subtlety is what you are going for.

drawing scale

View our Charcoal Drawing Tutorials and Videos:

Charcoal Drawing Tutorial: Instructions and Video

Advanced Drawing Video: Portrait in Charcoal

Return to the homepage to browse our wide variety of drawing tutorials