Shading with charcoal pencils can be a fun and easy way to add depth and interest to your drawings. In this guide, we’ll show you how to use charcoal pencils for shading and give you some tips on how to get the most out of them. So if you’re looking for a little help taking your artwork up a notch, read on!
What are charcoal pencils vs charcoal sticks?
Charcoal pencils and charcoal sticks are both made of the same material – charred wood. The difference is in how they’re shaped. Charcoal pencils are thin and pointy, while charcoal sticks are thick and flat.
Charcoal pencils are a great choice for detailed shading, while charcoal sticks are better for covering large areas or making bolder lines.
To shade using charcoal pencils you will need to use the same shading techniques as ordinary pencils.
Charcoal pencil grades
Charcoal pencils also only come in 3 grades. They are (H) for Hard, (HB) for Medium, and (B) for Soft. Many brands will offer various grades of hardness and softness in between these 3 main grades.
Hard charcoal pencils will give you a lighter shading layer, use this for the initial layer.
Medium charcoal pencils will give you a darker shade, use this to build up the shading.
When using charcoal pencils it’s important to keep a few things in mind. First, they will smudge easily so be sure to work on a piece of paper that you don’t mind getting dirty. Second, they can be messy so it’s a good idea to have a rag or tissue handy to wipe your hands off as you work. And finally, charcoal pencils require a bit more pressure than regular pencils so don’t be afraid to press down hard when shading.
Charcoal pencil colors
Charcoal pencils come in white, a reddish-brown color sometimes referred to as sanguine, sepia which is a dark brown, and black.
White charcoal pencils are great for blending or lightening areas of your drawing and adding highlights. Sanguine and sepia pencils are good for mid-tones, while black charcoal pencils should be reserved for the darkest areas.
The basic shading techniques that you need to know
The basic shading techniques you can use with charcoal pencils are:
Hatching is when you draw a series of parallel lines close together. The closer the lines are, the darker the shading will be.
Cross-hatching is when you draw a series of intersecting lines. This technique is good for creating both light and dark areas of shading.
Stippling is when you make tiny dots close together. This technique can be used to create both light and dark areas of shading. You will need a sharp and medium-grade charcoal pencil.
Blending is when you use your finger or a blending stump to smudge the charcoal so that it’s not so harsh. This technique is good for creating soft, subtle shadows.
When using charcoal pencils for shading, it’s important to start with a light touch. You can always add more pressure if you need to, but it’s much harder to fix mistakes if you start out too heavy-handed as you can’t use a normal eraser on charcoal. At best a kneaded eraser will lighten what you have done but not remove it completely.
Start by sketching out your image with a regular pencil, preferably a light pencil like a 2H. This will help you map out where you want the shading to go. Once you have your sketch, start adding in the shading with light strokes of the charcoal pencil. Build up the darkness slowly, adding more pressure as you go.
If you make a mistake, you can try to lighten it up with a kneaded eraser. Just press and twist the eraser into any unwanted lines and they should start to lighten up. If that doesn’t work, you can always start over with a new piece of paper.
To create a smooth, even layer of shading, start by using light pressure and short strokes with the charcoal pencil being held almost to its side rather than upright. Once you have a base layer, you can go back in with darker strokes to add more depth. For a really smooth look, try using a blending stump or your fingers to blend the charcoal into the paper.
How to hold the charcoal pencil for best results
When shading with a charcoal pencil, it’s important to hold it correctly so that you can get the desired result.
For light shading, hold the pencil almost to its side and use short, light strokes.
For darker shading, hold the pencil more upright and apply more pressure. Experiment to see what works best for you!
When using charcoal pencils for shading, there are a few things to keep in mind in order to get the best results. First, start with light pressure and short strokes, holding the pencil almost to its side. Once you have a base layer, you can go back in with darker strokes to add more depth.
For a really smooth look, try using a blending stump or your fingers to blend the charcoal into the paper. And finally, don’t forget to have fun and experiment! There’s no wrong way to use charcoal pencils, so go wild and see what you can create.
How to use blending tools for a smooth finish
If you want a really smooth finish to your charcoal shading, then you’ll need to use some blending tools.
A great option is to use a blending stump, which is a small piece of rolled-up paper that helps to blend the charcoal into the paper without leaving any streaks.
You can also use your fingers to lightly blend the charcoal, but be careful not to smudge your work.
You can purchase blending stumps but I like to use my thumb and if I am not in a messy mood I will wrap my thumb or finger in a cleaning cloth or dry wipe.
I also like to lightly blend some charcoal pencils using a dry paint brush that I use to gently move the charcoal grains around the image. This gives a very soft and smooth effect.
Can you use these techniques for charcoal sticks?
The same techniques can be used for shading with charcoal sticks, but it can be a little harder to control the amount of charcoal on the paper.
I recommend using pencils for beginners as they are closer to normal pencils and most beginner artists already have a fair amount of experience with graphite pencils.
Can you use charcoal pencils with graphite or coloring pencils?
Yes, you can use charcoal pencils with graphite or color pencils. This can add interesting effects to your drawings. Just be sure to experiment beforehand on a scrap piece of paper so that you don’t ruin your drawing.
Papers to use when shading with charcoal pencils
When using charcoal pencils for shading, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you’ll want to choose the right kind of paper. Heavyweight papers will hold up better to erasing and light washes than thinner papers.
Second, make sure your pencil is sharpened so that you can get a fine point for detailed work. And finally, take your time! Shading with charcoal can be a slow process, but it’s worth it to create a beautiful drawing.
Some tips and tricks to help you get started
- Try using a variety of charcoal pencils when starting out but it is perfectly fine to use one grade of charcoal pencil. If you can only get one grade, I would pick a Medium grade charcoal pencil.
- Use a light touch when first starting out. You can always add more pressure if needed, but it’s much harder to erase an area that’s been overly shaded.
- Experiment with different types of pencils to see how they lay down charcoal on the paper.
- Try learning how to do a value study using charcoal pencils. These will force you to use the basics of shading with charcoal pencils without worrying about the details.
- Try out different kinds of erasers to find the one that works best for you.
- Take your time and enjoy the process!
Examples of shading projects that you can try yourself
I have found a couple of examples of artists showing how to use charcoal pencils for shading on YouTube that you will find quite useful. Each will cover the various styles and grades and show you the final results which will amaze you.
The video below utilizes the brush technique to shade charcoal pencils.
Below is another method showing how to use charcoal pencils for shading.
How to use charcoal pencils for shading for beginners – wrap up!
Charcoal pencils are a versatile medium that can be used for shading and adding depth to your drawings. In this guide, we’ve shown you how to use them effectively and provided you with some tips on how to get the most out of them.
So what are you waiting for? Pick up a few charcoal pencils and start shading! If you want to share your results with us, feel free to tag me on Instagram with your works. I would love to see what you create. Happy drawing!