When I start teaching beginner drawing classes the materials I put out are pencils and charcoal. I soon noticed that some learners were confused by the choice and don’t know which to pick. This is because they are not sure of the differences between the two and in particular they know very little about charcoal.
How is charcoal different to pencil?
Charcoal is produced by burning twigs. The smoldering wood, usually willow results in a sooty black that makes a dark, rich, smooth line that can be smudged with ease.
Charcoal comes in stick form, willow charcoal is the most common and they look ‘twig -like’ being long and thin. Below is a thicker type of stick of charcoal know as ‘compressed charcoal’ the result is a thicker, blacker line more like a pastel. Both types are very versatile and encourage a bolder, more free line than pencil can give. Changing the pressure will give varying tones, much like pencil but charcoal can give very dark, black areas.