Charcoal Drawing and Tone

Week 2 of the Summer Classes at both St Martins Church Hall and at St Ive Village went back to basics with Tonal Drawing with Charcoal.

Using Charcoal we explored how you can create excellent tonal values and lifting out with the use of a soft eraser/putty rubber & white tac .

Charcoal Burning Kiln (Heligan Garden) BBC Video Clip

How to Make your own Charcoal Sticks  A step by step guide

Charcoal comes in many forms:

  • Willow or Vine is the usual and oldest form of Charcoal in varying thicknesses.
  • Compressed Charcoal which is not so easily smudged and is darker, a charcoal powder mixed with gum binder & compressed into round or square sticks. The amount of binder determines the hardness of the stick.  Compressed charcoal is used in charcoal pencils.
  • Charcoal pencils and these come in different grades light, medium and dark.
  • Tinted Coloured Charcoal Pencils, there are 24 subtle colours to choose from, including white for burnishing and highlighting.

(The Pencils feel harder when using them compared to the sticks, but sticks do break easily)

Different paper textures will have a considerable effect on the marks you make and achieve, the smoother the surface will produce finer details, the rougher papers/surface is, the easier it is to blend the charcoal on.


  1. Tear off little pieces of putty rubber and use this and then throw away when saturated with charcoal, by doing this it will keep your larger piece cleaner for longer.
  2. It’s handy to have a packet of wet wipes when working in Charcoal, if you are a person that does not like messy hands, alternatively use White Tack to keep your hands clean.

A very impressive selection of work was completed in both classes and here are some of the finished drawings.

Charcoal Studies by Gail Brown (3)

Charcoal Study – Mug by Gail Brown

Charcoal Studies by Gail Brown (2)

Charcoal Study – Mushroom by Gail Brown

Charcoal Studies by Gail Brown (1)

Charcoal Study – Glass Bottle by Gail Brown


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Charcoal Drawing Update | Art with Yvette

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