Challenge Yourself - Tools and Techniques - Drawing

Charcoal and compressed charcoal


Charcoal and compressed charcoal



Charcoal is a special type of charred wood. It comes in various widths of stick – broad to narrow. Narrow sticks are fragile and break easily so be gentle with them. Charcoal is very versatile to draw with. Charcoal marks can be narrow or broad, delicate or bold; they can be soft and are easily smudged. They are also easy to remove using a tissue and/ or eraser, to give you the option of making light marks on a darker background (see more about this in the ‘Pencils Section’).  


Compressed charcoal is great for achieving the darkest of dark tones, though you can’t always remove it cleanly like ordinary charcoal. 


You can use a fixative spray from an art shop to spray your finished work to stop it smudging. Hairspray also works if that’s more convenient (also cheaper).

You can get charcoal and compressed charcoal sticks from an art shop.


  • Try mark making with charcoal. How does it differ to pencil or other things you have so far used?


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