How to Use Charcoal Sticks

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Things You'll Need

  • Textured drawing paper
  • Paper towels
  • Blending stumps
  • Kneaded eraser
  • Compressed charcoal pencils, soft and hard
  • Spray fixative

Charcoal sticks are natural vines made into charcoal for drawing. They produce a soft effect that is ideal for creating soft sketches. The lines made by charcoal sticks are easy to erase or blend into the background. Use charcoal sticks as a pencil to draw soft lines and at an angle to shade. The amount of pressure used when handling the sticks will determine the light or darkness of the lines and shading made by the sticks. Experiment with the sticks on scrap paper prior to working on your project paper.

Place a sheet of textured drawing paper on a drawing table. Shade the background of the paper lightly with a vine charcoal stick. Hold the stick at an angle so that a broad amount of the tip is contacting the paper to create a lightly shaded background.

Draw the basic outline of the subjects within the drawing with a charcoal stick. Hold the stick as you would a pencil. Apply varying amounts of pressure to the paper to create dark and light lines as needed for the subjects.

Blend mistakes into the background using a paper towel. Because the vine charcoal sticks are so soft, they can be easily blended to correct stray lines. Blend lines to create shadows with blending stumps. Erase areas lightly to create subtle highlights using a kneaded eraser.

Refine the details of the sketch with compressed charcoal pencils. Make medium dark lines with a soft compressed charcoal pencil and dark lines with a hard compressed charcoal pencil.

Spray the sketch with a spray fixative to protect the drawing from smudges. This is particularly important to do since charcoal can easily smudge, which could ruin your sketch.


  • Practice creating different textures and patterns with charcoal sticks to enhance your sketches.


About the Author

Jonah Morrissey has been writing for print and online publications since 2000. He began his career as a staff reporter/photographer for a weekly newspaper in upstate New York. Morrissey specializes in topics related to home-and-garden projects, green living and small business. He graduated from Saint Michael's College, earning a B.A. in political science with a minor in journalism and mass communications.

Photo Credits

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