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The Art Beat guide to charcoal drawing

All you need to know about Charcoal


Charcoal is a popular tool among artists. Whether drawing a portrait or sketching a mountain scene, it lends a unique feel, form, and texture to your art. 


Charcoal broadly comes in two types: vine and compressed. And depending on your expertise, approach, and what you are creating, you may choose either one or a combination of both to make your art. Vine charcoal creates soft, light strokes while compressed charcoal is used for darker, more intense marks. 

It’s helpful to make your initial outlines using light strokes with a delicate hand. The trick is to learn sensitivity and control. We recommend using vine charcoal pencils for this, as they are great at helping beginner students get used to the medium. You may move to darker marks once you are clear about the look and arrangement of your sketch, and the general mood and atmosphere of your drawing.

But before you start drawing, get all the materials. Keep your pencils, sketchbook, kneaded eraser, fixative spray, and other tools ready in one place. You’ll need them in each step of your drawing process. We’ll take you through all the essential art supplies you’ll need for charcoal drawing in the sections below.  


And always remember that creating art is a process and a personal journey, so keep experimenting with as many materials and tools as possible. Each has its own function and gives a unique texture to your sketch. What matters most is what you want to express through your art, so you can use the right tools to bring that to life.


At Art Beat, our friendly teachers guide students to draw creatively using charcoal through a step-by-step process, making it fun, informative, and easy.

All you need to 
start your charcoal art.

Learning a new medium can be challenging, but once you have all the materials you need and understand their characteristics and functions, you are sure to have a ton of fun while drawing. To make art with charcoal, get the following materials:


Charcoal pencils and sticks

Charcoal pencils are available in different varieties and grades. Get all of them to experiment with various tonal values for your sketching and shading. 

Art Beat recommends: Charcoal pencils from Camlin



When drawing with charcoal, using the right kind of sketchbook matters. Choose hardcover books that are heavy, textured, and acid-free. 

Art Beat recommends: Sketchbooks/drawing papers from Brustro or Menorah


Kneaded erasers

Ideal for charcoal drawing, kneaded erasers can be easily stretched into different shapes, giving you more flexibility and control while erasing.

Art Beat recommends: Kneadable art eraser by Brustro


Fixative spray

Charcoal is dusty and crumbly, so it can create quite a mess. A fixative spray can help ‘fix’ charcoal particles onto the surface and preserve your art. 

Art Beat recommends: Artists’ Fixative by Arfina 


Blended stumps

These are tightly rolled papers that can help you smudge, shade, blend and smear charcoal. Use them to define sharper edges or smooth out areas. 

Art Beat recommends: Paper stumps by Isomars


Removable magic tape

Easy to apply and remove, this tape helps your paper stick onto the surface. It also prevents charcoal bits from entering areas where it is taped. 

Art Beat recommends: Magic tape from Scotch



Always use a good quality sharpener to sharpen your charcoal pencils. We normally ask our students to use manual sharpeners over electric ones. 

Art Beat recommends: Sharpeners from Staedtler

Make your mark with these simple tips and tricks

Here are a few things to keep in mind while creating art using charcoal:

  • Visualise the main idea before drawing. It can help you minimize mistakes.

  • Start simple, like shading a ball, until you get a handle on the techniques. 

  • Learn to work with tonal values to have control over sketching and shading. 

  • Remember to test all the tools, so you know which ones work best for you. 

  • Avoid touching your art while drawing to prevent charcoal from spreading.

Did you know?

Use of charcoal as a medium for art dates back to as early as the 17th century. During that period, charred sticks from fire were known to be used for making cave paintings in France. Later in the 20th century, charcoal became a widely recognised artistic medium. Albrecht Durer was one of the first known artists to use charcoal as a primary medium for art. 

See what our students are making

You can do the same! Whether you are a beginner in art, a hobby artist, or a designer who wants to explore a new medium, we’ve got you covered with our online classes. 


  • We’ll take you through the materials you need to get started, from charcoal pencils, kneaded erasers to fixative sprays, and more.

  • We’ll show you many different ways to hold a charcoal pencil, so you can experiment and choose what comes most naturally to you.

  • We’ll teach you all about lights, shadows, perspective, and many techniques 

  • of sketching and shading to help you create magic with art.

  • We’ll give you tips and tricks and regular feedback to help you improve your artistic skills and progress on a day-to-day basis.

Expert Speak

"When it comes to charcoal drawing, keeping it simple is the trick. Some theory here and exercises there, and before you know it, you will have mastered this medium.


~ Namratha G N, Founder | Art Beat

Namratha_gn _art _beat.jpeg
  • What’s the duration of this course?
    Kids take our Regular Art Classes online for anywhere between 6 months to over a year. Our sessions are paced in a way so kids not only learn intently, but also have a ton of fun in the process. We use age-appropriate techniques and tools to cultivate their skills, enhance their creativity, and bring alive the artist in them.
  • Can my kid start with sketching, shading, and watercolour?"
    When it comes to art, we believe the basics matter. So our modules for this course are designed keeping the fundamental mediums in mind, such as pencil colours, soft pastels, poster colours, to name a few. We also teach focused short-term courses that include advanced art techniques such as shading, sketching, and more.
  • Can my kid learn to draw and paint online?
    Absolutely. With our small-sized batches and experienced teachers, you can be sure about one thing: Your kid will have an exciting time while learning art with us online. Plus, through our theme-based learning approach and a step-by-step teaching format, we make art educational, playful and creatively fulfilling for your child.
  • How are Art Beat instructional videos different from YouTube tutorial videos?
    Our instructional videos are designed for your kid’s age group. We use an engaging theme-based learning approach to make our course more relevant to your child, unlike the tutorial videos online, which are typically made for a more general learning. Additionally, with our step-by-step teaching format, your kid is likely to learn better about all the important aspects of art, while having a lot of fun at the same time.
  • Is this a one-on-one or group course?
    All our Regular Art Classes are in groups online, as we’ve noticed that kids enjoy art better when they are learning with other curious fellow students. Our batch sizes are small, with a 15:2 children to teacher ratio. This means that children get the attention they need from their teachers to learn art in a playful, guided, and inspired way.
  • How do online classes work?
    Learning online is super-duper easy. All you need is a computer, a decent internet connection, and some basic art supplies. We provide monthly worksheets, instructional videos, and live sessions with our friendly teachers - all so that learning art is not only informative, but fun and enriching at the same time for all students.
  • What is the average price for online drawing classes?
    The price depends on the course.
  • Why choose online sessions?
    Learning art virtually is easy, safe, and fun with Art Beat. We use a theme-based learning approach to make art engaging and playful for kids online. Using Google Classroom, we keep track of their progress and give timely updates and feedback necessary to improve their artistic skills and creativity.
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