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  • Writer's pictureKonstantin

Which Charcoal Is Best For Landscape Drawing?

Updated: May 27, 2020

Charcoal is a great medium to create beautiful art. What is the best one to choose for landscape drawing? I'll share the answer and cool facts with you.

Which charcoal is the best for landscape drawing?

There isn't exactly one perfect type of charcoal to use for landscape drawing since you have to be able to draw in different thicknesses. Vine charcoal is good for lighter lines and compressed charcoal is better for thicker, darker lines.

What are the exact differences between compressed and vine charcoal? What are the best options regarding charcoal pencils and sticks? Is charcoal better than graphite? You'll find the answers below in this article.

I. Vine And Compressed - What's The Difference?

Compressed charcoal is the combination of pure charcoal powder and binders like wax or gum. It is usually harder and more resistant to external impact, so it breaks fewer than other types of charcoal.

Compressed charcoal can be purchased in stick form and in pencil form which allows the artist to sharpen it. Sharpened, it is optimal for precise drawings or for adding detail to a large landscape drawing.

It is also often blacker than the alternatives, which is another advantage of compressed charcoal. If you intend to draw precise and fine lines on your paper, compressed charcoal will be your best choice to buy.

Vine charcoal is usually a softer type of charcoal that can't be bought in the form of a regular pencil. It's is very powdery and not easily sharpenable.

You can use it to beautifully draw larger areas on your paper because it will make broader marks on your surface.

It is very suitable for beginners because it doesn't contain any kind of binders such as wax or gum. This makes the vine charcoal stick that soft or powdery and by that very easy to erase. You can erase marks made with vine charcoal entirely.

Nevertheless, both, compressed and vine charcoals are available in various levels of blackness and softness. Whatever you decide to buy, pay attention to the thickness of the tool mostly indicated with the normal H to B scale.

Check out, what H and B mean on pencils in this article by clicking here. You can also read about how to create sketches that will satisfy you there. The article is all about that.

Besides vine and compressed charcoal, there are by the way another few options. They aren't being used that often, so I'm just mentioning them on the side. I'm referring to powdered and willow charcoal now.

Powdered charcoal is the basic ingredient of compressed charcoal as I already stated before in this section. You can apply it to your drawings to give it a smoky, mist-like look.

Add that powder at first after roughly sketching your approximate landscape, for example. This will make your drawing look more realistic even after you've added details and highlights to your artwork afterwards.

II. Best Charcoal Options

In this section, I will give you a very quick and general overview of my favorite and most used vine charcoal and compressed charcoal tools. If you click on the names you will be directed to Amazon in case you want to take a closer look at a particular one.

1. Vine Charcoal

Normally charcoal comes in sticks and pencils. Vine charcoal is an exception. This subcategory of the drawing medium is only available in stick form. The following are the best ones I've used until now.

1. Reeves Winsor and Newton Artist Vine Charcoal Sticks

2. Grumbacher V4112 Soft Vine Charcoal Sticks

3. Pentalic Vine Charcoal Sticks

4. Art Natural Vine Charcoal Sticks

5. Simply Art Vine Charcoal Sticks

2. Compressed Charcoal

1. Jumbo Compressed Charcoal Sticks

2. General Compressed Charcoal Sticks

3. YAOBAO Compressed Charcoal Sticks

4. Heritage Arts HCS-M Compressed Charcoal Sticks

Get a set containing both, compressed and vine charcoal sticks on Amazon here. Compressed charcoal pencils are also included. The set contains vine sticks in three different softness levels or blackness gradations—whatever you want to call it—and the compressed sticks in four gradations.

for you to be able to create your perfect landscape drawing.

Experiment as much as possible with all your tools. I always want to encourage people to do that to find out what tools fit every individual best. Draw various different drawings, maybe even of the same subject but use different media and softness.

Find your own perfect style. The Prismacolor Charcoal set is perfectly suited for beginners who want to get into drawing with charcoal but also for advanced artists who want to try out new ways of expressing their artistic genius.

III. Charcoal Vs. Graphite

Graphite offers everybody who is interested in learning how to draw the ability to start drawing right now. Why? Well, I think you probably also have at least one graphite pencil at home which you might also call "lead" pencil.

Probably everyone has a graphite pencil at home, which makes this drawing medium such a great option for beginners to get going without having to think that much about the right tools for drawing.

It is amazing if you want to quickly draw a smaller piece of art or you don't have much time so you want to sketch on a tinier space than usual. Graphite has in comparison to charcoal a very tiny tip you can make marks with.

Also, graphite doesn't need fixative sprays to keep an amazing landscape drawing from smudging. Graphite immediately sticks to its surface which again makes it very easy to use and you definitely have to worry about dirty hands.

At least not as much as with charcoal.

An advantage of charcoal, on the other hand, is, for example, the higher suitability for larger drawings. By that I mean charcoal is definitely perfectly suited for drawing on a bigger piece of paper.

If you want to draw a stunning landscape because you have the amazing view from the top of a mountain you've just climbed, charcoal is your very best choice. As I already said, I would start a landscape drawing with using a bit of pure charcoal powder.

Make it look smoky at the beginning and give it a more realistic look in the end by applying charcoal powder onto your basic sketch. Do it before adding detail with more precise charcoal tools such as compressed charcoal pencils.

Don't forget that charcoal pencils are just as good to sharpen as regular graphite pencils that can be found in (probably) every office in the world.

Graphite is known for creating darker values more easily than graphite tools. Especially the harder compressed charcoal enables you to create very dark values easily. This automatically lends your drawing more depth and a more realistic look in the end.

For beginners, using as much value as possible is crucial. Using only very few bits of the entire value range (merely the lighter ones) is one of the biggest and most devious beginner mistakes in drawing.

Beginners are often too timid to use the whole value range because they are afraid of destroying a drawing they're finally satisfied with. I know this, I've been there, too and if you're a beginner drawer you've probably been there as well already.

Charcoal is more likely to prevent you from avoiding to also use darker values. Charcoal almost forces you to use dark tones since it is so easy to make darker marks even with just a little pressure exerted on the pencil.

IV. Related Questions

1. How Do You Draw With A Charcoal Pencil?

You can create sharp lines as if you were using a regular graphite pencil by holding your charcoal pencil like a normal pencil. The smaller the angle between your pencil and the surface, the broader your marks will become. Fill larger regions on the paper by holding the pencil almost horizontal.

2. Can You Use A Charcoal Pencil On Canvas?

Like brushes, watercolor pencils or regular graphite pencils, you can also use a charcoal pencil or stick to draw on a canvas.

3. Can You Sharpen Charcoal Pencils?

Charcoal pencils can be sharpened like normal graphite pencils. You can use manual sharpeners or electric ones. Basic charcoal sticks, however, are difficult to sharpen with a normal eraser. Carefully use an X-Acto knife for your charcoal sticks.

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