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  • Writer's pictureKonstantin

What Is An Ebony Pencil?

Updated: May 27, 2020

I've heard friends of mine often talk about ebony pencils in the last few months. They didn't really know what it was exactly but as I researched it I found out this.

What is an ebony pencil?

An Ebony pencil is a wooden pencil with a thicker graphite core than usual. This graphite consists of only little binders which makes it easy to create dark values with that pencil.

But what is there more to know about ebony pencils, their effects and how they're doing in comparison to alternatives? All of this will be part of this article.

I. Details On Ebony Pencils

As already said, an ebony pencil is very soft and smooth on the paper. This allows the artist drawing with this medium to use a large piece of the value range. These pencils aren't really more expensive than other regular drawing pencils.

The price varies from company to company, just like all other pencils do. Also, it is very easy to create dark marks with an ebony pencil since it contains almost no binders.

If you haven't added an ebony pencil to your drawing equipment yet, you should definitely buy one and experiment with it. I'm convinced it can make a huge difference in everyone's drawings. You can buy the ones I try right now on Amazon here.

II. Ebony Pencil Vs. Charcoal

There is actually not much to say for me about what is better and what the differences are. They differ in their drawing material. The one is made of charcoal, the other is made of graphite. That's the biggest difference. But let's take a closer look.

Both are rather soft drawing options because you can add darker values to your artworks with both of them. However, ebony pencils don't come in different gradations of blackness or softness.

If you want to use lighter values with an ebony pencil you will have to tremendously decrease the amount of pressure on the pencil. Only by holding your tool farther at the end rather than close to the tip will facilitate this for you.

Compressed charcoal in pencil form is always available in different hardness levels like regular graphite pencils. You won't be able to get charcoal in as many different gradations as graphite pencils but at least more than just one.

Charcoal is still a must-have for every serious drawing artist. Only look at the possibilities of charcoal powder as seen in this video. Nevertheless, both charcoal and ebony pencils are great to smudge and shade with your finger or a blending stump.

With all that, I'm saying that not every artist has to draw everything only using ebony pencils. Actually, it's more the contrary. So far I think that you should definitely consider buying some to experiment with or to use it as a charcoal alternative.

III. Shading With Ebony Pencils

Do you ask yourself now, how to shade with such an ebony pencil? Is it just the same as shading with charcoal or graphite?

You see in the video above that shading with ebony pencils is not only a possibility but even a recommendation from the art teacher in the video.

The first important tip she gives you directly within the first minute is to never drop the ebony pencil. It will break insanely fast. Not only will the tip break off but also the entire inner graphite core because it is so very soft and contains almost no binders.

The first thing you want to learn with the ebony pencil and generally when it comes to shading correctly with a pencil is to create different values with it. In the video, the teacher shows us how she starts at the right side of her paper with very hard strokes.

She exerts a lot of pressure onto the ebony pencil which makes the first strokes on the right very dark. Now you want to imitate her movements to the left side.

By going slowly to the left side you want to continue to move the ebony tool quickly back and forth. The important part is to release the pressure you put onto the pencil at the beginning of the simple shading exercise.

The farther you move the pencil to the left side the lighter your marks on the surface will become (btw it doesn't matter from where you start and in which direction you go).

This is generally speaking the very basis of shading in general. Not the best paper blending stump in the world (even if you've built it yourself) can save your shaded areas if you don't know how to control the pressure on your pencils.

You always need to know how to create different values only using one pencil.

Now, when you've done your little value exercise you want to grab your blending tool whatever it is and blend your little creation. The teacher recommends going in circular movements which I can only approve.

I always do circular movements when I'm shading as you've probably seen already if you've got yourself my free three-day drawing course on Zentangle drawing. If you want to know what this is about and get it for free check it out here.

The teacher also mentions that you can shade using your smudging tool only. There are even more ways to use a blending stump in your drawings.

If you don't know really that much about blending stumps, how to use them and how to maintain them, for example, you can read about it in another article I wrote here on the Mac H. - Creative blog. You can check it out by clicking here.

After the blending part, she introduces her eraser as another drawing tool. This is absolutely fine and you can use an eraser like hers in the video but I'll tell you one thing now.

If you use such an eraser to add highlights in already shaded areas you will soon lose all the pointy corners of the eraser. This is due to the fact that you obviously rub them off a little more every time you use it.

A great alternative that I've found after a few months of drawing is an eraser pencil. It has literally the form of a regular pencil and it even is made from wood on the outside.

Inside, there is a long and thin eraser instead of graphite or charcoal. I always buy mine on Amazon right here. The German brand Faber Castell is known for its high-quality products perfectly suited for drawing artists.

Unfortunately, I have to disagree with the instructor in the video once more. Well, at least I wouldn't do what she's doing next.

Instead of using a stencil to draw a perfectly round circle I'd use this opportunity to improve my sketching. You can really kill two birds with one stone here. Of course, you can also follow the instructions given in this video. I'm just saying...

If you want to understand better what sketching is all about or to learn how to create more satisfying sketches you could take a look at this article I wrote about sketching. If you want to check it out you can find it on the Mac H. - Creative site or if you click here.

Think about the source of light. Where is it located and where does the light "hit" your subject? Which parts of your subject are getting enlightened more and which parts less by the source of light, for example, the sun?

If you can answer all these questions you have understood already much of the perception of lights and shadows. You can learn more about the basic perception skills every artist needs to be aware of here.

Watch the video to the end to find out what her really cool and easy shading technique is that is perfect for beginners. I cannot agree with her at every point in the video but what she is basically showing us is a great method for beginners to learn shading.

Overall now, is shading with an ebony pencil different compared to shading with graphite or charcoal?

Briefly: No, it is not.

IV. Related Questions

1. What Is An Ebony Pencil Made Of?

Ebony pencils are not really different in comparison to graphite pencils. Ebony pencils also have graphite inside but the core is thicker and contains fewer binders like wax or gum.

2. What Are All The Types Of Art Pencils?

You can use XX different kinds of pencils for drawing:

- Graphite pencils

- Ebony pencils

- Charcoal pencils (compressed charcoal)

- Colored pencils

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