How to Draw With Charcoal & Pastels

Written by rochelle leggett
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How to Draw With Charcoal & Pastels
Charcoal is useful for fast drawings. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Chalk pastels and charcoal are two drawing mediums with similar properties. They are both dry and brittle and make a dusty powder when used. They are particularly suited for sketching or fast work because it is easy to create a range of values quickly with both chalk pastels and charcoal, and they blend readily. Chalk pastels and charcoal can be used in the same drawing, as well. Use charcoal for your sketch, then add colour with chalk pastels.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Charcoal
  • Chalk pastels
  • Charcoal or pastel paper
  • Chamois
  • Tortillon
  • Charcoal pencils (optional)
  • Kneaded rubber eraser
  • Sandpaper
  • Craft knife
  • Fixative

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  1. 1

    Sketch your subject lightly with charcoal on the paper.

  2. 2

    Refine your sketch and shade your drawing with more charcoal. Try to leave places that you want to be very light with little or no shading, but shade freely in places that have dark or medium lighting.

  3. 3

    Add colours with your chalk pastels. The pastels will blend readily into the charcoal sketch. Try shading dark, medium, and light areas separately to keep the colours clear, as the charcoal will muddy the colour somewhat. You can use the chalk pastels to refine your shading, as well.

  4. 4

    Blend. Use the chamois for large, smooth areas and the tortillon for small areas; blend light, medium and dark areas of shading together. The amount of blending your drawing needs is up to personal taste, as some people enjoy the rough, sketchy look that charcoals and pastels make.

  5. 5

    Add details. Try using charcoal pencils to add fine details, as charcoal pencils do not blend as readily as regular charcoal. You can sharpen your chalk pastels to add detail more easily by rubbing the end of the pastel on a piece of sandpaper or shaving down the end with a craft knife. You can sharpen charcoal the same way. The kneaded rubber eraser is very useful for picking out highlights on your drawing or removing any unwanted lines.

  6. 6

    Spray the drawing gently with a fixative. This protects your drawing from accidental smears, which will ruin your work.

Tips and warnings

  • There are two types of pastels, oil and chalk. Be sure that you are using chalk, as you may not get good results combining oil pastels with charcoal.
  • Both pastels and charcoal are very messy. Wear an apron or clothes that you do not want to get dirty and protect your work surface. You may need to wash your hands while drawing, as well, to avoid smearing your work.
  • If you find it difficult to draw without smearing your work, holding a thin stick, like a bamboo skewer, with your non-dominant hand across the paper to stead your drawing hand without touching the paper.

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