Drawing With Charcoal Pencils,In 5 Easy Steps

drawing of shrimp made with charcoal pencils

Posted On September 10, 2018

People have been using charcoal for drawing since the early days, its the drawing medium with the longest history. Drawing with charcoal pencils is very fulfilling because with them you can achieve so many beautiful effects.

With the slightest change in applying the pressure on the pencil while drawing you get a wide range of different tones. Pencil simply glides on the paper making it so easy creating. Using well-sharpened pencil tip artist can create strong decisive line while drawing with the side of the pencil gets soft wide lines which can be smeared with a finger or a piece of paper to get different tones, also can get nice white tones on the drawing by simply using the kneaded eraser to emphasize on them.

Combining charcoal pencils with white chalk allows you to create nice detailed drawings with many nice variations of light and dark. A light grey paper with a rough uneven surface is the best choice for drawings with charcoal and white chalk because it brings out the brightness in the light areas of the drawing same as emphasizes the shadow of the dark areas of the drawing.

Soft dusty nature of the charcoal and the chalk allows smearing of the drawing so I would recommend you to put a piece of paper under the hand you are drawing with and regularly wipe your fingers with a wet cloth. It is necessary to use fixative on the finished drawing in order to protect it from smearing.

photo of shrimps and lemon

Drawing of seafood

in order to create this, drawing you will need the following:

  • A sheet of grey engr paper
  •  Charcoal pencil
  • White chalk
  • Kneaded eraser

On this specific drawing lines made with charcoal define the shapes of the objects while chalk is used to bring light to the drawing. Grey paper gives the drawing very effective shade and smeared areas give it live more realistic shape

sketch of shrimp done with charcoal pencils


Put the paper on a drawing board and fasten it with pins or tape. With the tip of sharpened charcoal pencil start sketching the shapes of the objects on your composition. At first, try to draw pale thin lines don’t apply much pressure on the pencil. If you make a mistake it is much easier to correct it if the lines are thin and pale, do so simply using kneaded eraser.

When you finished drawing the basic contours of the objects start adding shades to them. Still, keep all the shapes pale. Add shade to the lemon and paper by drawing darker lines with the charcoal pencil and smearing it with finger or piece of paper on the outer side of the object.

Start adding thicker lines with charcoal pencil to emphasize the shapes of the objects. Smear the lines with a finger to get nice smooth velvety tones With the side of the charcoal add middle tones with nice relaxed moves of the hand. Don’t worry much about the details in the phase of the drawing you will get to that later, focus on the shapes and ratio of the shrimps and peeled lemon. In order to emphasize the light shapes of the legs of the shrimps use the pointed side of kneaded eraser to “draw” by erasing thin lines through charcoal.

hand with eraser removing details from a sketch of srhrimps made with charcoal pencils

Giving shape and form to the drawing

Continue working on the drawing, still, take time to observe the objects in front of you and their relations Apply little pressure on the charcoal pencil to get harder darker tone and build up the contours of the objects on the drawing. Make sure not to draw just one object but add colour to all the objects on the drawing at same pace thus letting the composition to grow. To add shade to the lemon use a thicker spread of charcoal which then you will smear with your finger.

With a sharpened tip of charcoal pencil define contours of the shrimps applying pressure while drawing the body and less pressure for shaded parts.

hand holding a chacoal pencil adding the details to a sketch of shrimp
hand with charcoal pencil adding finishing details to the drawing of shrimps

Adding details

Now that your composition started to get shape and form you may start to work on the details. For drawing the details you will use well sharpened tip of the charcoal pencil and apply more pressure while you draw then you used to do while you were just sketching.

Draw nice strong dark lines on the curves of the paper. Use the keaded eraser to “draw” light areas on the paper and the shrimps. Tentacles of the shrimps draw with the tip of the charcoal pencil and then emphasize the contours and the darkest areas of the shadows.

hand finishing the drawing of shrimp done with charcoal pencils

Light and contour

When you have finished adding shades and dark lines to the drawing it is time to use the white chalk to give the objects some contours and more realistic look. Use the chalk to colour the brightest areas on the shrimps, lemon and curves on the paper. While drawing change the direction of applying the chalk following the shapes made by curves on the paper.

Finishing the drawing

In order to finish your drawing go over the entire composition one more time adding finishing touches of “colour” with the white chalk and the charcoal pencil to highlit bright areas and point out the contrast.

When you have finished drawing and are satisfied with it you need to protect it from smearing because both the charcoal and the chalk have a dusty structure and are easily smeared. To protect it use a spray fixative which you will apply on the entire drawing twice. Make sure to wait for the first layer of fixative to dry before you apply the second one.

I am sure that once you use charcoal pencils or charcoal sticks for drawing you will find it very nice and fulfilling because of the lightness with which you can apply it on the paper and beautiful shades it allows you to make while drawing.

If you have any questions on this subject and if I left out explaining something feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to answer and try to help you.

Written by Magdalena

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