Charcoal is a wonderful way to make lifelike sketches of the world around you. Particularly if you enjoy drawing animals, this medium can deliver a boldness and realism like no other.

5 Things Every Beginning Charcoal Artist Needs

If you are new to charcoal drawing, there are a few supplies that you will need. Fortunately, they do not have to be elaborate.

Here is a basic shopping list to get you off to an enjoyable start:

  1. General’s Charcoal Kit
    We have always been satisfied with the quality of General’s pencils. This kit (pictured above) combines an assortment of charcoal pencils and sticks in all the standard degrees of hardness that you will need to get started. Also included are a pencil sharpener, a kneaded eraser, and a “Carbon Sketch” pencil, perfect for lightly sketching initial outlines because it does not shine through the finished drawing like graphite does.
  2. Magic Black Eraser
    The kneaded eraser in the kit above is great for blending and pulling out highlights in a drawing. For actual erasing, this eraser lifts out charcoal more effectively.
  3. Blending Stumps and Tortillons
    You can use your fingers to blend charcoal, but specially made blending stumps are much tidier. Assorted sizes are handy for getting the exact precision and detail that you need.
  4. Charcoal Paper
    While you can make a charcoal drawing on just about any kind of paper, real charcoal paper is ideal because of its rough texture. This “tooth” holds particles of charcoal well and also adds an interesting feel to the finished picture. The paper that we have linked to is nothing fancy, but it will get you off to a good start.
  5. Workable Fixative
    To keep your work from smudging, you will need to use a fixative. For practice sketches, a coating of hairspray is usually sufficient. However, hairspray can yellow paper and is not as effective as a regular fixative. Therefore, for works that you want to display and hang on to, use a purchased fixative.

As you progress with charcoal drawing, you will want to experiment with other supplies. You will probably settle on a mix of pencils or sticks that work well for you, and you may decide to upgrade your paper (colored paper in assorted neutral tones is really fun to work with).

But give these basics a try if you are just beginning in charcoal drawing. They will get you off to a solid start.