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10 Easy Charcoal and Ink Drawing Techniques for Beginners

10 Easy Charcoal and Ink Drawing Techniques for Beginners

For people who are just beginning to get into art, it is easy to see that there are a lot of charcoal drawing techniques and ink drawing techniques to try.

When you are a beginner, the number of things to learn can be overwhelming.

You might find that there are so many options you don’t even know where to start.

For most artists, this can be a bit paralyzing. But, of course, the best way to learn is to experiment.

This is why we brought together this list of pen drawing and charcoal drawing techniques for your convenience.

As you begin to explore the options at your disposal, we hope you’ll find charcoal as a drawing tool to be an excellent alternative to a regular pencil. 

Most people do not know every technique.

Even professional artists tend to have niches with only a brief exploration of other kinds of art.

Therefore, it is a good idea to start easy to help you stay committed.

Our main goal here will be to help you find techniques that have excellent results without necessarily demanding you to be perfect.

charcoal drawing techniques

Use An Eraser For Simple Highlights

charcoal drawing techniques

Not too many people think about erasing when they first start working with charcoal.

This may be because charcoal drawing looks fairly unique compared to graphite pencils.

For a lot of people, the assumption is that if you try to erase it, it will only smear.

While you can use an eraser to smear charcoal, you can also absolutely use it to erase it as well.

And good erasing techniques can take your charcoal drawing to the next level.

After creating your drawing with a stick of charcoal, it is time to break out a kneaded eraser.

While one technique is to leave gaps in the picture as a highlight, you can improve upon this by using your eraser. 

Go in and make your highlights bolder by rubbing away the existing charcoal.

This will also help you get more of a balance between the darkest darks and the light areas of the highlights.

Explore Cross-Hatching As A Pattern Option

cross hatching

—There are so many techniques available for pen drawing that it might make your head spin.

One particularly effective method of drawing with ink is cross-hatching.

This technique has been used for decades and no drawing tool makes it easier than a pen.

It is a great way to add a sense of imperfection despite the crisp lines that ink usually brings.

In addition, you can use this method to create compelling textures as you explore pen drawing.

Cross-hatching is a relatively simple technique.

It involves drawing fine lines in one direction and then crossing them with another set of fine lines in the opposite direction.

There are many ways to do this. In some instances, you might cover an entire surface with this look.

In others, you might instead focus on using it to create shadows or add depth to your drawing.

It makes it easy to make something with a bit of added complexity.

Use A White Charcoal Pencil For Stark Highlights

charcoal drawing technques

Most people operate under the idea that all charcoal products are black.

When we think of charcoal, black is the color that comes to mind.

However, the reality is that white charcoal pencils are incredible products.

They are particularly effective when you use them in combination with the dark values of black charcoal.

You can easily enjoy making amazing creations with this product type.

It is perfect for helping you get the most out of your charcoal drawing experience.

You can see an example of this technique here.

The general idea is to use traditional charcoal to create your masterpiece.

After you have finished drawing out what you were hoping to create, you will find this is a great time to bring in the white charcoal pencil.

As a general tip, make sure that your pencil is clean.

It can become compromised when you are using it with traditional charcoal, which can dirty the tip.

To avoid this, clean the tool after each use.

To effectively carry out this method, you can use white charcoal as a highlighting tool.

While there are plenty of effective ways to use white charcoal beyond this, it can have a tremendous impact on your drawings.

Using your white pencil, simply modify your charcoal drawing with highlights.

This will build a beautiful contrast on the page.

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Holding Charcoal

holding charcoal

We have discussed the differences between white and black charcoal, but vine charcoal and compressed charcoal compared with charcoal pencils have significant differences.

Both need to be held differently than when drawing with a pencil. 

The standard hold for the contemporary artist is to grip the charcoal between your thumb and forefinger with your palm pointed towards the paper.

This can vary from artist to artist and is only a suggestion.

Experiment with different grips to get unique ways to express the charcoal. 

The purpose of the thumb and forefinger grip is to allow marks to be made more efficiently using your shoulder and elbow than just the wrist.

This results in broader, more controlled movements.

If you need more detailed fine lines, a charcoal pencil can be used just like a traditional pencil. 

Differences in Papers

paper for charcoal

Charcoal can be used on almost any surface, but traditionally paper is the most common.

This is because the texture of paper takes on charcoal quite well, with coarse paper allowing for a range of expressive textures to come out through the charcoal.

Smooth surfaces like bristol board and illustration board also provide a different feeling to the charcoal drawing.

You can experiment with different surfaces to see what works for you.

One of the major differences in how charcoal artists work is the type of surface they use.

Toned, grey paper is a popular choice that allows the artist to work closely with both white and black charcoal.

With this type of paper, white charcoal is a must for highlighted sections or other white areas. 

Keeping your Paper Clean

how to hold a charcoal stick

Charcoal is a very messy medium.

It tends to get everywhere as you use it, including into your hands and all over your workspace. Worst of all, the powder can build up and get smudged onto the drawing itself. 

That’s why it’s essential to become conscious of your hand, arm, and material placement when you draw with charcoal.

Beginners tend to struggle with smudging as they are just starting.

A straightforward technique is to place your pinky on the paper at all times while drawing to lift your arms off the page and prevent smudging.

If that feels too tiring, you can place pieces of paper under your arm that move with it to keep it from smudging everything. 

Unfortunately, even the oils from your hands pose a problem to charcoal drawing.

You can wear fingerless gloves or a wrap around the hand to help with this or wash your hands frequently as you work. 

Finally, you can use a fixative spray on the completed drawing or section to keep the charcoal in place and prevent the charcoal powder from smudging. 

Vary Your Strokes

—One thing that surprises some beginners is that you can do quite a lot with pens.

A pen drawing does not necessarily have to be a sharp and vivid image.

You can use these techniques to add a little something extra to your pen drawings.

By embracing the diversity of this medium instead of doing your drawing exercise in the same way that you would write, you can make fantastic art.

The best way to begin growing your understanding of making art with pens and ink is to recognize what it can do.

It might seem a little odd to hold a pen differently than you normally would, but this is where the magic happens.

You can easily tilt and change how you hold your pen to create different strokes.

By varying the angle of your pen and the pressure you use it with, you can make some genuinely unique lines.

Many outstanding works of art change their ink stroke during the same line.

You can push hard and soften your grip over time as you drag the pen across the page.

Use A Paintbrush to Blend Your Charcoal Drawings

charcoal drawing supplies

For beginners, it can be interesting to realize how much more effective charcoal is with the right tools.

Vine charcoal is one of the most common types of charcoal and willow charcoal, but almost any type will do. 

While some artistic tools are best used alone, charcoal thrives with other elements.

It is often used for life drawing, a great practice style for improving your drawing skills.

You can use various other tools to make some truly stunning effects with charcoal. 

Though many people rely on just the pencil and their fingers, it pays to bring in a little something extra.

The use of charcoal dust, chalk pastel, and putty rubber are just some of the extra tools you can bring into your drawings.

Blending charcoal is one of the best ways to achieve amazing effects.

You can use various methods, but one practical approach is to blend your charcoal drawings with a paintbrush.

A clean paintbrush can do a lot for soft charcoals. In particular, it can smooth it out.

Charcoal is a brittle material, but using clean and even strokes of your paintbrush, you can create some amazing effects on your charcoal-based works of art.

Give Your Pen Drawings Texture With Stippling

ink drawing technique - stippling

Not only is stippling a silly word, but it can feel a little silly to do.

This is one approach for pen drawings that can have some surprising impacts.

One large area that many young artists struggle with is adding texture to a drawing.

While most can make some exciting lines and simple shapes, they find their drawings feel empty.

Adding texture to your drawings is a great way to bring them to life.

It gives them more artistic depth and makes them look better all around.

Stippling is simply the act of adding dots on the page.

While you can do this in a variety of ways, it is easiest to simply dab or point the pen and move it around while pressing down frequently.

The effect is a lot of little dots. This might not sound like it will do much, but it adds a lot to works of art.

You will love seeing what it can do for your pen drawings.

Create Texture in Charcoal Drawings by Varying Pressure

The power of charcoal sticks is the soft texture it comes in.

You can use this to your benefit as you learn and grow with this medium because it gives you the power to create intricate value drawings through the contrasts in the full range of value of the charcoal.

Using varying pressure, you can create a unique balance between light and dark areas using a wide variety of middle tones.

This makes it easy for you to make certain elements of your art well and truly stand out.

As you work, think about the parts that you want to emphasize with the darkest tones and those with the lightest tones.

This will allow you to consider where you should work with a more stark contrast.

You can achieve this by pressing down hard in certain areas and lighter in others.

The result is a product that catches the eye in certain places.

You can use this to drive the way that people look at your art.

Use Your Finger and Water to Blend

Few people think about blending when it comes to pen drawings.

This is because most of us see ink as a permanent and unmovable force after being scolded like children.

Worse, most people think that smearing ink is a bad thing.

However, it can be a pretty amazing technique to use in the world of art once you get it down.

You can easily blend the ink in your drawings by using water.

Before you die of shock, don’t worry, as we advise you first to try this with some standalone straight lines.

It requires a little bit of practice to get down.

There is a fine line between impressive blending and ruined pen drawings.

To dodge this, you will work on something else first.

Simply draw your solid black line before the ink completely dries, then add some water.

Using your fingertips, push the ink around to learn how to control it.

Smear Charcoal onto the Page

smear charcoal drawings

Most people know that you can blend any type of charcoal by drawing with it and using some sort of surface to smear it.

However, you don’t have to put the stick of charcoal on your drawing to get a solid effect.

It can be helpful to put the charcoal on something else like a different piece of paper and blend first.

You can then use the white paper and a loose piece of charcoal to make a smoother blended texture onto your masterpiece.

This can also be done with durable tissues or a paper towel, but you need to pay careful attention to avoid tearing.

Let Your Ink Bleed

pen ink bleed

If you are looking for a fun effect on white paper, you can always mix water and ink.

You can generally create a cool effect by applying a small drop of water to a page and then dabbing your pen into it.

Instead of a sharp edge, this lets the ink bleed and pool into interesting organic material and shapes.

Unfortunately, this only works with some kinds of pens.

You can also do this with loose ink if you are up to the challenge.

You will love watching the ink swirl through the water almost as much as you love the results.

Make sure you give the work of art enough time to dry.


Art is therapeutic because it is a good way to express yourself freely.

The truth is that there is no right or wrong way to go about making art.

If you are looking for a way to break out of the box, we would encourage you to explore these mediums and see what you can do.

You can rely on existing charcoal techniques to improve your craft.

However, if you feel more experimental, you can try making your own techniques.

This is perfect for getting the most out of your experience as an artist.

Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and see what you can create.