Charcoal Vs. Graphite

Hey guys, I just wanted to talk a little bit today about drawing with graphite and charcoal.

Charcoal is great for many things… especially eyes. Since charcoal reflects light differently from graphite it is much easier to achieve a solid black look. No matter how much graphite you smash into the paper you will never get a solid black. You will only get a dark grey. 

In this drawing, you can see what I’m talking about. The pupil and shading on the eye is all done in charcoal. You get a lot more depth and “pop” by using charcoal. If I were to use graphite here it would be very shiny and not have that realistic quality to it.  Charcoal is also really great for quick shading. In this piece, I used charcoal powder on a cotton ball and tapped the cotton ball onto the paper. Going back and forth with a kneaded eraser and cotton ball will create a nice skin texture. Just make sure when you use charcoal you finish your piece from the top left corner to the bottom right (if you’re right handed). Charcoal will smear and smudge a little easier.

While I can do anything with charcoal that I can with graphite… graphite adds a little different look to things

This piece was done entirely in graphite except for the eyes and the darkest parts in the hair. Graphite takes a little longer to work with, but the results seem to be better. You can get more of a textured look because graphite forces you do “draw” instead of using the tapping method with the cotton ball and kneaded eraser.  Graphite is also good for little details. I use my mechanical pencil for many parts like loose strands of hair and small details in eyes.

I don’t really have a preference of charcoal or graphite, but I like using a combination of them both. If you understand the strengths of each one your drawing will be better in the end.

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