Charcoal has been used as a writing tool for as long as people have been reading and writing. Throughout this time, very little has changed about how we use it, aside from many companies adding unique twists on usability and overall style.
Throughout this time, charcoal pencils have gotten better and better. With the sheer volume of options, however, many people struggle to find the best charcoal pencils. There are quite a few that stand out, depending on your needs.
We’ve gone through quite a significant number of the products to find which ones should be recommended, and which should be avoided.
While we were doing so, we looked at a variety of features, such as how easy they are to write with, how smooth the writing itself is, and much more.
There were a few of them that stuck out from their competitors. We should note that some will be better for certain uses, which you should keep in mind when you’re choosing which one to buy.
Best Charcoal Pencils for Artists:
1. Derwent Charcoal Pencils
Many charcoal pencil brands stick to one shade for the majority of their products, although this isn’t the case here, as you’ll have four shades to choose from, including white, light, medium, and dark.
There are a few other benefits that these Derwent pencils offer, including a smooth and even application of charcoal when you’re sketching and drawing. These are also one of the better choices when it comes to detail work and fine lines, making it a recommended option.
Lastly is the fact that these shouldn’t require too much pressure to get the look that you’re aiming for, although this can depend on the shade that you’re using.
Some people who’ve bought the pencils have noted that these may not sharpen very well, especially if you’re using a regular sharpener. As such, you may need to buy a more expensive version just for these, which is something that many people might want to avoid.
This is one of the best charcoal pencils that you’ll be able to find when it comes to line work and versatility, which is why it’s a recommended purchase.
- Fine tip for detail work.
- Smooth application.
- Variety of shades.
- Doesn’t sharpen very well.
2. Winsor & Newton Artist Vine Charcoal Sticks
These Winsor & Newton sticks have been specifically designed for artists, which means that the majority of their benefits are felt in sketching, among others. One of the most notable factors here is that the charcoal itself has been carefully selected so that there aren’t any imperfections when the sticks are made.
As a result, there are a few other benefits that become quickly apparent. For example, you’ll be able to create smooth and even lines with ease and without the need for too much pressure. The sticks are also quite easy to sharpen, which is something that many artists will want.
Many previous buyers have warned that these may be easy to break, however. As such, you’ll need to take a certain amount of care when you’re using these, as too much pressure will cause them to come apart. The same can also be said for when you’re sharpening them.
These are undoubtedly some of the best charcoal pencils for artists on the market. If you’re looking to sketch, then these should be one of the first pens that you try.
- Carefully selected charcoal.
- Smooth and even lines.
- Easy to sharpen.
- May break easily.
3. Speedball PH Coate Artist Willow Charcoal Assorted Lengths Sticks
Many people will look to focus on different areas of art, with some being drawn to portraiture. However, this has meant that a large number of people will struggle to find the best charcoal pencils for portraits. These Speedballs, however, may prove to be the ones that you’re looking for, as they have a variety of benefits.
There are a variety of sizes and widths available here, with this meaning that they can be used in almost any aspect of portraiture. The availability of sizes hasn’t compromised the quality of the charcoal, however, as they each offer a rich black hue when used, as well as a smooth pencil stroke.
However, people who’ve bought these in the past have noted that the Speedball pencils are easily breakable, which means that you’ll need to take a significant amount of care when using them. This could mean that you’ll end up replacing them much more often than you may have thought.
If you’re a portrait artist, then these are the pencils for you, as you’ll be able to take advantage of the various sizes to create the perfect portrait with one brand.
- Smooth pencil stroke.
- Available in various sizes.
- Rich black hue.
- Easily breakable.
4. Mont Marte Woodless Charcoal Pencils
Handling can be vital when it comes to drawing, which is why the majority of artists will look for this quality ahead of many others. These Monte Marte pencils shine in this regard, withdrawing or sketching is a breeze. As such, you should be able to create detailed portraits and other sketches quite quickly.
Alongside this is the fact that the fine tip that the pencils offer means that it can be an excellent choice for detail work. This aspect is further enhanced by the fact that these are much easier to sharpen than many others, which can often be an issue for some charcoal pencils.
It’s been noted by a few people who’ve bought these that lines can be somewhat scratchy, with this seemingly affecting artists regardless of how much pressure they use. As such, if you’re looking for smooth and even lines, then this mightn’t be the right choice.
With each of the features that are available, these are some of the best charcoal pencils for drawing and are worth the investment.
- Clean and easy handling.
- Easy to sharpen.
- Fine tip for detail work.
- Lines can be scratchy.
5. Generals Charcoal Drawing Set for Artists
There can be a lot involved in sketching, such as highlighting, blending, and much more. However, this hasn’t meant that there is a wealth of choices available for these. The General’s Charcoal Drawing Set is perfect for this, as it includes a variety of different-grade charcoal pencils that are great for this.
This is further enhanced by the inclusion of a white pencil and eraser, both of which can come in handy for a variety of reasons. If you happen not to like latex, then this is also a great choice, as it’s one of the few sets that are completely free of the material.
However, some people who’ve used these before have noted that they can break quite easily, which can be a large issue for many artists.
In terms of finding the best charcoal pencils for sketching, you’re not going to find much better than this. As a result, we can’t recommend investing in these enough; they’re well worth the money.
- Variety of choices.
- Great for highlighting and detail work.
- Can break quite easily.
6. Marco Raffine Artist Charcoal Pencils
While those of us who have been sketching for years will have a deep understanding of what we look for in a charcoal pencil, many beginners wouldn’t. This is also the case for how easy it is for some people to use them.
These pencils are specifically geared for beginners, which means that they have a variety of benefits. One of the more obvious of these is that they feel much more comfortable in your hand than others, especially over a long period. Alongside this is that they offer smooth and even lines when drawing.
While there are a variety of shades available, many people who’ve bought these before have noted that they can be too dark. If you’re looking for dark pencils, then this shouldn’t be a problem, although it could cause issues with shading.
If you’re just starting with sketching, then the ease of use that these offers can make them the right choice for you, as they’re one of the best charcoal pencils for beginners currently on the market.
- Smooth and even lines.
- Variety of shades.
- Feels better than others in your hand.
- Shades may be too hard for some.
7. Derwent Tinted Charcoal Pencils for Artist
A lot of us will have difficulty when trying to find the best charcoal drawing pencils available, although these Derwents are ones that may be near the top of the list. There are quite a few features that help make a case for them.
The first of these is that their design offers a significant amount of control when you’re drawing, which means that you shouldn’t have to use much pressure when doing so. Alongside this is the fact that they don’t create as much of a mess when used as many others do.
While buyers have praised the variety of colors that are available with the set, they’ve also noticed that they’re much darker than you might want. If you’re looking for darker colors, then this isn’t an issue, although it may be for those who prefer brighter tones.
If you’re looking to liven up your artwork with a bit of extra color, then these should be one of the first charcoal pencil sets that you try.
- More control when drawing.
- Variety of tinted colors.
- Doesn’t create a mess.
- The colors are darker than expected.
8. Faber-Castel Pitt Compressed Charcoal Sticks
Many of us will look for charcoal sticks rather than pencils, although we can often have a hard time finding ones that are worth the money. These Faber-Castel sticks are a standout, as they offer a few quality features that many artists will want to capitalize on.
If you’ve got experience with using a sharpening knife or other tool, then these can be quite easy to sharpen. While many might believe that this rules out those who haven’t used them before, these sticks are easy to learn with. They’re also much easier to use than many competitors.
Some buyers, however, have noted that these may be somewhat easy to break, so you should handle them with a certain amount of care.
When it comes to charcoal sticks, you mightn’t be able to find much better than these, which makes them highly recommended.
- Easy to sharpen.
- Can create fine lines.
- Easy to use.
- Easy to break.
9. Arrtx Professional Sketching & Drawing Art Tool Kit
Buying everything that’s needed for sketching can be a time-consuming process, which is why many of us prefer to purchase a set. This is one that offers quite a significant amount, with this also extending to the features and benefits of the pens themselves.
For example, these are much more durable than many others while also being easy to use. Alongside this is that the charcoal pen is quite easy to use and doesn’t require much effort to draw with.
The only negative that many previous buyers have noted is that they can be quite tricky to sharpen. As such, you may end up spending more time on this than you might be used to.
This may be the best charcoal art set currently available, which means that they’re well worth the money you’ll pay for them. The set is highly recommended.
- Creates smooth lines.
- Easy to use.
- Can be difficult to sharpen.
10. U.S. Art Supply 20 Piece Professional Hi-Quality Artist – Sketch & Charcoal Pencils
Many people would prefer to have a range of colored pencils available when they’re drawing, which is precisely what’s on offer here, although there are a variety of features that makes these stand out from others.
Many of these stem from the fact that they use soft lead and charcoal to ensure that they can offer smooth and even lines when they’re being used. Alongside this is the fact that they’re much easier to sharpen than many of their competitors.
While many people who’ve bought these have noted that there’s a large color variety, they’ve also suggested that these may not be as bright as you may like. If you prefer creating darker sketches, then this shouldn’t be an issue for you.
These are undoubtedly some of the best charcoal pencils on the market regardless of what kind of artwork you do. As such, they’re worth buying.
- Uses soft lead and charcoal for smoother lines.
- Easy to sharpen.
- Variety of pencils available.
- The colors aren’t very bright.
Compressed vs. Vine vs. Pencils – Which to Pick?
Many people who are first starting in the art may be somewhat intimidated by the large variety of available charcoal types. While there are a few types to choose from, doing so doesn’t have to be so difficult, as long as you know the key differences between the various types.
The first available type is what’s known as Compressed Charcoal. As the name would suggest, this is charcoal that’s held together with a binding agent, with gum arabic being the most commonly used. Compressed Charcoal is usually sharpened with a knife or other instrument to create a fine point at the tip.
This allows for much more detailed sketching work, which is where this type is primarily used. The majority of these come with a rectangular end, which can then be used to place a thin layer of charcoal on the paper. As such, this can help to set the tone for the piece that you’re creating.
Vine Charcoal is another option that provides a variety of unique benefits. As it’s primarily derived from willow or grape branches, it can produce dark strokes that have a softer appeal than the other types. Vine Charcoal is typically used for students learning the craft and is recommended by teachers for a variety of reasons.
The most notable of these is that it can be beginner-friendly and is the more affordable option. Outside of this, there are a variety of drawbacks to this type, with the most notable being that it can be challenging to master. This is primarily because it can break quite easily.
Charcoal Pencils are also available and can offer a variety of benefits. The largest of these is that it can be sharpened much easier than its counterparts, meaning that it can be much better suited to getting detailed work done relatively quickly.
While these operate much like traditional pencils, there are a few fundamental differences between them. The most prominent of these is that Charcoal Pencils will leave a deep black stroke when used, which is in contrast to a silvery sheen that’s typically left by standard pencils.
As these have wood wrapped around them, they don’t leave charcoal on your hands, which can make it easier to clean up after them.
While not as commonly used as each of the other types, Charcoal Powder is also an option. While there are a limited number of uses for the powder, it can be used to help set the overall tone of a piece of artwork.
Outside of this, it’s not typically used in a studio or other art setting.
When it comes to which of the types you should use, it comes down to your personal preferences. Each offers unique benefits and drawbacks and can often be used for different purposes.
As such, you’ll need to put a certain amount of thought into what you’ll be using them for.
We recommend having one of each on hand, as you may end up needing to use many of them. You never know when you’ll get inspiration for a certain look, so you should have one of each available for when this happens so that you can fully take advantage when this happens.
Each of the pencils we’ve mentioned above will be better suited to specific uses. For example, some of the best charcoal pencils for artists mightn’t be great if you’re just writing with them. As such, you should know what you’re planning on using before you buy them.
Similar to many other purchases, being informed can be vital to making the right choice. While the pencils you use mightn’t seem as though it’s an important decision, it can make quite a significant difference in the quality of what you’re sketching or writing.
We also recommend testing a few pencils, as this will help you get a better idea of how they feel when they’re being used, as well as whether they’re the right pencil. Why stop at just one? While the first one that you try might be great, the next one could be much better.
Alongside this, we recommend having a few pencils on hand for various purposes. For example, if you need to write a lot and like to sketch in your spare time, then you should have a different one for both. This will ensure that you’ll have the perfect one for either task.