Artist's Toolbox: Pencil, Graphite, Charcoal

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✿   Pencil, Graphite, Charcoal

It's Artist's Toolbox again! And it wouldn't be right if we skipped an article representing traditional media :) For today's topic I picked Pencil, probably the most traditional of them all. Even if you thought you already knew everything there is to know about pencils, give this article a shot, it might surprise you :eager:! Besides pencils, I will describe Graphite sticks and probably my most favorite drawing tool, Charcoal. Final part of this article is a feature of very helpful Tutorials created by your fellow deviants, don't overlook :) Happy reading!

✎ 1. Pencil

✿ It is such a common, simple tool, you are probably using one right now. Technically, pencil is writing implement or (since this is Artist's Toolbox) art medium usually constructed of a narrow, solid pigment core inside a protective casing, that protects the user from getting their hands dirty and the core from breaking. Pencil cores are mostly made of graphite mixed with a clay binder, leaving black or grey marks that are quite easy to erase.

✿ Pencil has the potential to draw a line 35 miles long, write an average of 45.000 words, absorb 17 sharpenings, delete its own errors and beat out an infinite number of drum solos. Quite a talent, don't you think?

▲ Grading and classification

Pencils across the world are graded on the European system using a continuum from "H" (hardness, contains more clay, less graphite) to "B" (blackness, contains more graphite, less clay) as well as "F", a letter arbitrarily chosen to indicate midway between HB and H. The standard drawing pencil is graded HB. The main market for such wide range of grades are artists who are interested in creating a full range of tones from light grey to black. Engineers prefer harder pencils which allow for a greater control in the shape of the lead. This is reflected in the way pencils are packaged and marketed.

▲ Resource & For further reading

Pencil - Wikipedia | The Story of Pencils | 20 Things You Didn't Know About Pencils

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✎ 2. Graphite

✿ As mentioned above, graphite (mixed with clay) constitutes the core of a pencil. In this part of the article, I refer to another drawing tool called graphite stick - this medium looks a bit like pencil, usually it's thicker and has no protective case. Graphite sticks are available in the same range of hardness/blackness as pencils and various sizes. Some contain a protective varnish coat, others not (good tip to keep your hands clean is to cover part of the stick with foil).

✿ Whilst pencils are the tool of choice when we want to express through lines, graphite sticks help us cover large areas of paper quickly. They come in handy when shading and are more versatile than pencils. They can be messy to handle, but are very suitable for tactile, involved mark making in large-scale works and life drawing.

▲ Resource & For further reading

Graphite - Wikipedia | Before You Buy - Choosing Graphite Pencils | Pencil Myths: The Unleaded Pencil

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✎ 3. Charcoal

Charcoal was used as a preliminary tool to sketch quickly and was usually painted over by other media, but can also be used a single tool to create a stunning artwork. The worst con would probably be smudging that is not easy to deal with, but final drawing can be preserved by application of fixative. Charcoal allows you to create deep dark tones that graphite never achieves, your drawing won't get "shiny" and reflective - this has everything to do with their chemical composition.

✿ Artists utilize charcoal in three forms - Vine charcoal (created by burning sticks of wood into soft, medium and hard consistencies), Powdered charcoal (often used to tone the drawing or cover large surfaces) and Compressed charcoal (powder mixed with gum binder, compressed into round or square sticks). In the last case, the amount of binder determines the hardness of the stick, this type of charcoal is used in charcoal pencils. 

▲ Resource & For further reading

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What's your favorite drawing tool? How do you deal with smudging?

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below :heart:


Previous Toolbox articles:

Watercolor equipment - Basic Tools | Watercolor equipment II - Additional Tools

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Kaz-D's avatar
This is so awesome! Thank you :)