Graphite Vs. Charcoal - Understanding Art Tools

Posted in Blog on October 7, 2019

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With drawing, charcoal and graphite are the main mediums artists can use. 

Even though both, graphite and charcoal may look alike, they are unique and have different qualities. 

Hence, it becomes hard for beginners or art students to pick the best for specific projects.

Some people when using a drawing pencil might not know whether they are using a charcoal pencil or a graphite pencil.

However, the two are different and posse opposing strengths and weaknesses.

Hence, it is difficult for someone to tell the features by just looking at them.

However, you cannot just pick one and think it will work on your piece of work. 

Therefore, it is important to learn about them and ensure you use the right one for your art. 

To help determine the best medium for you, here are things you need to know about Charcoal and Graphite.


If you are a beginner, you might not know what a graphite is. 

Graphite is a shiny material that is commonly used in sticks and pencils used for drawing and writing. 

We consider graphite the best one for drawing smaller objects.

If you are a beginner, the best medium to use is might be graphite. 

However, it has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Graphite comes in various grades and degrees. 

And with these different degrees and grades, they produce different marks. 

Hence, it is always important to understand those grades to ensure you pick the best one for your work. 

The grades are classified based on hardness (H) or softness (B); An HB graphite pencil is at the center of the scale.

Even though most people choose HB graphite pencils, you can choose a harder one or softer pencil depending on your artwork. 

If you choose softer pencils, you will get darker marks than a person who chooses harder pencils. 

For instance, a 4B pencil will produce darker marks than a 2B pencil.

What are the pros and cons of using Graphite Pencils?

Even though graphite pencils seem to be the simplest tools for art accessories, they have a range of benefits and drawbacks.

One benefit of graphite pencils is that they are the best ones for art students or beginners. 

In addition, they are good for drawing smaller designs.

 Another pro of having a graphite pencil is that it is easy to work with without worrying about the mess.

However, there are a few cons that are associated with graphite. 

First, they are not good for someone who draws large drawings. 

If you are planning to draw a bigger picture, you might need to choose charcoal over graphite. 

Another reason you might not choose graphite pencils is that they are slower to work with. 

For someone with a lot of work, this medium might not be a good one for you. 

In addition, areas covered by graphite get shiny which might not look good for some people.


Charcoal is another medium artists use; But unlike graphite, charcoal is commonly used because it's made from burning wood. 

Most professional artists love using charcoal since it produces impressive images.

Charcoal is among the oldest art materials. 

Even though various techniques and methods have been used to enhance this medium, its functions and properties have remained the same. 

You can have charcoal powder, compressed charcoal, and charcoal pencils.

However, you can find hard, soft and medium charcoal as well.

But just like graphite, the darkest charcoal gives dark values while the hardest one gives light values. 

You can find charcoal in pencil and sticks. 

Charcoal is darker than the darkest graphite and is suitable for someone who works on large pieces of art.

Nevertheless, the charcoal grading range differs with that of graphite. 

It ranges from HB to 6B; But one main advantage of using charcoal is that you can have different line widths and styles.

Also, with charcoal, you can create highlights. 

This means it is a good choice for professional work and people working on larger drawings.

What are the pros and cons of using Charcoal?

Even though charcoal sticks and pencils seem to be preferred by artists for larger drawings, they have a wide range of pros and cons just like graphite.

First, if you are a beginner, you can use charcoal because you can have bigger and larger strokes.

In addition, we highly recommend them for larger drawings. 

This is because artists can achieve darker values easier than when using graphite. 

Also, it is easier and faster to work with even for beginners and art students.

On the other hand, working with charcoal can be messy. 

For young artists or beginners, it can be messy for someone who has never used them before. 

They are also less portable and smudge easily; This means it is easy to get all your fingerprints on your drawing when working with charcoal.


Based on the above content, graphite and charcoal are two different art mediums. 

Even though you can have both of them, it is important to ensure you use the best tool for the right project. 

If you are an art student or a beginner, you can go for graphite but if you are a professional working on large pieces of art, then charcoal might be a good choice.

But most artists normally learn to use both mediums and then pick their favorite after mastering how they work. 

Hence, it is impossible to say graphite is better than charcoal or vice versa because it depends on the project and artist choices. 

Check their strengths and weaknesses and then go for the best. 

But if you are not sure of the best between the two, you can try both of them. 

Happily, there are many sites and videos that show how to use the two and which are the best for specific projects.

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