What are some techniques for shading with charcoal sticks?

What are some techniques for shading with charcoal sticks featured

Understanding Charcoal Sticks for Shading

Charcoal drawing is an age-old art technique that is still popular today. The beauty of charcoal pencils, sticks, and powder is that you can create various shades and textures on your paper. Charcoal is a versatile drawing medium that is great for creating dramatic, bold lines or soft, subtle shading. However, when it comes to shading with charcoal sticks, there are a few techniques that you could use to get the desired result.

Use Different Types of Charcoal Sticks

When shading with charcoal sticks, you could use different types of sticks to achieve different effects. For example, a hard charcoal stick will give you a light and smooth tone, while a soft charcoal stick will produce a dense or dark shade. Also, a willow twig stick or compressed charcoal stick can make a sharp and bold line. Experimenting with different types of charcoal sticks will help you understand the material better and help you achieve a wide range of results.

Blend with a Blending Stump

After laying down the initial layers of charcoal, use a blending stump to soften the edges of your shading marks. A blending stump is a narrow, pointed tool made of tightly rolled paper used to smudge, blend, and soften charcoal lines. A well-blended area conjures a sense of depth and creates a realistic shading effect. When using a blending stump, start from the lightest areas of the charcoal drawing and work towards the darkest areas to prevent smudging the lighter grains.


Cross-hatching is a technique used to create tonal value by drawing a series of lines close together. The effect of the drawn lines creates a hatch pattern and gives a deep tone to the area covered. When using this method, consider the light source and direction, choosing one point to highlight and leaving the other parts dark. Vary the closeness of the lines and play around with different angles and direction to create a unique pattern and texture.

Erase to Create Highlights

A common technique used in charcoal drawing is erasing the charcoal to create highlights. You can use an eraser, sandpaper, or a kneaded eraser to carefully erase areas where you want to create highlights. Be sure that your tools are clean and free of charcoal to avoid smudging any other areas of the drawing. By using this technique on specific areas of your drawing, you can give a more realistic impression of light reflecting off an object.

Jump to section