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Drawing with Pencil, Charcoal or Ink

Updated on April 17, 2015
A pencil sketch made using regular paper and HB, 2B, and 5B pencils.
A pencil sketch made using regular paper and HB, 2B, and 5B pencils. | Source

Pencil, Charcoal and Ink are all great mediums for creating art. They are generally always black and white, though colors can sometimes be used. There are a multitude of types of drawing tools you can use, but if you are a beginner, stick to the basics.


A regular HB school pencil will get you started, but once you have gained a bit of experience, you might want to upgrade to a higher quality pencil. If you go to the art store, you will find there are hundreds of types of various materials and prices. I use graphite pencils.

You will notice that they are usually labelled with numbers and either ‘H’ or ‘B’. ‘H’ pencils are hard, while ‘B’ are soft. I recommend you get either an HB or a H, a 2B and a 5B. Once you get more experienced you might want to get even more.


Artists pencils usually don’t come with erasers, so you will need to get erasers separately. Don’t skimp on them. A cheap eraser as is seen on the top of a lot of school pencils will do more harm than good to your paper and artwork. How often have you had an eraser leave a trail across your work? You will probably want a vinyl eraser (these are usually white and often come in a cardboard sleeve), and a kneaded eraser. The vinyl eraser can be carefully used to remove unwanted lines or large areas of pencil, while the squishy kneaded eraser can gently lift areas of shading or do precision work, since you can pinch it into a fine point.

A waterlily drawn with a regular Sharpie marker.
A waterlily drawn with a regular Sharpie marker. | Source


As with pencils, there are hundreds of types of pens. If you are just starting out, any pen that glides smoothly and doesn’t leave blots will work. I personally do not own a professional quality pen. I use either a high quality black ballpoint, or a fine tipped Sharpie for my pen and ink work.


Charcoal usually comes either as a pencil, or as a charcoal stick. The stick is messier since there is no barrier between the charcoal and your hand. If this bothers you, get the pencil. In my opinion, charcoal and pastel art is just messy, so I use sticks. Keep a rag, or cloth handy (a terrycloth facecloth works great) to clean your hands and be very careful to not put charcoal fingerprints on your clean white paper.


Paper is another area where beginners can get overwhelmed. There is probably an entire aisle of paper at your local art store. The type of paper you need depends on what medium you are going to use. Pen and ink will require a slightly thicker paper than pencil and charcoal because the ink will bleed through the paper. Normally a smooth paper is used for pencil, pen or charcoal, but don’t be afraid to experiment with different types and textures. Each will yield a slightly different result.

When you get your new materials, spend some time trying them out and getting a feel for how they work. Feel free to doodle and draw whatever comes to mind. It’s a good idea to get a cheap sketchbook to jot down random ideas, shapes and even small drawings. If you happen to really like one, you can use your sketchbook ‘sketch’ as a guide for a larger, more polished work.


Shading is what brings your basic line drawing to life. Imagine where the light is coming from in your drawing, and imagine where the shadows would fall as a result of the light. Color these darker than the rest of the drawing. Drawing actual still life set ups, or drawing from photographs will help you figure this out.

Shading can be done in a variety of ways. The method I usually use is something I simply call ‘scribbling’. There is probably a technical term for it, but basically, scribble lightly where you’d like a darker area. You’ll probably want to use a soft pencil, or charcoal for this so you have soft lines. If you are using pen and ink, use short, light lines.


This is where you draw short lines in a logical fashion (usually parallel). If you want an area dark, put the lines close together, if you want lighter shading, leave them further apart.

Cross Hatching

A cousin to Hatching. This is the method where you draw your hatching, then cross it with additional lines, like drawing many little tic-tac-toe boards in the areas you want shaded

Shading with Dots

Stippling is shading with dozens of tiny dots. Again, close together for dark areas, further apart for light areas.

Solid Fill

Sometimes you just need to color in an area completely to get the effect you want.

Some examples of shading techniques.
Some examples of shading techniques. | Source

By experimenting with your new toys, you’ll be able to find the tools and techniques that produce the results you want.


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