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How to Sharpen a Charcoal Pencil: Learning the Basics

How to Sharpen a Charcoal Pencil
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Are you looking to find out how to sharpen a charcoal pencil the correct way? Young artist, worry not for we got you covered. In this article, you will find everything you need to know in order to take your drawing skills to the next level.

With the huge amount of resources that we are given these days, it is only customary that we do our very best to make something beautiful out of it. This is where art comes in. Art is a man’s way of expressing his creativity through visual forms such as by means of creating a sculpture or painting.

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The art of charcoal painting, on the other hand, dates back to the lost civilizations of the early humans. There have been discovered many cave paintings that were created using the dramatic and rich markings left by charcoal. The fact that those works of art survived thousands of years is only yet another statement of how remarkable charcoal can be when used as an art medium.

Thanks to the advancement in technology, however, we are now provided with charcoal pencils.

So, What Are Charcoal Pencils, Exactly?

For those who are yet unaware, a charcoal pencil is a kind of art medium that is used to create fine and crisp markings. Similar in appearance to lead and graphite pencils, this type of drawing medium is made by enclosing compressed charcoal within a jack of wood.
Whether you plan on drawing on a smooth or very coarse surface, you can use this dry art medium to leave light or dark markings. Its versatile properties are what made it the favorite of many talented and famous artists around the world.

Choosing a Charcoal Pencil

Just like regular lead pencils, their charcoal counterparts also come in a variety of hardness ratings. Most often than not, they are rated using a combination of letter and number symbols to indicate how hard or soft the charcoal is. When it comes to charcoal pencils, HB tops the line as the hardest while 6B means the softest.

If you prefer a clean and sharp edge, then you should opt for a hard charcoal pencil. On the other hand, the softer ones are used to create dark lines that are very easy to smudge. Choosing which kind of charcoal pencil to buy depends on the drawing technique that you are planning to use.

Tips and Tricks on Using Charcoal Pencils

  • Avoid laying or resting your hands on the page

When using charcoal pencils, you have to remember that the markings they leave can easily smear. So, as much as possible, keep away from resting your hands, palms, and arms on the surface that you are working on.

Alternatively, you can also try taping the paper on a wall and draw that way. Just make sure that you lay down a few newspapers on the floor first so as to catch all the charcoal dust that you will surely be having.

  • Use a workable fixative

As you go along with your project, you might want to consider having a bottle of workable fixative within reach. In that way, you can ensure that the markings stay the way you want them to. If you do not have a fixative yet, you can make use of hairspray.

  • Try drawing backward

When you come to think of it, there is nothing more annoying than accidentally smearing your charcoal drawing and ruining the whole picture. While it often happens to almost anybody, you can actually avoid it altogether by drawing backward.

What we mean by this is that, as another way of drawing with this medium, you can choose to smear the whole surface with charcoal first. After, you can create your artwork not by drawing but by actually erasing. Sounds pretty cool, right?

If you do this, however, you would need to sharpen your charcoal pencil a lot more than what you are used to. So, even before starting, you really have to find out how to sharpen a charcoal pencil the best way possible.

How to Sharpen a Charcoal Pencil

Sharpening a charcoal pencil is not an easy task, and in order to create a fine tip, you would need a couple of supplies. It is not advisable to sharpen charcoal pencils using either manual or electric sharpeners because they only eat up a big chunk of it without really producing a smooth, even, and fine tip. So, you would need to do it using a knife.

Additionally, you also have to acquire a sanding block specially designed to sharpen pencils, or you can just use smooth sandpaper with a 220 grit. We also advise that you wear protective goggles to shield your eyes from the charcoal dust.

Once you have everything ready, you may now start sharpening your charcoal pencil. Here is a step-by-step guide to doing it correctly and safely.

  • Step 1

Choose a place in your house that is easy to clean for there is a big chance that the charcoal dust will cause a mess. Work in an area that is well-lighted. Do not forget to wear your protective glasses.

  • Step 2

Using a knife or blade, carefully remove the wood to expose a section of the charcoal. Make sure that you remove it evenly all throughout. Be mindful of the length of the exposed charcoal, exposing only about ½ to one inch to lower the risk of breakage.

  • Step 3

Lay down the sandpaper on a table and start sanding the charcoal tip. Do this by holding the pencil at a small angle to the sandpaper. Sand lightly, and constantly rotate the pencil so as to achieve a round tip.

  • Step 4

And, that’s it! You’re done. The final thing to do is to clean up the mess you might have made. You may use wet pipes or a damp cloth to wipe away any charcoal dust that might have gotten on your furniture.

Final Words

The art of using charcoal pencils as a medium has been around for thousands of years, and because of young artists like you, it will continue to live on for more. So, continue your journey and do not be afraid to share your wonderful art with the world.

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