Best Charcoal Pencils

Charcoal pencils have been a preferred choice of artists for hundreds of years. It was one of the most used tools in art and is still widely used to this day. For artists who want to include intricate levels of detail in their piece, charcoal pencils are often favored. Even cave drawings from thousands of years ago were made with charcoal and still stand the test of time.

Charcoal pencils can be used to create compelling highlights, breathtaking tones, eye-catching depth, and detailed dimensions. An artist’s imagination can come to life on paper after using charcoal and reveal all kinds of possibilities that wouldn’t be viable with other art products.

It takes time, as with any art form, to perfect the skills of drawing with charcoal pencils but this incredible medium will make your art stand out from the rest. Charcoal can be delicate to use. Although fun, some problems can occur such as smudging or loss of detail in the art. Sometimes this can’t be avoided but choosing the best charcoal pencils will ensure you have fewer chances of ruining your hard work.

Choosing the right charcoal pencils can take a lot of research and time. That is why we have compiled a list of the best charcoal pencils on the market today. We have weighed up the pros and cons to help you decide which is the best option for you.

If that wasn’t enough, we have included a buyer’s guide to help you understand what to look for when purchasing your next set of pencils. Our FAQs section will answer any leftover queries that you may have so you can go ahead and buy the best charcoal pencils for your needs.

OUR TOP PICK

Amazon Basics Sketch and Drawing Art Pencil Kit - 17-Piece Set

If you have recently started charcoal drawing or want to start today, the Amazon Basics Sketch and Drawing Art pencil Kit is perfect for you. Boasting 17 pieces, this kit comes with 6 graphite pencils, 3 charcoal pencils, 4 charcoal sticks, a dual sharpener, a plastic eraser, a sketch stick, and a kneaded eraser. These are all you need to begin your artistic journey on paper.

When sketching with charcoal, darker and lighter shades are important. This kit includes graphite pencils with a grade range from the sturdy 2H to the softer 2H. These will allow you to attain a deeper level of detail in your sketches.

The charcoal pencils also come in a soft, medium, and hard range. With all these choices, you will get a far better range of tones and depth in your art. Unlike charcoal sticks, the Amazon Basics Art Pencil Set’s charcoal pencils have a wooden barrel design to prevent mess and encourage neat and tidy sketches. The charcoal sticks in the kit allow you to create deeper black and easier gradations.

The sketch stick is great for creating graduated shades and highlighting with charcoal for a higher degree of realism. Any mistakes you make can be concealed with the kneaded and white plastic erasers. There is no need to worry about getting the right sharpener for your charcoal pencils either as you can utilize the included dual sharpener for prolonged use.

Pros

  • Includes 17 pieces for a complete artistic experience
  • Charcoal pencils have a wooden barrel design to prevent any smudging and mess
  • Suitable for all levels of artists
  • Includes a variety of charcoal and graphite pencil grades to achieve precise tones
  • Designed to fit comfortably in your hands for prolonged use

Cons

  • Charcoal can break easily in sharpener if not used carefully

EDITORS CHOICE

PRO ART Charcoal Pencil Set, 4 Count (Pack of 1)

This set is just what you need. The PRO ART 3062 Charcoal pencil set will help you achieve stunning pieces of art with varying grade charcoal pencils. The four-piece set includes 3 charcoal pencils with soft to hard grades. If you are an aspiring artist, this is a perfect set to start with. Along with the charcoal pencils is a handy white sketch pencil to help you add another dimension to your artwork.

For fine, intricate details, the hard charcoal pencil is the better choice. It is more rigid for producing lighter tones and can hold its shape very well. Don’t be afraid to sharpen the hard grade pencils as these will enhance the finer details in your pieces and add an extra layer of depth.

The medium charcoal pencil is preferred by many sketching artists. Soft range pencils don’t hold out so well, especially when being sharpened. Nonetheless, they provide deeper blacks for contrasting greys and white colors.

PRO ART’s soft pencils are more brittle like most soft grade models but this PRO ART set is made to last. It provides amazing shading from its medium shade pencils and is one of the best charcoal pencils on the market today.

For added detail, use the white sketch pencil for highlights in your art piece. This can be used over graphite as well as charcoal to help blend and lighten an area of your picture. 

Pros

  • Premium grade sketching materials to create detailed sketches
  • Contains all three hardness degrees for a full range of tones and depths
  • Includes a white pastel for highlights and blending colors
  • Delivers a smooth and high-quality texture to your piece
  • Very affordable four-piece set

Cons

  • Pencils don’t erase as easily as more expensive models

BEST VALUE

29 Pieces Professional Sketching & Drawing Art Tool Kit With Graphite Pencils, Charcoal Pencils, Paper Erasable Pen, Craft Knife-Lightwish (without Sketchbook, with Canvas Rolling Pouch)

Our third choice is a complete set, ready to fulfill all your artistic needs. Lightwish’s 29 Pieces Professional Sketching & Drawing Art Tool Kit has everything you need and more.

A highlight of this set is the canvas rolling pouch. This is big enough to contain 39 accessories, including 37 pencils.

The pencils included are a set of 18 premium quality graphite models of varying grades. These range from the hardest HB to the soft and heavy 8B which are made with a strengthened non-toxic lead core for long-term and reliable use.

This set covers just about all your sketching desires. The charcoal pencils included come in soft, medium, and hard for you to make varying tones and intensities.

These are solidly made, are hard to break, and easy to use. You can blend the charcoal and graphite pencils together with double-tipped blended sticks that come included. Smearing these together can create detailed graduations for optimal effects.

Unlike many art kits, Lightwish’s kit comes with a craft knife instead of a sharpener. Craft knives are much better at exposing the inner core of the pencil to create larger drawings and give you more shading options.

Pros

  • Includes 18 premium quality graphite pencils as well as graphite to enhance the artist’s experience
  • Comes with three blending sticks of different sizes so you can blend charcoal and graphite together
  • Includes a spacious and convenient canvas rolling pouch to keep your accessories tidy and to easily carry around
  • The kit comes with a craft knife for those who wish to expose the inner core of the pencil for larger, more expressive drawings

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with graphite or charcoal sticks

RUNNER UP

U.S. Art Supply 20 Piece Professional Hi-Quality Artist Sketch Set in Hard Storage Case - Sketch & Charcoal Pencils, Pastel, Stumps, Eraser, Sharpeners

US ART Supply are known for their quality and durability. They have achieved great quality again with the 20 Piece Professional Hi-Quality Artist Sketch set. Not only does it contain premium quality charcoal pencils, but it also has some fantastic quality tools.

The set includes 8 hexagonal shaped graphite pencils that are easy to hold and are solidly made. 3H has the hardest core compared to 5B with the softest.

Alongside these are three hexagonal charcoal pencils with differing degrees of soft, medium, and hard. These provide smooth and layered color laydowns and can be blended easily into darker gray tones or to shade a precise area.

This fantastic kit comes with soft and medium sticks that can cover a large region of your sketch and keep the detailed tones. These have a superb hold and are perfect if you plan on drawing expressive pieces.

Furthermore, there is the inclusion of the white pastel. This will help define the highlights in your sketch and create a higher contrast over charcoal. You can even blend it to make a color if required.

Two different-sized blending stumps with dual-sided tips are a highlight of this set. This will help you spread your charcoal and graphite easily and evenly. You can even use it to smudge or shade an area of your sketch.

To conceal any charcoal mistakes, simply use the included kneaded eraser and if you think your piece needs more precise marking, use the sharpeners included and get your desired result.

Pros

  • The set comes with 20 premium quality drawing tools for optimal sketching
  • The range of pencils offer high-quality pigments in your art
  • The inner cores are very thick for a long-lasting result
  • Includes a white pastel to create contrasting highlights
  • Comfortable grip on all pencils due to the hexagonal design

Cons

  • Can be hard to sharpen without proper care

RUNNER UP

Royal & Langnickel RSET-ART2503 Small Tin Charcoal Drawing Art Set

Our final choice is perfect for getting your inspiration onto a piece of paper. The Royal & Langnickel Charcoal set gives you all the charcoal tools you’ll need for charcoal-based pieces.

This set contains soft, medium, and hard charcoal pencils with the exception of powdered charcoal. A woodless graphite variant is also included with 4 varying degrees of charcoal sticks and 4 vine charcoal.

Each item is housed separately from another in a compact toolbox. This is easy to carry around and wonderfully convenient for keeping all your items organized. What separates this box from many is its inclusion of another form of medium charcoal. This is known as vine charcoal.

If you want your sketch to be unique to those that use sticks or other charcoal mediums, the Royal & Langnickel Charcoal set is the one for you. Vine charcoal is soft and prone to breaking but can be easily erased. These are wonderful for creating soft or powdery lines in your sketch.

Another unique item in this set is the woodless graphite. This means you have a wider graphite stick for broader coverage so you can shade wider areas easily. A charcoal stick provides deeper blacks and adds deep texture and holds its shape very well compared to similar brands. This a versatile set to help you produce the most detailed, fun sketches.

Pros

  • Comes with an easy-to-carry compact box to keep your tools and accessories tidy
  • The addition of wine charcoal allows for greater levels of detail
  • Includes woodless graphite to shade wider areas more easily
  • Comes with high-quality charcoal sticks to create deep blacks
  • Has four different forms of sketching medium for broadening your sketching’s possibilities

Cons

  • Woodless Charcoal pencil can easily break
  • Charcoal doesn’t respond well to water

Best Charcoal Pencils Buying Guide

So there they are. Our best five charcoal pencils to help you in your artistic journey. We haven’t finished yet though. Before you choose your new charcoal pencils, there are some important factors to consider.

Below are some vital points to help you decide when buying charcoal pencils.

The Quality

The quality of a charcoal pencil is essential when looking to buy one. Quality varies with each brand so you should consider the brand’s reputation and reviews. The best charcoal sketching tool should deliver even tones that are easy to use. If they are reliable and refuse to break, they are of good quality. A reputable brand will always use high-grade materials for their pencils and produce superb charcoal models.

The Pencil’s Exterior Shape

All charcoal pencils come in either rounded shapes or with hexagonal exteriors. Hexagonal typically provides the better, stronger grip resulting in an easier, more comfortable sketching experience. Nonetheless, this is usually an individual’s personal preference and it may not matter to some artists at all. Labeling is another important aspect. The exterior’s label should clearly show the grading of the pencil. Whether you want to use a hard, medium, or soft charcoal pencil, a quick glance at the label should suffice.

Buying a Full Set

There are many sketching sets that come with additional extras. Most come with a range of graphite and charcoal pencils that you can mix together for varying tones. Some kits will have blending sticks, erasers, and sharpeners. These are essential items in a charcoal artist’s kit so if you are a beginner, it is advised you go for a set with as many additional utilities as possible. A full set will make it easier for you to achieve more detailed sketches and save time in shopping around for different grade pencils and other tools.

Charcoal Types

Many people starting out with charcoal are quite intimidated by the variety of charcoal types. Even so, there is no need to panic as choosing the right type for you can be simple. The three main charcoal types are compressed, vine, and pencils as well as the less common charcoal powder. 

Compressed charcoal is held together with a binding agent such as gum arabic. This is typically sharpened with a knife or another instrument to create a very fine point at the tip. This is a perfect choice if you want to achieve a more detailed sketch with intricate lines and set the tone of your piece. Most of these come with rectangular ends to place a thin layer of charcoal on your sketch. 

Vine charcoal has some particular assets. It can produce dark strokes that are softer than other charcoal types. Vine charcoal is usually used by students who are new to charcoal art as it is typically a more affordable option. However, this can take time to master as it is prone to breaking easily.

Charcoal pencils offer many benefits. The largest versions can be sharpened much more easily than other types and are better suited for getting your details drawn quickly. Although like traditional pencils, charcoal pencils have a few differences. The biggest difference is the deep black stroke that they will leave which is contrasting to the silvery line left by standard pencils. There is less chance of smudges or mess with charcoal pencils due to the wooden wrapped exterior resulting in a much easier cleaning process.

One form of charcoal not commonly used is charcoal powder. This has limited use but can be used to set the overall tone of your sketch. It isn’t usually used in studios or many art settings, however. Each charcoal type has its own benefits and drawbacks. It is ultimately up to you, the artist, to find out which is your preferred charcoal form but they can all be used in one piece for desired results.

Graphite vs Charcoal

There are two main options for drawing on paper. These are graphite and charcoal pencils. Graphite pencils have a wide range of grades for finer details in sketches. They are often seen as the more sophisticated choice out of the two. Charcoal pencils are just as perfect for sketching but produce dark values far better. These are always much darker and rougher than graphite and much more prone to smudging so charcoal pencils will take more time to master than their graphite counterpart.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are charcoal pencils good for beginners?

Charcoal pencils are an excellent choice for beginners. Novices love the substantial level of black this medium produces and the enhanced depth it can create. With practice and time, artists will soon see the benefits of using charcoal pencils with wonderful textures and precise atmospheric tones.

WonderStreet is not affiliated with any of the brands mentioned in this article. However, we sometimes receive a referral fee from online retailers when our readers buy on their website after clicking from our website to theirs. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases, which supports the operation of our blog and helps to keep all our content free for everyone. In any case, when we conduct our analysis, our intention and focus is to remain objective and unbiased at all times.

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