Graphite vs. Charcoal Pencils: What’s Best for You?

An artist has many tools, but you have to use the right ones in order to properly translate what’s in your head onto paper. Graphite and charcoal are the two most widely used materials for drawing, and while both are carbon-based, their functions fundamentally differ. Here we go through everything you need to know about graphite and charcoal so that you know which is best for your next project:

GraphiteGraphite vs. Charcoal Pencils: What's Best for You?

Despite being called “lead,” graphite is what the majority of modern writing pencils are made out of. It comes in a range of consistencies, starting from 9H all the way to 9B (with 9H being the hardest and the lightest, and 9B being the softest and the darkest). Graphite is great for sketching, but it works better on smooth paper (the type you would use for smaller drawings or quick sketches). It’s also easy to blend thanks to its softer nature.


Graphite is made for small, quick sketches, but if you have a large project, then you’ll want to use charcoal. Charcoal has a wide range of values and consistencies; this range allows you to capture every possible shade necessary for your project. However, it is messy, and if you’re not careful, you could smudge parts of your drawing. It’s also difficult to capture minute details, as charcoal is better for a “big-picture” (literally) type of scenario.

Once you have the right pencils for your project, all that’s left is to start drawing. However, if you’re new to drawing, this could be a big step to take. At Creative Ventures Gallery, our drawing classes can teach you everything you need to know about graphite, charcoal, and the drawing medium in general. Contact us today to learn more.