Homeedmag is supported by its audience. When you purchase via our links, we may get a commission. Learn more

The Best Charcoal Pencils for 2024

best charcoal pencils

When working with charcoal pencils, perhaps your goal is to accentuate the details of your subject and work on the balance of light and dark tones even when you’re all caught up with smudges and messy charcoal dust.

Well, I guess that’s the beauty of it, isn’t it? While drawing techniques can make a charcoal sketch a true piece of fine art, using the best charcoal pencils can make it even more possible. All you need to know is how to determine the charcoal pencils that best suit your skills and techniques.

As you go through our guide, a detailed roundup of topnotch products, unbiased reviews, and intuitive buying factors to consider will help you narrow down your choices.

Keep on reading to know which brand or type of charcoal pencil is the one for you.

Best Charcoal Pencils Reviews

1. Derwent Tinted Charcoal Pencils

derwent tinted charcoal pencils

The feature that stands out in these colored charcoal pencils is the impressive blending capabilities. After all, it is from Derwent, so it’s no surprise to see satisfying results.

But besides the brand’s outstanding reputation in the art supply industry, the excellent blendability lies within the density and softness of the pencil leads. They feel soft and silky when applied on paper.

Such qualities also mean an excellent capability to be blended with fingers or other tools to create artistic effects or highlight various tonal values.

When I smeared the colors with my fingers and applied a bit of pressure, the colors turned into soft and seamless layers.

Although charcoal pencils are expected to be crumbly and messy, I’m surprised to see that the ones in this set are considerably less dusty, perfect for those who want to stay away from stains and charcoal chaos.

As these are tinted charcoal pencils, the availability of colors provide more possibilities to achieve dark and light values as well as execute deep colored tones.

That said, I consider this set the best charcoal pencils for drawing expressive pieces or subjects that require rich neutral shades. Aside from that, I love the smooth application of these pencils every time I lay down the colors.

Meanwhile, given that charcoal pencils are not the easiest medium to work with, these pencils may need a learning curve as well. They can be expected to provide desired outputs when used with proper techniques and expertise.

Therefore, unless you want to challenge yourself, this set is not the best beginner-friendly charcoal pencil set to start with.

Pros
  • A selection of tinted charcoal pencils with rich and deep tones
  • Provides great pencil range to achieve different values
  • Soft and dense cores for excellent blendability
  • Can easily be blended with fingers or a blending tool
  • Offers smooth application
  • Does not leave too much dirt and dust
Cons
  • May require a bit of a learning curve for beginners

Needless to say, these professional charcoal pencils are suitable for advanced artists who want to explore deep rich tones and achieve smooth and exquisite blending effects with much less dirt and dust.

2. ThePortraitArt Artist Woodless Pure Charcoal Pencils

theportraitart artist woodless pure charcoal pencils

When it comes to an essential range of pencils, this 6-piece ThePortraitArt charcoal pencil set offers an exquisite collection of tones to complete a charcoal artwork.

Limited as it may seem, I find this selection adequate to get the optimal tonal values from the lightest up to the darkest black color one could ever get. And it actually gets easier to work on the tones since the pencils are labeled based on their range.

Right from its fancy metal tin case, you will find elegant charcoal pencils that are labeled with regular, soft, and super soft. The labels are pretty straightforward, which is advantageous for beginners who are not quite familiar with pencil grades.

The regular and soft ones produce very dark and very black tones, whereas the super soft pencils are way blacker and creamier.

With such tone range, I believe artists of all levels can confidently execute the darkest possible values and accentuate the contrast and saturation seamlessly.

Besides that, the pencils render smooth laydowns, which blend nicely with one another. If you would smear the pencils, you can actually present a soft and sophisticated finish.

One more thing I like is the fact that they are woodless. Unlike regular pencils coated with wood, these charcoal pencils are coated with a durable sleeve.

Such design makes them reliable for sketching, detailed applications, and rendering different shading techniques. Plus, they are eco-friendly. I also find the grip very comfortable to hold, which is definitely important for hassle-free drawing sessions.

Honestly, I don’t have a lot to hate about this set. Perhaps, it would have been better if the super soft ones were much easier to sharpen.

Pros
  • Offers a wide tone range to execute the darkest values
  • Woodless; eco-friendly and suitable for sketching and detailing
  • Accentuates contrast and saturation of your artwork
  • Smooth application
  • Easy to blend and layer
  • Straightforward labeling for easy classification
Cons
  • The super soft pencils are slightly difficult to sharpen

Overall, there’s a lot to love about this set, particularly the vast tone range that can help beginners and professionals achieve the darkest black possible. The unique woodless design makes them ideal for sketching, detailing, and shading.

3. MISULOVE Professional Colour Charcoal Pencils

misulove professional colour charcoal pencils

Perfecting a seamless blend for a realistic skin tone is probably one of the toughest challenges I’ve experienced with charcoal pencils. With just a slight error in your choice of tones, it can definitely make or break your artwork.

That’s why this colored charcoal pencil set from MISULOVE is an exquisite treat for both beginner and advanced artists. It includes 12 rich and vibrant colors that can easily be manipulated for realistic skin tone hues.

One more thing, the lead cores are thick and durable, making them resistant from breakage, chipping, or cracking. I did notice this when the pencils held their points impeccably well when I filled in detailed and complex areas.

Although the cores are thick and durable, I find them reasonably soft, which allow for smooth and seamless laydowns. They feel nice and creamy but I’m surprised they do not accumulate too much dust and dirt when I use them.

With such texture and consistency, these charcoal pencils are highly blendable and layerable. I can even blend them out with my fingers for soft and unique effects.

Together with its exclusive color palette, you can work on various depths and tones to achieve that beautifully blended skin tone. I also like the additional white charcoal pencil, which can be used to accentuate areas or supplement light sources.

Fret not as these pencils are really easy to use, so you’re all good if you’re practicing shading techniques. Therefore, these are the best charcoal pencils for beginners for a rich colored skin tone spectrum.

My only issue is that the pencils are sometimes difficult to sharpen.

Pros
  • Offers the fundamental hues to produce realistic skin tone
  • Highly blendable
  • Soft and durable cores for smooth and seamless laydowns
  • Does not accumulate too much dirt and dust
  • Easy to use
  • Ideal for beginners and advanced artists
Cons
  • A little bit difficult to sharpen sometimes

Despite that, this set has all the essential tones to produce the best and realistic skin tone possible for your portrait charcoal pencil drawing. The overall quality of these blendable pencils makes a great option for hobbyists, beginners, and professional artists.

4. GETHPEN Professional Charcoal Pencils Drawing Set

gethpen professional charcoal pencils drawing set

What sold me to this charcoal pencil set is the range variety and scratch-free application. This GETHPEN includes an array of charcoal pencils that vary from super soft to hard grades.

In terms of their consistency, the pencils stayed true to their designated grades. The soft ones render dark values, whereas the hard ones deliver light values.

Mind you, I don’t find these charcoal pencils the professional caliber despite its claim. However, I believe this pencil set is a decent option for charcoal drawing newbies to practice shading under different values.

Since different pencil ranges are available, beginners can get themselves familiar with various depths, consistencies, and textures as they elevate their skills in charcoal drawing.

Moreover, the soft cores create smooth laydowns and creamy textures. That also makes the pencils even more blendable, especially if you want to flourish finishes with a soft and artistic flair.

The scratch-free application makes these pencils comfortable to use for long periods. Charcoal pencils tend to feel rough so, for me, this is a great deal.

Meanwhile, a slight pitfall lies within the pencils’ ability to hold pointed tips. Unfortunately, they fall short on this. That’s why manual and careful sharpening is recommended.

Pros
  • A decent charcoal pencil set for beginners
  • Offers a variety of grades to achieve different tonal values
  • Blendable; Produces smooth laydowns and creamy textures
  • Scratch-free application
  • Comfortable to use
Cons
  • They do not hold pointed tips very will

Note note Note note Note note Note note Note note Note note Note note Note note Note note Note note Note note Note note Note note Note note Note note Note note Note note Note note Note note Note note Note note

5. PANDAFLY Colour Charcoal Pencils Drawing Set

pandafly colour charcoal pencils drawing set

For the best colored charcoal pencils, this PANDAFLY drawing set is nothing but an impressive collection of vibrant tinted charcoal pencils. It has 24 shades, ranging from the deep rich tones and pastel hues.

With such a stunning color palette, you can mix and experiment with colors and manipulate them according to your liking. Whether it is for the skin tone of your subject or to amplify the textures of your artwork, I believe you’ll find the perfect match in these shades.

Since there’s a wider selection to choose from, you can add a splash of colors to your drawing, especially if you want to explore beyond the usual black and white charcoal shades.

Because these pencils are carefully crafted with soft thick cores, you can lay down colors smoothly and evenly. For me, that’s a major plus as some charcoal pencils can feel scratchy on paper.

In addition to that, mixing the colors comes off beautifully and seamlessly blended. I like how you can manage the colors easily to showcase their intense hues whether on shading large areas or producing delicate details.

Not to mention its forgiving formula that can nicely be smeared with your fingers or cotton pads for unique and artistic effects.

That said, not only are the cores soft and thick but also robust, which allows the pencils to hold their points well. And if you have to sharpen them, you can do so manually and carefully without worrying about breakage.

However, some pencils in this set are not sharpened. I think it would be more convenient if they were all pre-sharpened, especially for the beginners.

Pros
  • A set of vibrant tinted charcoal pencils for a stunning color variety
  • Highly blendable; can be smeared with fingers or cotton pads for added effects
  • Durable soft thick cores that resist cracking and breakage
  • Scratch-free; Delivers smooth and even color laydowns
Cons
  • Some pencils are not pre-sharpened

Nonetheless, this set is quite a treat for artists of all levels who want to take on a different challenge and revamp their artwork with rich and vibrant colors. They can mix, play, and blend these colored charcoal pencils and showcase their custom palette.

6. Qianshan White Sketch Charcoal Pencils

qianshan white sketch charcoal pencils

Investing in a set of white charcoal pencils, like this one from Qianshan, is a practical option if you want to elevate certain values to your charcoal drawing. In this case, these white shades can create light sources and shadow effects.

These pencils can also be used to add highlights, improve brightness, or accentuate contrast and delicate details.

Since charcoal drawings present different tonal values, I consider these white pencils a fundamental tool to accomplish these effects. After all, some charcoal pencil sets do not include a white shade.

All thanks to their thick and soft cores, these pencils lay down pigmented white tones smoothly and evenly. Although I don’t find them useful for covering vast areas, I can use them to highlight streaks of hair or animal fur or add light or shadows to a subject’s eyes if I want to.

Besides that, I noticed that the cores are impressively thick and robust, which enhances the pencils’ durability and resistance against breakage. That means less time sharpening but more time to complete charcoal drawings.

However, I’ve encountered a few issues with sharpening since the pencils are relatively bigger to fit in standard sharpeners. That’s why I had to sharpen them with a box cutter sometimes, which was a bit difficult.

But once you get the sharp pointed tips, these pencils work great.

Pros
  • A set of white charcoal pencils for additional effects
  • Can be used to highlight different tonal values like shadows or brightness
  • Delivers smooth and even vibrant white laydowns
  • Thick and robust cores
Cons
  • A bit difficult to sharpen sometimes

Overall, this is a useful pencil set to add to your charcoal drawing tools whether you’re a beginner or a professional. These pencils can supplement shadows, light, and other artistic effects that can elevate your artwork.

7. Galart Colorful Charcoal Drawing Pencils

galart colorful charcoal drawing pencils

You would probably agree that a reliable charcoal pencil for sketching has to be soft but durable enough to produce seamless color laydowns without the hassle of broken leads.

I bet you’d find these characteristics in this set of charcoal pencils from Galart. These pencils present high-quality cores that can render rich black and white tones without breaking too quickly.

I’m impressed by how they can hold their sharp points well, which I find useful when creating delicate details in dark and light values.

Besides their durability, the variety of pencil range is a great factor that makes this set even more useful. Right from the box you will find 12 pieces of pencils that have designated ranges, namely hard, soft, and medium.

With such variety, the pencils are expected to perform according to their grades, and they aren’t a letdown. The hard ones are suitable for light values, the soft pencils for very dark values, and the medium pencils for the details or shades in between.

Fortunately, they are very easy to use. Beginners can take advantage of the pencil ranges to enhance their shading techniques to showcase different values.

Meanwhile, professional artists can use this set alone or as a supplemental tool to complete a charcoal drawing. Plus, the white pencil is a good addition in this set to highlight brightness and shadows.

However, the recommended sharpening method for these pencils can be a slight setback. The pencils are said to be sharpened with a box cutter rather than a regular sharpener to minimize dust and lead wastage.

While it has significant merits, some users might find it difficult to sharpen the pencils that way.

Pros
  • Crafted with high-quality cores for durability
  • Offers different pencil ranges for dark and light values
  • Thick and soft cores that provide smooth laydowns
  • Have the ability to hold sharp points well for delicate shading
  • Includes a white charcoal pencil to add shadow or light effects
Cons
  • The recommended sharpening method can be difficult for other users

Despite that, the overall quality of these pencils outweighs that minor drawback. When sharpened well, these charcoal pencils can help beginners and professionals showcase different values as well as various depths and textures to your artwork.

8. Brusarth Professional Charcoal Pencils Drawing Set

brusarth professional charcoal pencils drawing set

Working on the perfect balance between light and dark values can be quite challenging. But I always find it easier to do when a charcoal drawing set has the pencil range I need, just like this set from Brusarth.

With the variety of charcoal pencil grades, ranging from hard, medium, soft, and ultra-soft, transitioning between consistencies and depths becomes much simpler to do.

When it comes to their differences, the hard pencil produces light values while the soft ones create true black tones.

But I am most impressed by the ultra-soft charcoal pencil for its impeccable black tone, which would be useful for artists who look for pitch black hues. Not to mention the velvety texture for a sophisticated finish.

That said, these black charcoal pencils do have prominent features, which allow you to learn different tonal values. Whether you go for light strokes or the darkest black you could possibly create, this 6-piece set will suffice.

Besides that, each pencil blends very well with one another. So if you want to create seamless layers or highlight beautifully blended charcoal effects, you can apply these charcoal pencils and easily manipulate the shades with a kneaded eraser or even with your fingers.

In terms of quality, I must say they are excellent student-grade pencils. Since they are easy to use, this set is ideal for artists of all levels.

Moreover, the cores don’t break too quickly. But I hope the pencils were much easier to sharpen.

Pros
  • Offers a diverse selection of pencil grades for flexible applications
  • Can easily be manipulated to achieve dark and light values
  • Blends well; can be used with a kneaded eraser for added effects
  • Leaves a velvety finish for a sophisticated flair
  • Ideal for artists of all levels
Cons
  • A little bit difficult to sharpen

Other than that, this set is quite a steal for its price. With its diverse pencil grade selection, both beginners and experienced artists can confidently accomplish charcoal drawings with different depths and artistic effects.

9. Dyvicl White Charcoal Pencils Drawing Set

dyvicl white charcoal pencils drawing set

If you’ll have two or more white charcoal pencils, I bet you can explore various effects or textures to amplify your charcoal drawing. That’s the good thing about this 6-piece white charcoal pencil set.

I would usually settle for two white charcoal pencils since they are typically used to add effects or enhance details to a charcoal drawing. But having extra pieces can open up endless creative possibilities, allowing you to use the pencils alone for solid color laydowns.

Impressively, these white pencils render very pigmented tones, which are blendable as well. When applied on black paper or blended with black charcoal pencils, these white shades do stand out.

The lead cores are thick and durable, minimizing lead breakage. However, these pencils are recommended to be sharpened with a knife or cutter as they can break easily when used with a regular sharpener.

But with such lead quality, you may expect the pencils to feel hard when used on paper. Also take note that all the pencils have similar grades.

For that reason, I noticed that these pencils deliver the best results when used with proper technique. Otherwise, it might be a little challenging to execute different textures or depths.

That’s why I recommend this set for experienced or advanced artists. For first-timers, it can be slightly difficult to achieve the optimal shading techniques though they can still go for it if they don’t mind the learning curve.

Pros
  • A set of pigmented white charcoal drawing pencils
  • Thick and durable cores for minimal lead breakage
  • Can be used to add effects to charcoal drawings
  • Can be used alone for solid color laydowns
Cons
  • Not ideal for beginners
  • Breaks easily when sharpened with a regular sharpener

Overall, this Dyvicl white charcoal pencil set is a worthy addition to an experienced or professional artist’s drawing stash. With proper shading technique, artists can utilize the white shades to improve brightness, produce shadows, or create more effects.

10. Qionew Professional Charcoal Pencils

qionew professional charcoal pencils

This Qionew charcoal drawing pencil set is an affordable option suitable for beginners and artists on a tight budget. It includes 10 pieces of charcoal pencils in different grades, ranging from hard, medium, soft, and extra soft.

I was actually a bit skeptical about this set initially since they’re cheaper than other brands of the same variant. But I’m surprised by their quality that falls between above average and professional.

Impressively, the pencils stayed true with their grades, with the soft ones being beautifully dark and the hard pencils to be on the lighter tone. They all have thick and durable cores but soft enough to produce smooth layers.

Aside from that, these pencils blend well, so you’re free to modify your work with additional effects whether with your fingers or a kneaded eraser. As each pencil grade has duplicates, I find this set suitable for large-scale drawings.

You can also explore different values as well as hone exquisite details and produce distinct strokes to amplify your work. They are very easy to use, which is why I suggest beginner artists try this set.

My only issue is that the pencils don’t hold sharp tips well.

Pros
  • Offers a diverse pencil range for versatile applications
  • Can be used to render great quality tonal values
  • Easy to use
  • Suitable for large-scale drawings
  • Very affordable
Cons
  • Not able to hold pointed tips well

This set may fall under a low pricing mark but it isn’t inferior to other high-quality charcoal pencil brands out there. Besides the diverse grades, these pencils are versatile and can be manipulated beautifully to showcase dark and light values.

What to Look for When Buying Charcoal Pencils

Comfort and Barrel Design

best charcoal pencils for artists

The best charcoal pencils for artists of all levels are the ones you’re most comfortable using. Remember that if you’re comfortable with your charcoal pencil regardless of your skill, you’ll be able to draw or try shading techniques effectively.

Since this aspect varies from one person to another, the ultimate comfort may depend on the size, shape, barrel design, or weight of the pencil no matter what the brand is. Therefore, it is important to determine which design best works for you.

Some artists would go for a charcoal mechanical pencil because of their elegant and unique design. Not to mention it is much less messier than the traditional charcoal pencil. However, the casing and overall design make the pencil much heavier, which may compromise comfort and smooth applications.

You may visit your local art store and try to hold a charcoal pencil to see how it feels in your hand. If it is not possible and you’re browsing options online, you may consider the weight and design specifications as well as the customer feedback.

Pencil Grades and Ranges

Charcoal pencils come in different grades and ranges that will help you produce the perfect tonal values (range of dark or light shading) for your artwork. Therefore, how will you be able to determine which pencils can create dark and light values?

If you need to produce dark or pitch black values, choose soft charcoal pencil sets. They are typically labeled with pencil grades such as 6B, 4B, and 2B (B = Blackness). Thus, the higher the number, the softer and darker the lead is.

In contrast, charcoal pencils with harder leads produce lighter tonal values or shading. Look for H-grade pencils (H = Hardness) like 2H or HB. The higher the number, the lighter and harder the pencil is.

Luckily, many brands keep their pencil grades simple and easy to understand. Most of them are classified with straightforward labels like hard, medium, soft, or ultra soft. Therefore, the hard one is the lightest while the ultra-soft or the softest is the darkest among the pencils in the set.

While the grades or classifications may sound intimidating for beginners, you can always start with a set with a smaller range.

In that case, my tip for you is to settle for a set that has at least 4 or 5 charcoal pencils, so you’ll have pencils to produce the lightest and the darkest values as well as the values in between.

Smooth Consistency

best charcoal pencils for drawing

It makes sketching or drawing much easier when charcoal pencils provide smooth applications. Effortless laydowns mean uninterrupted sessions, allowing you to accomplish limitless creative possibilities whether you’re blending, layering, or rendering colors.

Since charcoal pencils are not the easiest art medium to work with, some brands may feel rough or scratchy when applied on paper. In that case, look for the ones that render smooth consistency so you can always work on your charcoal drawings and sketches with ease and confidence.

Color Options

Charcoal pencils are commonly available in different ranges of black color. But if you’re up for adding a splash of colors in your artwork, colored charcoal pencils are also available.

The color choices are not as many as colored pencils. But you will find unique selections of shades that include neutral tones, pastels, and additional shades to elevate realistic skin tone colors and other artistic effects.

Erasability and Neat Application

Working with charcoal pencils may require modifications now and then, adjusting the tonal values or highlights of your subject with a kneaded eraser. Therefore, you may compare across brands and look for charcoal pencils with excellent erasability.

Although charcoal pencils can get crumbly or dusty and you might even get your hands dirty, the best charcoal pencils shouldn’t be all the dirt and mess.

Layering/Blending Capabilities

best charcoal pencils for beginners

Are your charcoal pencils easy to blend and layer? They better be. Remember that blending and layering charcoal allows you to amplify your work with realistic shading techniques and unique effects.

Whether you’re applying pressure using your fingertips to smudge edges or layers, or using a blending stump, cotton pads, kneaded erasers, or tissues, those charcoal pencils that can adapt to these blending techniques should be the most blendable ones.

You may look for charcoal pencils that are both dense and soft since they can be easily blended to produce a wide range of values.

Brand Reputation

Many advanced artists consider charcoal pencils a difficult medium to work with, let alone beginners who are taking the initiative to learn and study charcoal drawing. That’s why working with the best charcoal pencil can somehow put the challenges at bay.

That said, amateur charcoal artists can start with established brands of charcoal pencils since they can provide high-quality and reliable products.

The brands mentioned in this guide are some of the best ones out there. But you may also try and test other brands to figure out which ones are compatible with your skills and style.

Consider customer’s feedback and recommendations for this matter.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, the best charcoal pencils have to be comfortable to hold to ensure smooth and hassle-free applications. The availability of various pencil grades would also be an excellent choice to explore different depths and shading techniques, especially if you’re a first-timer.

While working with charcoal pencils can be a bit challenging at times, using high-quality charcoal pencils can get drawing sessions much more enjoyable to do. Fortunately, the ones in this in-depth guide and roundup are the best ones out there. Hopefully, we’ve made things easier for you and helped you find your ultimate pick.

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Comment