Here are some of the questions I am often asked:
“Why does the white pencil slip on the graphite and doesn't stick?”
“What are the pencils that I can combine with graphite?”
“What is the difference between pencils and charcoal?”
The answer is one: it depends on the lead.
Once we know the difference between ‘dry’ pencils and grease pencils everything will be clearer and it will be easier to combine all the materials in a simple way.
Difference between dry pencils and grease pencils
I distinguish the two types of pencils to differentiate the different types of leads.
By dry pencils I mean all the pencils that are part of the charcoal category, which therefore have a dusty, oil-free lead. When we try these pencils on a sheet of paper, we will feel that the flow of the lead is rough and we will notice that the lead releases dust and small fragments.
With the term grease pencils, on the other hand, I identify all those soft pencils that blend perfectly with graphite, and that can be associated by working on multiple levels together with common pencils. When tested on a sheet they are much softer and run smoothly. Furthermore, when we stop drawing they become translucent just like graphite pencils.
Grease pencils compatible with graphite
There are many types of pencils on the market, and I can assure you that in my career I have tried them all. This is because I love experimenting and as a self-taught artist I wanted to see by myself everything that the market offered.
In the end, my choice fell on some products that fit perfectly with my way of working.
For example, when we work with pencils and we have dark areas that we want to blacken without using charcoal, we can use different tools, such as black coloured pencils or charcoal.
Black coloured pencils are easier to erase and therefore perfect if you have to draw a dark base and then extract the lights by using precision erasers (for example this could happen while drawing hair).
The Staedtler Lumograph Black is my favourite and I generally use the 4B and the 8B. Caran D'Ache Luminance and Faber Castell Polychromos are very good, too.
On the other hand, charcoal is a more intense and opaque type of soft black and for this reason it is used to create full and deep blacks and is difficult to erase. My favourite one is definitely Black Extrasoft Cretacolor, but Lyra Rembrandt charcoal, Faber Castell Pitt Oil base and Contè à Paris are also excellent choices.
As for black shades, it is necessary to make a clear distinction between grease white pencils and dry white pencils. When we work with graphite pencils we have to use grease white pencils for the same reason I mentioned before.
My favourite white coloured pencils to use in combination with graphite are by Caran D'ache, Pablo and Luminance and they can all be purchased in bulk at any fine art store or online.
Charcoal is a whole new chapter.
Charcoal is made with a dry and dusty lead and it bonds with graphite pencils only by using a specific technique. While working by glazes on our pencil drawing we gradually darken the shades in opposition to what we would do when using pencil and charcoal. In this case we would use the charcoal first and then the grease pencil, since the charcoal would not adhere to the graphite and slide without leaving a trace.
Charcoal, however, is a fantastic tool to cover large surfaces and create very dark and intense black pieces of art without having that translucent effect.
My irreplaceable favourite is definitely Pierre Noir from Conté à Paris. I tend to use two grades (B and 3B) to have different black intensities. I love these types of charcoal because they are not too dry and have excellent coverage, which other types of charcoal cannot achieve even after several glazes.
However, I often combine them with some lighter charcoal, such as Faber Castell Pitt Charcoal Medium and Cretacolor Charcoal Medium.
When we need a large coverage we can also use charcoal sticks.
What I mentioned before applies to the white pencils,too. This means dry with dry and in this case we would combine white pencils such as clay or pastels.
Was this helpful?
I hope so!
My goal is to walk you through your self-taught path to the discovery of this vast and complex world where you will need to choose amongst a thousand different options and techniques.
If you have any further concerns feel free to leave a comment and ask. Alessandra will soon be in contact with you. 😉