Creating a soft feeling using pencils, pens, graphite, or brush work needs a lot of effort. However, the thing with charcoal is that it helps to give that soft velvety feeling of drawing naturally. This is the major reason which makes charcoal drawings stand out from other types of drawing.
The two basic charcoal tools consist of a thick drawing paper and the charcoal pencil. There are various other tools which you will need to create more effects. However, if you are a total beginner then buy a compressed charcoal pencil stick in the pencil form, and practice on a sheet of thick drawing paper. Practice drawing various shapes and objects and try shading them.
Practice drawing with the above two basic supplies for a few days; and once you get the hang of it, buy other drawing supplies to experiment with other drawing techniques. Vine charcoal is extra-soft charcoal (uncompressed charcoal), which is easy to erase with a chamois. Kneaded eraser is a soft eraser that can mold into any shape and is great for erasing several times. White plastic eraser is perfect for creating highlights and other fine details.
Also, keep various grades of charcoal pencils like extra soft, soft, medium, and hard. Wrapped pencils are recommended. Blending stumps also called tortillion are great for blending shades. You will also need a spray fixative, as charcoal drawings can be blown away due to the dust-like nature of charcoal. Hence, a spray fixative helps to preserve the drawings. Now, let us look at the techniques.
Technique #1 - Using Charcoal Pencils
The first technique involves using a charcoal pencil like a normal pencil. Use a soft charcoal pencil and draw a basic outline of the various shapes which create the drawings. For example, if you are drawing still life then draw basic outline of the objects and drapery. Then use medium and hard charcoal pencils to create the mid and dark tones, shadows, etc. This way keep adding depth and detailing to the drawing. Then use a plastic eraser to create highlights.
Technique #2 - Erasing Wine Charcoal Patch
The above technique is a basic one and perfect for kids and beginners. But, this technique needs a little bit of practice, as it is opposite of the above technique. For this technique you will need better observation skills. Use these tips to create drawings using this technique. Take a vine charcoal and a textured drawing paper. Then using the charcoal completely cover one side of the paper to create a black patch. To draw an object or face in this black patch visualize the form, then block the form by using paper towels to lighten the shadow. For example, there is a ball in the black patch, then with paper towel create a circular shape by lightening the shadows around the circular shape. Then using a kneadable eraser pick charcoal to create mid tones inside the ball shape. Then use a white eraser to create highlights.
These were the two basic techniques used for creating charcoal drawings. However, you can try out different techniques by using different color papers, mixing pen with charcoal, mixing charcoal with pencil, etc., to create different effects.