Spanking sketch by Spankart, charcoal on paper (2002).

In art, charcoal is a stick of black carbon material used for drawing. Charcoal is usually produced by heating wood in the absence of oxygen. Charcoal is light, black, porous, and can be used for drawing on paper, similar to chalk and pastel sticks. An adhesive spray is sometimes used to fix a finished charcoal drawing.

Traditionally, charred twigs of willow or vine are used to make artist's charcoal. Charcoal sticks are usually thin, break easily, and can be wrapped in paper to avoid staining the artist's hands.


Charcoal is darker than pencil, but allows less detail in drawing because it can't be sharpened to a point as fine as pencils. It can be smudged, allowing typical effects such as smooth shades and gradients of grey.

A popular technique, called chalk and charcoal, is to combine both black charcoal and white chalk in a single drawing on a non-white (e.g. grey or brown) paper.

Charcoal is also very popular for sketching a drawing or painting in its first experimenting and planning phase. It is possible to sketch with charcoal directly on canvas and then later paint over it.