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From early cave painters to Pablo Picasso to Roberto Longo, artists have long loved the expressive potential of a soft charcoal pencil or crayon. Each sweep of charcoal offers intense black color and easy blending for preliminary studies, lush landscapes, or photorealistic portraits. There is a wide variety of artist’s charcoals on the market, each with its own unique set of properties and ingredients. Compressed charcoal is a soft block or stick, often created from burned birch, clay, and black pigment. Charcoal pencils are similar to graphite pencils; they’re often used to render crisp, detailed drawings. Whatever effect you want to achieve through charcoal tools, we can help you find the set best suited to your needs. Brows our picks below.
1. Castle Art Supplies Graphite Drawing Pencils and Sketch Set
This set has every tool a professional needs while still being fine for beginners. Its 40 pieces include charcoal pencils, wood-encased pastel pencils in four shades, willow charcoal sticks, blending stumps, and a dual-tipped rubber blender. It comes in a convenient case with pop-up sections secured by hidden Velcro strips, making it a great gift for artists wanting to take their drawing practice on the road. Unlike some other sets, this one does not include a sketch pad, but the clever packaging—featuring a five-step tutorial on drawing and blending—makes up for it.
Castle Art Supplies Graphite Drawing Pencils and…
2. General Pencil Classic Charcoal Drawing Set
This kit contains 18 pencils, 12 drawing sticks, a sharpener, eraser, and drawing pad. To ensure smooth sharpening and strength, each pencil has been handcrafted with sustained-yield cedar wood and made in the United States. While these implements are loved by professionals, they are also well suited for beginners looking to get a jump-start on their charcoal collection.
General Pencil Classic Charcoal Drawing Set
3. Royal & Langnickel Small Tin Charcoal Drawing Set
This compact tin case contains three charcoal pencils, four charcoal sticks, four charcoal vines, and one graphite pencil. The charcoal sticks are soft and easy to smudge and blend, while the black pencil creates strong, dark lines that can’t be achieved with standard pencils. The hard-compressed charcoal stick leaves a gray hue under pressure, while the soft stick delivers an intense black that lends an interesting depth. A few caveats: the soft pencil snaps under pressure, so be gentle when sharpening. The vine charcoal is similarly brittle, so again, handle with care.
Royal & Langnickel Small Tin Charcoal Drawing Set
4. Prismacolor Premier Charcoal Sketch Set
Included in this kit from industry stalwart Prismacolor are six charcoal pencils in varying tones of black, two packs of vine charcoal sticks, a kneaded eraser, sharpener, a blending stump, and four thick charcoal sticks that vary in hardness. What’s more, all of the tools and implements are packaged in a sturdy metal tin, ideal for transport.
Prismacolor Premier Charcoal Sketch Set
5. Cretacolor Noir Charcoal Drawing Set
This Australia-based brand is eco-conscious and offers a drawing set with more than just the basics. With three charcoal pencils (hard, medium, and soft), a nero oil charcoal pencil, hard and soft compressed charcoal, a back chalk pencil, sketching coal, vine charcoal, and a blending stick, you’ll have everything you need for every style of charcoal drawing. This kit even comes with paper! Though the charcoal will likely last well past the paper, it’s a great option to start out with.
Cretacolor Noir Charcoal Drawing Set