Artist's charcoal leaves a uniformly colored mark that adjusts with pressure. Charcoal art sticks make rich black lines with hard pressure and soft gray shadows with light pressure. Frugal artists make drawing charcoal from vines and twigs. For many artists, homemade drawing charcoal works just as well as charcoal sold in arts and crafts stores.
Things You'll Need
- Measuring tape
- Vines or sticks
- Pruning shears
- Metal bucket
- Aluminum foil
- Sharp pencil
- Outdoor fire pit
- Work gloves
- Large coffee can with lid
Gather vines or twigs of willow, linden, wisteria or grapevines, which are good materials for making drawing charcoal. Use twigs and vines that are 1/4- to 3/8-inch in diameter from trees or plants that you know are at least two years old. Ask the property owner about the age of the plants if you harvest your sticks on rented property or from a neighbors yard. Avoid using treated varieties of lumber, which release toxic fumes when heated.
Measure the depth of your steel bucket from the inside of the bucket floor to the top rim on one side with a measuring tape. Use this measurement to determine the length of your twigs or vines. Cut the vines, twigs or lumber to the measured length with pruning shears.
Fill the bucket with vines and twigs by standing them upright with one end on the bucket floor until they pack tightly against each other. Cover the top of the bucket with aluminum foil and fold it firmly around the edge to form a seal. Use one sheet of heavy duty foil, or two sheets of ordinary strength foil. Poke two or three small holes into the center of the foil covering with a sharp pencil. Prepare an extra sheet of foil to cover the bucket after roasting the charcoal art sticks.
Put on heavy work gloves. Avoid wearing loose clothing while working around an open fire to make vine charcoal.
Build a wood fire in an outdoor fire pit. Place the bucket handle over a long pole such as a broomstick to suspend the bucket over the fire. Keep the bucket over the flames until smoke stops coming out from the holes in the foil cover.
Take the bucket off the fire and cover the top with the extra sheet of aluminum foil. Allow the bucket to cool completely with the foil covering in place. Remove the foil after cooling and inspect your homemade drawing charcoal. The charcoal sticks should make solid lines on paper that erase easily with a standard pencil eraser. Store the charcoal art sticks in a sturdy container that seals closed such as a large coffee can to contain the black dust.
Tips & Warnings
- Experiment with different types of wood and vines to find out which makes the best charcoal art sticks.
- Avoid brushing the dust from a charcoal stick onto your clothing. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling homemade drawing charcoal.
- Photo Credit Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images
How to Make Charcoal
When you make your own charcoal, you know where it came from and that it's chemical-free, unlike processed briquettes. This is important...
How to Do a Reverse Charcoal Drawing
A great drawing technique that can transform your artwork is reverse charcoal drawings. Reverse charcoal drawing creates a dramatic effect and accentuates...
How to Make Charcoal at Home
Charcoal comes from burning wood so that only the carbon remains. Charcoal serves many purposes, including barbecuing, drawing, filtering water, and using...
How to Make Charcoal Soap
Charcoal soap is used in Asia to clear skin and smooth complexions. It is a mild exfoliant for delicate skin, absorbs excess...
How to Make Charcoal From Wood
Controlling fire has helped move civilization along from being hunters and gatherers to being captains of industry. Along the way, though, the...
How to Use Pencil with Charcoal for Painting
Learn how and when to use pencil and charcoal to add deeper details to your paintings. Learn this and more in this...