DRAWING MATERIALS – b1) (Dry) Carbon based: 3. Carbon

Carbon Black is probably the most common black paint but it rather recently only arrived on the drawing board…


Carbon Pencils have a very fine grain, a consistent texture, no shine when laid down on paper. They do not damage fragile paper as there are no impurities in carbon (which means no grittiness!) and despite their lovely softness they have a rich deep black colour. This consistency is maintained throughout the available range of degrees of hardness, which is generally identical to that of compressed charcoal, ie B, 2B, 4B, 6B.

If you like the much blacker lines they produce, carbon pencils combine the advantages of graphite pencils (sharp lines) and charcoal pencils (rich black lines) without the disadvantage of breakage and excessive smudging.

I can recommend Wollf’s carbon pencils (B / 2B / 4B / 6B) and the Conté “pierre noire” pencils (H / HB / B / 2B / 3B) which have a soft lead with a black that is dense, deep, indelible and matt. Although I have been unable to find anywhere a confirmation if was indeed carbon in these pencils, I presume it is as they are so very black (and very nice).

And now for something else… wait until you try the watersoluble carbon discs… they are divine! and produce the blackest of the blacks when whetted… They are made by ArtGraf, a new -on the Australian market anyway- company which has been producing artist drawing materials since 1907 in Portugal but seems to very recently have conjured some of the most innovative products.

carbon disc
Black is the new black!

Just after black they have come out with 5 extra earth colours for their “carbon” discs which can be used dry to make marks, even quite precise line in fact and then can be used wet too… You’ll make a total mess of yourself, your hands will be full of colour whether you dip the disc directly in water and play like that or wet the page then come in with the disc which seems to give even more intense blacks and colours. You could try applying water with a brush and then coming in with your dry disc but it seems any which way you choose you’ll turn black or brown, sanguine or bistre in the end!

Carbon has extremely low toxicity to humans and can be handled and even ingested safely (in the form of graphite or charcoal) so don’t worry, be happy and messy!

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