How to Use Charcoal to Draw a Pear

by Pam Merkel

This demonstration shows how you can use different types of charcoal to create a variety of marks while shading a simple object.


  • 1 4B charcoal pencil
  • 1 6B charcoal pencil
  • 1 square charcoal
  • 1 willow or vine charcoal
  • 1 eraser
  • Instructions

    Step 1

    Many people think that making a drawing photorealistic makes it "the best". I think drawing is about showing others how you see an object. That means using variety of marks, values and textures.

    Step 2

    These are some tools you can choose from. The square charcoal is the softest and darkest. The pencils are lighter and giver more detail. 6B=darker, 4B=lighter. The eraser is a mark making too as well.

    Step 3

    Carefully observe your subject. The top is smaller, the stem is off center and it leans to the right. Carefully draw the contour including the shadows.

    Step 4

    I have a loose contour of my pear. I have accounted for the things mentioned in the previous slide but am not stressing about it being exact. I can refine as I go.

    Step 5

    Most things can be described as combinations of cubes, spheres, cylinders or cones. What shapes can you see when you look at this pear?

    Step 6

    I see two spheres stacked. I could also see this as a cone, but I see spheres. My light source was a window to the right. This now looks like a simple shading exercise.

    Step 7

    For charcoal, I like to start defining the background on the lighter side of the object. This helps me avoid clunky outlines. I used a light stroke with the square charcoal. The texture adds interest.

    Step 8

    I hit the umbra with an additional stroke of the square charcoal. Its not a detail tool on such a small page, but I can refine as I go.

    Step 9

    I added the penumbra and tried to keep them different tones while not making them too drastically different.

    Step 10

    Using the same tool, I started shading in the dark sides of each of the spheres. Remember, you are shading for form and ideally color, but we can work on that more in another demo. Also, no outlines!

    Step 11

    Using a 4B pencil, I added transitions from the darker background to the lighter and the mid-tones of the sphere. The 4B naturally makes lighter marks than the square charcoal. Still no outlines!

    Step 12

    Erasers make great mark making tools in addition to allowing you to pull out highlights and giving a texture contrast between objects. I am working the highlights, orange area of the pear and table.

    Step 13

    Willow or vine charcoal is even softer than the 4B. I used it to soften transitions of the pear and to bring back some wood grain to the table. This only works if I use the eraser first. No outlines!

    Step 14

    My final pear shows form, reflected highlights from the table and has some indication of the orange area. I embrace texture as it has more character than blended. Also note- there is no outline here!