January 17th, 2013 - 04:20 PM
If you're familiar with compressed charcoal sticks, then you're basically going with the same medium, only in a pencil form. This will allow you for better control in your work though. This is especially true with fine details such as fine lines and hair. I love the dusty consistency of charcoal and they blend beautifully with blending stumps. White charcoal as an overlay to your typical black charcoal looks amazing for highlights. Derwent creates a tinted charcoal which looks great for adding color or all on its own. There's typically soft, medium, and hard charcoal. Just like graphite, the harder the lead, the lighter the results. The softer the charcoal, the darker. It's a bit more dramatic with charcoal though and these are great for when you really want a dramatic effect to your drawing.
If you find you're more of a watercolor artist or you enjoy illustrating and want to experiment, these are a fantastic option. Both watercolor pencils and Derwent inktense pencils (above), add more vibrant pigment when water is added to them. It's a win/win: You get the control you want with drawing but the vibrancy and texture of a beautiful painting. The difference between watercolor and ink soluble pencils are the pigment vibrancy. I prefer the inktense over watercolor pencils myself personally because the end result is much more vibrant. If you're looking for a strictly watercolor effect, go for watercolor pencils. Prismacolor, Derwent, Reeves; they all make great watercolor pencils. Inktense stands all on its own in a way, and a love the end result. If you want a brighter effect, go do yourself a favor and get a set. As with the tinted graphite, I'd recommend getting a watercolor paper or mixed media paper that can handle water. Below is a piece I did using the inktense pencil to give you an idea of the vibrancy of the pigment. It was done on Canson drawing paper (which was thankfully able to handle water soluble pencils).
Hopefully this will give you a better idea of what to look for selecting what to buy and use when starting on different illustrative projects. I always find that once you figure out how a tool works, you go for the best you can get your hands on, and work with your talent that way. Be versatile. Make mistakes and experiment with these different types of pencils. I can guarantee the more you use them, the more you'll know what you love and come to appreciate which pencils do what for you. If you have any suggestions or any questions, you can drop me an email or send me a message via twitter or facebook. No spam, my dears. Just honest questions and suggestions.