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Art Materials Q&A Hotline

The following inquiries were received from artists contacting our Q&A Hotline. 



What is the difference between Graphite, Charcoal, and Carbon Pencils?

Actually, all three are different forms of carbon.  Graphite is a natural mineral that is mined.  Charcoal is amorphous carbon of vegetable origin such as wood, vines, or other organic matter.  Carbon Black on the other hand, is basically soot produced by the burning natural gas.  Clay is added to the graphite or carbon black pigment to produce different degrees of hardness or softness.  Hence, the range of hardness is from 9H to 9B with 9H being the hardest and 9B being the softness producing the blackest mark.  HB is in the middle of the range.  The range of hardness for charcoal and carbon pencils is limited to 3 or 4 different degrees of hardness usually from a HB to a 6B. 

Although, all three pencils are produced from different forms of carbon their mark making is distinctively different as shown in the illustration, from left to right:  shaded spheres with Graphite 4B, Carbon, & Charcoal pencils.

carbon pencils

Graphite feels smooth as it glides across the paper and yields a shiny silver mark.  Charcoal on the other hand feels more like chalk and produces a very black mark with lots of duct.  Carbon pencils fall in between graphite and charcoal producing a smooth mark, but very black.  Also, carbon does not smear as easily as graphite and charcoal.  



What are Tri-Tone Pencils and how do I use them?

The Koh-I-Noor Tri-Tone Pencil is a colored pencil comprised of three colors. Besides using them on their own, also try burnishing with a white colored pencil or blending with a colorless blender pencil as shown in the center illustration below.


tritone pencil



When I use a pencil sharpener the pencil leads keep breaking, what am I doing wrong? 

If the pencil lead continues to break during sharpening using a handheld pencil sharpener, consider replacing the blade or using another sharpener. Pencil sharpener blades, like razor blades and knife blades, can become dull from continued usage. 

pencil sharpener

Something else to consider: when Koh-I-Noor pencils are manufactured, the entire graphite, charcoal, carbon, colored pencil and watercolor cores are glued the entire length.  Therefore, if the pencil is dropped there is less chance of breakage of the core inside of the pencil.

Chartpak Inc. is affiliated with Thalo, LLC