I noticed that in the following picture there are at least 3 kinds of charcoal pencils:

  1. Wooden charcoal pencil with just the word soft written on it.
  2. Paper wrapped charcoal pencil with 600-H written on it.
  3. White charcoal pencil with 558 written on it.

    • Are there more varieties of charcoal pencils? What are their properties that make them different from each other?
    • How does paper wrapping effect the charcoal pencil as compared to wood?
    • Why would there be specific number written on paper wrapped pencil but not on wooden one?

enter image description here


  • The existing answer is really quite accurate. Is there anything else you need answered, or would you be willing to accept it?
    – user24
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 18:25

2 Answers 2


These charcoal pencils are just a demonstration of the styles of pencil you might encounter.

Wooden Coated Charcoal

The first pencil, labeled "soft" is a softer charcoal pencil, coated in wood. Wooden charcoal pencils are generally cheaper and require a sharp blade (ex exacto knife) to sharpen them. They would not easily sharpen in a traditional pencil sharpener as the charcoal is so soft that a regular sharpener would grind and break the charcoal during the sharpening process.

Paper Coated Charcoal

The second pencil is coated in paper. Paper coated pencils are generally more expensive, but provide the ease of being able to reveal more of the charcoal by simply pulling the string and unraveling the paper rather than sharpening the pencil with a blade. The 600-H identification on the pencil is just Prang's model number for that pencil and means nothing with respect to the charcoal grade.

White Charcoal

The 558 is General's line of white charcoal pencil and, like the 600-H is proprietary to the company and has no real meaning with respect to the charcoal.

White charcoal is obviously different from black charcoal but is used in much the same way, but in reverse. White charcoal is a great way to come back after the work is finished to really bring out highlights and shines to be a "whiter than white" which brings contrast and boldness to an image.

White charcoal really isn't charcoal at all, but a type of pastel or Conté, often chalky and meant to be used with charcoal. It can be made from mixing white pigment with some type of binder, but the exact makings are generally proprietary and not disclosed.


I like the Carbon pencil. Wolff's Carbon by Royal Sovereign is the brand I have, but there are others.

The Carbon pencil is a combination of charcoal and graphite. They draw smoothly, and can be smudged. There is no grit like charcoal alone. I use them as a layout for watercolor and pastel work, but I like to see the black outlines in my work. The Carbon pencil is easily erased with a putty eraser.


  • 1
    This doesn't seem like an answer to the question. You are talking about Carbon pencils while the question is asking about the different kinds of charcoal pencils.
    – Matt
    Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 12:06
  • @Matt I see your point. That being said, if a carbon pencil is a combination of charcoal and graphite, it sounds like it is a type of charcoal pencil?
    – Catija
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 13:47
  • 1
    @Matt Clarification on Carbon pencils. The point of the question is really about making a very black mark, as does charcoal, but with a thinner more controlled line, as does a charcoal pencil. Thus, the carbon pencil does the trick. It is part charcoal and part graphite. The charcoal is very finely ground so is not gritty like most charcoal pencils. The graphite is added as a sort of lubricant to make the application smooth and give you nice control over a line. dc
    – dscapuano
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 16:51

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