The key to becoming a great artist is learning how to keep your sketching supplies in good condition. So, you should master the basics of sharpening a charcoal pencil.

When it comes to sharpening charcoal pencils, effectiveness and precision are key. To remove wood surrounding the charcoal, you can use a knife or a blade in addition to a traditional pencil sharpener. Before sketching, others prefer to smooth but sharpen the surface with sandpaper.

This article will help you sharpen a charcoal pencil correctly without the help of a pencil sharpener. You will be able to create stunning masterpieces without having to worry about downtime with this tutorial.

Alternatives to Knives

Alternatives to Knives

In addition to the utility knife, there are other options, such as a box cutter knife with retractable blades and precision knives. 

Sharpening charcoal pencils on a daily basis requires a box cutter knife, which is easy to use and long-lasting. The blade of the device is retractable, so if you try to scrape too hard, it could snap off.

Precision knives are also a fantastic option due to their exceptional sharpness and variety of sizes. Sharpening a charcoal pencil can be difficult due to the long stem of a precision knife. If you want to avoid wasting charcoal in the pencil’s core, you must learn the proper way to scrape.


Step 1: Finding a hard surface and clearing a space is the

Sharpening pencils creates a lot of debris, so it’s best to do it in an area that won’t produce a lot of mess when it’s time to clean up. This is not just something you do before sketching.

All your materials should be prepared and placed on top of a table or hard surface. Clean up the mess right afterward with a broom and dustpan.

Step 2: Protect your eyes

Protect your eyes

It is important to sharpen a charcoal pencil safely. Wearing safety goggles is the best way to avoid getting wood in your eyes when you work with sharp objects. 

If it’s your first time sharpening charcoal pencils, it might be a messy process because you have to look very closely at the pencil. If you are going to use goggles, be sure to wear them properly.

Step 3: Carve off the wood around the cuts

Carve off the wood around the cuts

Cutting the wood encasing your charcoal pencil carefully begins now. By pushing the blade away from the carving motion with your knife of choice, you can achieve this. Hold the pencil underneath with your index finger and carve off the wood with the thumb of your dominant hand.

Avoid careless sharpening techniques such as putting your index finger on the tip or directly behind the tip as they can easily obstruct the blade and cause a cut to your finger. Be sure your fingers and hands remain behind the blade’s sharp edge so you can rotate the blade consistently to remove layers of wood evenly. 

If you can see a millimeter of charcoal already on the edge of the blade, you are not sharpening too hard. As soon as you begin sanding, you run the risk of breaking the charcoal if you carve out too much.

Step 4: Sand the charcoal pencil  

In order to properly sand a sharpened charcoal pencil, this is the most important step. You can achieve the fine tip you desire by rubbing the charcoal properly.

Place the pencil against the sanding block or sandpaper while being careful to not damage it. Ensure that the charcoal pencil is angled correctly between the sanding paper or block. Avoid gaps and don’t apply too much pressure since this could dull the charcoal or cut it off.

Here is a video tutorial you can check out:

Created by Creativebug Studios

Step 5: Clean Up!

The cleaning up of all the debris caused by sharpening charcoal pencils is a messy task, so be sure to have a broom and dustpan handy. Use wet wipes or a damp cloth to remove any charcoal dust that may have gotten on nearby surfaces. 


You will be able to implement better strokes and outlines on a canvas if you learn how to sharpen your charcoal pencils correctly.

It’s a handy trick that many amateur artists often overlook, whether they want to save a few bucks or simply achieve better sharpening results.

This guide was helpful to you, right? Share your thoughts below. For more information on the best woodless charcoal pencils, check out our buying guide

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