How to Sharpen Charcoal Pencils with Extra Tips for Beginner

If I ask you how many numbers you’ll give to graphite pencils and charcoal pencils separately, what will be your answer then? Well, I think you’ll just drown in the lake of thinking.

Actually, graphite pencils and charcoal pencils are complementary to each other. This is very true in the sector of drawings.

How to Sharpen Charcoal Pencil

Although most people are familiar with graphite pencil as it is easily available and easy to use in drawing because of the pencil tip and sharpening.

But the artists are in love with the charcoal pencils, as it gives a nice texture of deep color and takes less pressure than graphite.

The biggest challenge is sharpening charcoal pencils. Many users want to skip charcoal pencils because of the sharp issue, but they’ve failed to do as it is very useful.

So what that will be better is to know how to sharpen charcoal pencils easily. In our article, we will attempt to make charcoal pencil-sharpening easy to you.

A Quick Guide to Different Types of Charcoal Pencils

Basically, we’re introduced to 3 types of charcoal pencils for drawings. Those are-

  1. Charcoal pencils wrapped by wood-like graphite pencils.
  2. Paper wrapped pencils like some color pencils.
  3. White charcoal.

In the world of drawing or painting images, the three varieties are most demanded and really worth it. But no sharpener is available yet for charcoal pencils. They’re not like graphite pencils.

People need to sharpen graphite pencils multiple times for a single drawing or art, but if you sharp charcoal pencil once, it’ll serve you long time.

Comparatively, sharping paper-coated pencils are easier, but wooden coated pencils are most popular to people.

Wood coated charcoal pencils are the real charcoal made pencils, paper-wrapped are same also. But the white charcoal pencil is really not a charcoal pencil.

White charcoal pencil is made by some pastel and chalk mixing together in a few processes. Although real charcoal is absent here, it is still known as white charcoal because of its similarity with charcoal pencils.

You’ll find charcoal pencils from 2B to 8B based on hardness and darkness. But none of them is excellent for the regular sharpener. So sharpening is a great issue in the matter of charcoal pencils.

How to Sharpen Charcoal Pencils in Different Ways with Video

How to Sharpen Charcoal Pencils

Finally, we’re in the main course of our blog. To make our topic easier, I would like to divide the whole discussion into a list with a few points.

So let’s proceed in sharpening charcoal pencils.

Ways to Sharpen Charcoal Pencils Effortlessly

Ways to sharpen charcoal pencils

As there are three types of charcoal pencils, and if you do drawing, then you may use all three in your drawing course.

For sharpening wood-coated pencils, you’ll require a knife or a box-cutter. With the wood-coated pencils, you’ll benefit because it gives various useful techniques in the drawing.

To get variations in drawing, you just need to change the position of grabbing the pencils. You can get both thick and thin strokes.

To sharpen paper-wrapped pencils, one will have to pull the string. This is the easiest way to sharpen charcoal, but this type of pencil is not widely used.

Because of the paper wrap, there have disadvantages in using issues. And for white charcoal, you’re recommended to follow the same process as wood-coated charcoal pencils.

Easy Method to Use A Knife in Sharpening Charcoal Pencils

How to use a knife to sharpening charcoal pencils

As there is no other best process to sharp charcoal pencils than a knife or box cutter, you’re required to know the best way to sharpen charcoal pencils with a knife.

For this, you’ll need a sharp or utility knife. If a knife, box cutter, or razor blade is a pencil sharpener, then you need to be 100% cautious while sharpening.

So take your pencil and the knife or box cutter. Box-cutter is much appropriate here as it has a sharp blade. Let the blade come out a half-inch or one inch.

Now take the pencil in one hand and take the knife in the other hand. Put your thumb on the knife’s sidebar and grab the pen with 4 fingers by the other hand.

Now put the left thumb on the other thumb that you already placed on the knife’s sidebar. This is how your hand is safe from any accidents by the blade.

The technique is essential for your safety. If you’re done holding the knife and placing your thumbs properly, it is time to sharpen the pencil.

Now start cutting wood by gently pushing the knife to the upper section of the pencil. Place the knife on the pencil based on how much charcoal you want to be visible.

And rotate the pencil by 4 fingers grabbed for an easy cutting. Keeping your hand secure, simply pushing by thumbs and rotating the pencil and get your charcoal pencil sharp.

Sharpen A Charcoal Pencil With A String

Sharpen a charcoal pencil with a string

The charcoal pencil that is wrapped in paper is usually called china charcoal pencils. Those are easy to sharp with the string it has. Knife or box cutter is totally out of topic in this type of pencil, and the string is the sharpener here.

The string is located on the pencil’s upper part. If you want to sharpen the pencils, then the process is, pull the string to where you want your charcoal to be visible. It can be half-inch to couple of centimeters.

After pulling the string carefully, you’ll see that the paper is opening. Now you’ll have just to peel the paper. Your sharpening is done.

Sharp By A Sanding Block

Sharpen a charcoal pencil with a string

Whatever you use as the sharpener, whether it is a knife or string, you’ll need a sanding block for the final step of better finishing of a charcoal pencil tip.

Basically, sanding block is used for making things even and smooth as there has sandpaper. Lots of teeth of it do the task easier. So after sharpening the pencil with a knife or string, take a sanding block.

Now start rubbing the pencil on it rotating your pencil. Rub until you get your desired sharp tip. But do not put much pressure on the pencil. Do it smoothly and carefully.

Best Way to Sharpen White Charcoal Pencils

How to sharpen white charcoal pencils

Although white charcoal pencils do not have real charcoal items inside, the white material still works likes charcoal. So to sharpen white charcoal pencils, you can follow above mentioned techniques or steps.

There have wood coated, and paper-wrapped white charcoal pencils. If your’s one is wood-coated, then use the knife. And if your pencil is paper-wrapped, then use the string pencil sharpener.

The white charcoal pencil makes your drawing gorgeous as it is mainly for highlighting the variety of strokes. I’ll say white charcoal gives life to your painting. Your image looks by the touch of white charcoal’s tip.

Tips to Sharp Charcoal Pencil without Breaking

Sharpening a charcoal pencil is not what you’ll love to do again and again like the way you do with graphite pencils. Sometimes I love doing graphite pencil-sharpening just like that.

But in the case of charcoal pencil, I’ll try to do this once a week. So a break-free sharpening is vital for my own profit.

While you’ll sharpen your charcoal pencil by knife or blade, avoid the step of pushing much with your thumbs on the knife. If you push much, then out of balance, the charcoal will also get cut by the knife, and it’ll get break.

Another important thing is, do not hurry while sharping the charcoal pencil. Take time to do the work perfectly. You’re doing hurry, and chances of breaking the charcoal are equal to each other.

And while you’re rotating the pencil, do it carefully, taking enough time. The only law for a break-free charcoal pencil sharpening is patience and caution.

While you’re using a string as a sharpener, even then, you should be cautious about peeling carefully. Otherwise, by the touch of your hand, the charcoal may get break. Charcoal is very fragile.

And when for the final task you’re using sanding paper, stay careful then too. Don’t pressurize much. If the charcoal gets break, doing the sanding block task will be a little bit tough.

Caution Needed to Be Followed to Safely Sharpen Charcoal Pencils

We’re done giving you instruction, now few point for the safety reason both you and pencil should be given. So read our safety goggles carefully.

  1. As you’re using a knife or blade to sharpen a wood-coated pencil, keep your hands secure. Do not let your finger come in front of the knife in the process of sharpening.
  2. Put your thumbs on the sidebar of the knife.
  3. While you’ll pull the string, stay careful because this string is very sharp. It may cut your finger.
  4. Do not give much pressure on the pencil to avoid breaking of charcoal.
  5. For a sharp tip, you must use a sand block. But do not give much pressure while you’ll rub the charcoal by rotating. Your hand may get hurt by the sandpaper, and the charcoal may get break.


So we’re finally done giving you instruction and safety points about what we know. Now you know how to sharpen charcoal pencil in different ways, we hope our article will make your job easier to pick the right one for you.

Our only wish is to make job or drawing easier for artists. I know how sensitive the issue of art or painting is to us, for being an artist, no compromise with it.

Try following each step carefully; we hope you’ll face no problem ahead. All the best, and stay blessed.

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Expertise: Content writer

My goal in life is to always be learning. I've spent 25+ years working with my hands and have found the art of building something new to be an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling experience. Through my writing I aim to share some of what I've stumbled upon with the world in hopes others can benefit from my own experiences!