This wonderful medium can also be acquired in pencil form. The degree of softness will vary with the manufacturer. Another type of charcoal pencil comes wrapped in a paper casing that you peel to expose the charcoal. One of my favorites is a '/4-inch charcoal stick that fits into a metal or plastic holder —a wonderful sketching tool. You can also acquire sticks of compressed charcoal with carbon added. You get greater coverage and rich black from them. Then you have the natural vine charcoal, which is easy to apply and to blend. All forms are worth trying.
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