Water-soluble Materials

Review: Schmincke Liquid Charcoal and ArtGraf Graphite

Have you tried liquid charcoals or water-soluble graphite? The Paint Spot has many new lines of greyish-black drawing materials that are transformed with the addition of water. Below are two demonstrations of four different water-soluble drawing materials.

Watch a time-lapse video of a portrait created in ArtGraf water soluble graphite.

Neutral Water-soluble materials: Is it Drawing or Is it Painting?

While I was taking these new tools for a spin, I recalled a heated discussion in art school. What is the line between drawing and painting? (pun intended). Pencils, sticks, and pens create lines, outlines, and contour, making shapes that we call drawing. Marks, cross-hatching, and smudging make tones and shadows to create form – this is still drawing. Pastels are drawing in colour, but then again, when the artist uses heavy aggressive line work, scrubbing, and rubbing to render shapes, it can also be described as a painterly use of colour. My university instructor attempted to clarify it by saying all work in colour is painting and all work in black and white is drawing.

Art schools might want clear definitions but I believe the art materials manufacturing industry loves to give artists tools to break the rules. Graphite and charcoal are neutral, without colour, so they are naturally drawing. But what happens when you introduce water and a brush to charcoal and graphite; is it still drawing?

More on the new Liquid Charcoals

In the videos, you will see how to work in tones and shapes. Forms are created first and outlines are rarely used. Take advantage of the subtle range of grey shades, stretching out the graduations by diluting the charcoal or graphite with water. Create light tones, followed by dark shadows built from many layers of dark washes. I would call this painting-with-drawing-materials. But honestly, you can just call it fun and leave the debate to the sticklers.

A side-by-side comparison of 4 different liquid charcoals are illustrated in this video.

Top 10 Tools to Use with Water-Soluble Materials, Graphite or Charcoal

  1. Synthetic Brush flat
  2. Synthetic Brush round
  3. Water Brush
  4. Porcelain Palettes
  5. Water Cup
  6. Fluid Watercolour Paper
  7. Clairfontaine Paint On Paper
  8. Etchr Watercolour Sketchbooks
  9. Stonehenge Watercolour Paper
  10. Pipettes to dispense measured amounts of water


Kim Fjordbotten: As the owner of The Paint Spot, Kim Fjordbotten is passionate about helping artists use materials and make art. She is available as a speaker and educator for teachers and art associations. The Paint Spot offers exhibitions, classes, and beautiful art materials to inspire your creativity.

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