The charcoal pigments in Schmincke’s new Liquid Charcoal range are made by charring peach stones, cherry pits, and grape seeds. These pigments are combined with gum arabic, and the result is a dust-free paint for artists who work with charcoal. Liquid Charcoal can also make an interesting addition to a watercolour palette. Artist Anna Zadorozhnaya was one of the first to try the new paints, and she shares her findings with us.
A review of Schmincke’s new Liquid Charcoal paints
by Anna Zadorozhnaya
How is charcoal used in drawing? There are two main ways to use it:
- As an independent drawing material, ideal for line drawing, grisaille and tonal sketches.
- As an underdrawing for oil or acrylic painting.
The main difficulty in painting with traditional dry charcoal is that it dirties your hands, the table, and everything around you. Of course, it can be washed off with water, but it is very easy to accidentally smudge the drawing on the paper with your hand while using it.
In coming up with a solution to this problem, Schmincke have produced a very convenient format for this material. Liquid Charcoal is available in 35ml tubes, and its consistency is very similar to gouache. To start working, you can squeeze a little bit of Liquid Charcoal on the palette, take a brush, and start painting. In doing so, all surfaces around are easier to keep clean.
Schmincke’s Liquid Charcoal is available in three colour variations. The difference in colour temperature is made possible by the way the pigment is made- the seeds of the different fruits (collected in Europe) are charred in barrels. Grape Seed Black gives a cold black-grey tint with blue undertone, Cherry Pit Black has a very warm brown tint, and Peach Stone Black gives a tint that ranges from neutral black to neutral grey depending on the thickness of the layer. These shades may slightly vary from batch to batch because natural pigments are used in the production.
Like in gouache and watercolour, gum arabic is the main binder, so Liquid Charcoal can be diluted with water. The water solubility of the material has undeniable advantages – you can easily control its tone and saturation, which is indispensable in tonal drawing, and it can also be used very quickly and effectively to cover large surfaces.
Because the charcoal is bound with gum arabic, Liquid Charcoal smudges much less than charcoal in its traditional dry form, but some of the characteristics of the traditional material also remain true. Depending on the thickness of the layer and the texture of the paper, it can be wiped off to a greater or lesser extent: in the case of smooth paper and a thick layer of paint, it can easily be smudged, but if the paper is textured and the paint is heavily diluted with water, there is almost no smudging.
It is possible to achieve different tonal gradation not only by diluting charcoal with water, but also by lifting it from the paper surface, which can be done in two ways – with an eraser, or a brush with pure water. According to the results of my tests, the brush with water easily wipes the charcoal down to white paper, the eraser gives a softer edge and a gentler outline, without washing the material off completely.
Using Liquid Charcoal as a base and underpainting with oil or acrylic, subsequent paints do not become muddied due to higher adhesion of the bound carbon pigments. Liquid Charcoal is more firmly fixed to the canvas than traditional charcoal, and stays in place after fairly intense brush movements on top.
In conclusion, Schmincke Liquid Charcoal offers excellent possibilities for painting both as a stand-alone material and as a base for acrylic and oil paint. It is much less messy, while retaining the specific characteristics of the material – matte texture on the surface, the possibility of variety of smooth tonal transitions, and ease of covering large areas.
Schmincke Liquid Charcoal can be found here.
Anna Zadorozhnaya was born and lives in Moscow, Russia. Anna has an MA in Art from Oxford Brookes University and is a da Vinci and Schmincke ambassador. Anna is also a member of the International Federation of Aquarellists.
Her watercolour paintings can be found on her instagram page
More articles by Anna Zadorozhnaya:
- What is Watercolour Granulation?
- How Da Vinci Watercolour Brushes are Made
- Review of Jackson’s Artist Watercolours
- Painting with Schmincke Super Granulating Watercolours