Most people think of erasers as tools whose sole purpose is to remove mistakes from their drawings. Instead, see your erasers as drawing tools, commanding just as important a role as your sticks of charcoal. If you tone your paper entirely with vine charcoal (as mentioned above), you can use your erasers to block out dramatic highlights out of the grey tone of the paper. This approach really makes you feel like you are drawing with white paint because the eraser marks are so visible in the toned paper.
Many students draw white chalk into their charcoal drawings in order to create bright highlights. I don’t recommend this approach, because the white of the chalk never matches the white of the paper. Inevitably, either the paper or the chalk always looks more yellow than the other, and having two different whites in your charcoal drawing looks sloppy and inconsistent. The white chalk is too noticeable and looks like you’re trying to clean up mistakes in the drawing.
If you really want a very bright, luminous area of white in your drawing, plan in advance which areas of your drawing you want to remain the white of the page, and leave those areas completely untouched by the charcoal. Remember, once the vine or compressed charcoal touch the paper, you will never ever get the paper back to it’s original brightness. Planning in advance is a win-win situation; if you ultimately decide you don’t need those areas to be so bright, it’s easy to cover them with charcoal.
Art Supply Tips
Charcoal drawing supply set
white plastic erasers
layering & mixing charcoal