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The modern lead pencil consists of a mixture of pigment (usually graphite, but can be coloured pigment or charcoal) and graphite in a wooden or plastic casing. An early form of  pencil used by the ancient Egyptians and Romans was the stylus. This was a thin metal stick usually made from lead  and used for scratching in papyrus, a form of early paper. 

Artists who are interested in creating a full range of tones from light grey to black, can do so with pencil drawing, as they come in varying grades of softness and hardness. Many pencils are graded on the European system using a sequence from ‘H’ (for hardness) to ‘B’ (for blackness), as well as ‘F’ (for fine point). They also come in a range of colours, with some being water-soluble to give a watercolour effect.


The term has two meanings, firstly as a preparatory drawing for a painting, stained glass or tapestry. They were frequently used in the production of frescoes.

Secondly, in modern print media, a cartoon is a humorous drawing, often with ironic or satirical undertones. It can be a series of drawings that tells a story, such as in a strip cartoon. The usage of these types of cartoons can be dated back to 1843, when ‘Punch’ magazine used the term when describing the satirical drawings in its pages.


A drawing material made from crushed rock or earths, similar in appearance and consistency to pastels. There are three main types namely white, red (or sanguine) and black chalk. Natural white chalk is obtained from the chalk variety of calcite or soapstone, natural red chalk from the red ochre variety of haematite and natural black chalk from carbonaceous shale. Chalk is applied dry to paper, and colours can be blended together by the artist, as the material smudges easily.

Today processed coloured chalks are produced by mixing the limestone rock used in white chalk with pigments, water, and a binding agent such as gum. A technique especially favoured by French artists of the eighteenth century was called ‘aux trois crayons’. It was a combination of red, black and white natural chalks, usually on a yellowish, or off-white paper.


A pastel is a stick of colour made from powdered pigment bound with resin or gum. Dry pastels create marks which are soft and fragile which can be blended with the fingers, and are available in more than 600 tints. A fixative needs to be applied to protect the delicate material. 

Oil pastels come in a more limited range of colours and are greasier, but stick better to paper. Pastels reached their height of popularity in the 18th century although they became fashionable again at the end of the 19th century.


Charcoal has great flexibility and is often used for making large, dynamic drawings or for making rough sketches of an image before painting. It is soft and delicate and is used to give both a strong or soft effect, or smudged for textured effects and shading.

Vine charcoal is the most widely used form, created from charred willow twigs. Compressed charcoal is made from charcoal powder mixed with gum binder, and is used in charcoal pencils. It is usually preserved with the application of a fixative.


A pencil or stick of coloured chalk, charcoal or wax used for drawing. Crayons have the advantages of being  easy to work with, inexpensive and available in a wide variety of colours. The word ‘crayon’ originates from the the seventeenth century French word 'craie' meaning ‘chalk.’


A liquid containing various pigments or dyes, used for writing, printing, drawing, or painting. Some varieties of drawing inks include:

  • Iron-gall ink  - Most Renaissance pen drawings were made using iron-gall ink. It was made from gallic acid taken from the nut-galls of oak trees. Although almost black when first applied, the ink turns brown with time.
  • Carbon ink – Used by the ancient Chinese and Egyptians, but not used widely in Europe until the sixteenth century. Carbon particles were obtained from the soot of burning oils, resins or resinous woods, or the charcoal of many kinds of woods. The black particles were then ground to a powder and combined with a binding medium.
  • Indian or Chinese ink – Essentially lamp-black (carbon ink) mixed with gum and resin and hardened by baking. It is waterproof and the resin gives the line a sheen.
  • Bistre – a brown ink made by extracting soluble tars from wood soot.  It was a popular drawing ink in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
  • Sepia – A pigment ranging from black to yellow-brown, extracted from  the ink-bag of the cuttlefish. It did not become popular as a drawing medium until the end of the eighteenth century.

Printing ink is an oil-based fluid different from the water-based liquid used for writing. It was developed by Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press and movable type. The ink is made by grinding lamp-black and mixing it with oil.


  • Goldman, Paul, 1988. Looking at prints, drawings and watercolours: a guide to technical terms. London: British Museum Press ; Malibu, California: J. Paul Getty Museum.
  • National Portrait Gallery, ‘Glossary of art terms’