Schmincke Liquid Charcoal Review Image

REVIEW: Schmincke Liquid Charcoal

I’ve always liked charcoal drawings, but the dust and constant smudging have kept me from doing much with it. Now, the new Schmincke Liquid Charcoal colors make it possible to use without that muss and fuss!

The charcoal pigments in Schmincke’s three new Liquid Charcoal range are made by charring peach stones, cherry pits, and grape seeds. These pigments are combined with gum arabic.  While not entirely dust-free once dry, they are dust-free while painting. Liquid Charcoal can also make an interesting addition to a watercolor palette.

The colors are vegan.

Why Liquid Charcoal Instead of Black Watercolor?

Charcoal Close-up View

The biggest difference is that when you use liquid charcoal, you have a charcoal drawing when it dries, rather than a black and white watercolor painting.

I mentioned dust-free above.  That is only when you are painting it on. When the liquid charcoal dries, you do get dust. The paper makes a BIG difference. On some papers, rough or cold-press watercolor for instance, there is little to no dust.  On a rice paper, or sketching paper, there is quite a bit of dust.

The photo above shows you what the liquid charcoal looks like after it has dried in the pan. You can even draw with it, though it is very crumbly. But, more importantly, it will rewet easily.

Liquid Charcoal looks like watercolor, and in some ways acts like watercolor, but it doesn’t disperse like watercolor. Even dropped into puddles of water, the charcoal barely moves. It’s a lot more like drawing with a brush than painting with a brush. A bit more like using ink than watercolor in that respect, but you get the finish you’d have with charcoal.

You can erase the dried charcoal, though It doesn’t erase on all papers.

Schmincke Liquid Charcoal – The Colors

Schmincke Liquid Charcoal Colors

The liquid charcoal comes in three colors, all vegan, and are all categorized as the pigment PBk8.

The difference in colors is subtle, and can be seen best in tints.

  • Grape Seed Black – cold black-grey tint with blue undertone. Made from charred grape seeds.
  • Cherry Pit Black – warm brown tint. Made from charred cherry pits.
  • Peach Stone Black – neutral gray/black. Made from charred peach stones.

You can get a range of values through the amount of water. At masstone – the color straight from the tube with just enough water to spread – is a deep, dark black for all three colors. At this strength there is little difference in color. From there you can go through medium black to dark gray, medium gray, light gray and a gray tint. The more water added the more apparent the difference in color is.

All three colors granulate beautifully.

I haven’t noticed any odor, though I don’t have the best sense of smell so I won’t guarantee there isn’t one.

A friend gave me samples of all three colors, but I bought a tube of the Cherry Pit Black, so most of my examples are done in that color.

As of this writing these colors are only available in 35 ml tubes, so the initial cost is a little high, but a little goes a long way, so the tubes will last you a long time.

Mixing with Watercolor

Schmincke Liquid Charcoal mixed with watercolor

The liquid charcoal can be mixed with watercolor to increase granulation, or if you wanted to be able to smudge or erase areas after the painting has dried. I’m not certain how this would affect lightfastness. 

The black in the cards above is all charcoal, the yellows and reds are watercolor, and the green is mix of watercolor and charcoal.  I added the light stripes by erasing once this was dried.  For no good reason, except to show that I could erase it. I could have erased it even more.

This isn’t something I would do very often, but I can think of occasions where it would come in handy.

I’d take care not to get the charcoal mixed into the watercolor, as it could affect later paintings if you do.

Schmincke Liquid Charcoal – Performance

Schmincke Liquid Charcoal Chinese dragon painting example

There are a variety of ways to use the liquid charcoal, and techniques can be performed while using it from the tube or after it has dried.

The example above was done on smooth mixed media paper. I used a lot of water, but there was little dispersion — you can see what little there was in the soft, feathery edges, especially noticeable on the dragon’s forehead. I used three layers. The initial wash, which resulted in a light gray and those feathery edges. Once dry, I added a second wash for the shading, the medium gray areas. The dark details, stripes and dots were done in a third layer, using very little water.

While it’s wet, you can use the charcoal like paint, attaining light to dark values by the amount of water you use. You can do washes, layer color wet on dry, dry brush or lift color with a damp brush. You can use various brushes for mark-making — leaf shapes, thin lines, splatter, etc. — just like you would with any paint.

Once dry, you can erase or lift color with a damp brush, smudge (accidentally or on purpose), or use dried bits of the charcoal to add drawn lines.

The smudging does mean that your work needs to be sealed if you want it to last. A pencil fixative is better for this purpose than a varnish, and you should use something made to work with charcoal.

Schmincke Liquid Charcoal cat silhouette

My favorite way to use it! 

This sketch of a cat was done quickly, in one brush stroke, with a very wet brush on cold-pressed paper.  I used a thin wash with a goodly amount of charcoal in it. It’s a very small sketch about 2 inches high, so the color was enough to cover evenly on the textured paper.

Here you really see the granulation and the nice shading that occurs naturally.

Schmincke Liquid Charcoal painting example

This cow was done on a smooth hot press paper. I used a mix with lots of water, and not so much charcoal to start the cow.  You can see the feathery result on the face, but I let the brush get drier, and you can see the white speckles as my strokes turned into dry brushing on the body.

The background was done much the same way, though in layers, using different mixes of water to charcoal to get the variations in gray and in texture. I did this using some of the samples my friend sent me, so that helped me get even more variation. I should have taken notes, because now I don’t remember what color I used where.

After everything dried, I used mixed masstone color with just enough water to help it spread, and painted the darkest values.  


To wrap up, I wanted to talk about the dust a little more.  As I mentioned above, the paper makes a difference.  I’m fairly sensitive to dust, and it does affect me unless I’m careful to avoid getting it on my hands, and I wear a mask when I’m brushing off excess. I’ll stick to using it on rough or cold-pressed watercolor paper because it seems to create the least amount of dust.

If you have respiratory problems or just prefer to avoid dust, I would not recommend this product. 

Barring that kind of problem, it’s a lot of fun to use, and you can get some fabulous effects with it.



Having received some samples of Schmincke’s Liquid Charcoal from a friend, I decided to purchase a tube for myself, and thought other people would be interested in the product. Schmincke did not ask for, or know about this review. I received no other considerations, though this post may contain affiliate links which help support the Doodlewash Community. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Recommended2 recommendationsPublished in Art Supply Reviews

12 thoughts on “REVIEW: Schmincke Liquid Charcoal

  1. Hello Ms. Sandra,

    Liquid Charcoal! Wow!!! I’ve discovered so many new things through your reviews and learned so much more. And before I forget… I loved your last review too. Thanks so much! A small question had popped up but it vanished suddenly, so I may write again🙈 But thanks all the same🙂


    Smiling Face with Heart Eyes
    • sandra-strait

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