Drawings On Canvas: Pros & Cons Of 6 Mediums!

Drawings On CanvasOne of the most fun and yet also the most daunting aspects of sketching for the beginning artist is your drawing mediums. How do you know what to select? Which one is best? The thing is, when it comes to what is ‘best’ I really couldn’t tell you, because this is something that you, as the artist, are going to decide.

This is because all of the mediums have their own strengths and weaknesses and also because hey, who says you have to use just one?

Today I’m going to talk about the most popular sketching mediums and give you a few opinions on some great ways to use them, followed by an explanation of what makes each a great medium and what kind of caveats that you can expect. We’ll follow that up with an ‘at a glance’ pros and cons section for those of you who are in a hurry and in the end, I hope that you’ll have a better idea of what you’d like to be sketching with from the list.

Let’s talk about drawings on canvas (see here for a guide on transferring to canvas) and the pros and cons of your chosen mediums!!

Selecting your favorite medium or mediums for sketching

Finding the right medium is a process of trial and error and it doesn’t have to be terrifying. I recommend giving each a try to see what you can do because aside from being fun, what you might sketch in pencil is going to look significantly different in ink, charcoal, or chalk!

This makes it fun, so rather than worry about it, practice with what you’ve got and slowly build up your collection of new mediums. As you get more tools, try sketching some of the same things that you’ve done before for giggle. This way you really get a taste of the different flavors of each.

Today we’ll discuss the merits and caveats of the following mediums:

  • Chalk
  • Charcoal
  • Colored Pencils
  • Graphite Pencils
  • Ink
  • Markers

There is no wrong choice here, as you are about to see, so let’s get started with a little commentary and review and you can see what you think.


Chalk is a lot of fun and it’s extremely affordable. You can get it in traditional tube/stick shapes as well as blocks for coloring and shading and it produces some soft, beautiful illustrations with a little practice. I also like that you don’t even have to apply it directly, as you can get some interesting effects by scraping a little of the chalk off and applying that directly to your canvas.

It’s also super-easy to clean up after and that is extremely appealing when you just want to have a little fun with your art. Let’s get a little breakdown on some of the highlights and the caveats that come with chalk.

What makes this a great medium?chalk for sketching

If you haven’t played with chalks yet, there is a whole lot to love waiting for you when you try out this medium. First off, you’ve got a great color range to choose from. It also shows up on black and other colored papers, making for a little variety as you escape from the standard white canvas. You can mix colors, blend them, or layer them, and while you might think that chalk is for kids, think again – you can produce professional grade work once you’ve adjusted to drawing with your chalks. (click here to see some great ideas for drawing simple cute pictures in chalk)

What are the caveats of using this medium?

Chalks do have their caveats, like any medium, and the first one is that they are a little messy. That powder gets around and your hands will get thoroughly chalked, plus you need some good ventilation so that you aren’t breathing the dust. Erasing it can be problematical as well, so you have to be sure about your strokes. Finally, it can smudge quite easily, so you have to be careful and you’ll want to take steps to preserve your work.

Top Pros at a glance:

  • Many colors
  • Blend, mix, or layer possible
  • Shows up easily on colored paper

Top Cons at a glance:

  • Messy
  • Smudges if you aren’t careful
  • Hard to erase completely


Charcoal is another great sketching medium. Easily erased when used with a light hand, you can use many different forms (of black and white), including pencils, soft charcoals, or even just the powder for creating some amazing sketches and contrasts that seem ready to pop right off the page. I like that with the pencils you get precision for your sketches, but if you turn that pencil on its side you can create wide, solid masses with ease.

What makes this a great medium?

When it comes to shadows, charcoal is simply the best. It blends well and with a little practice in the pressure that you use then your lines are light or dark as-needed. Like chalk it’s great on colored papers

“When it comes to shadows, charcoal is simply the best.”

and you can whip-up photo-quality sketches if you’ve worked up the artistic chops for it.

What are the caveats of using this medium?

Smudging is a big problem, as with chalk, and you do need to spray-fix charcoal after you’ve finished your work. It’s easy to erase when it’s fine lines but the thicker ones… eh, not so much. It’s also dusty and you need to keep a sharpener handy and you’ll be using it often.

Pros at a glance:

  • Shadow and contrast
  • Blends easily
  • Great with detail
  • Works on colored paper

Cons at a glance:

  • Smudging – must be spray fixed
  • Some portions difficult to erase
  • Dust particles
  • Requires frequent sharpening


Colored Pencils

colored pencil sketchesColored pencils are great on their own even with other mediums, such as paints. This is because they have a wax base that is resistant to some paints and once you discover which ones, you can create some interesting blends and contrasts. You can also get watercolor pencils and they’ll work well with your water-based paints. So, how do they rate overall? I’ll tell you what stuck out the most.

What makes this a great medium?

Colored pencils come in a wide variety of colors and layer quite well in your drawings. Colors even mix, so you can have a lot of fun with very little effort on your part. They also come in watercolor varieties and you can purchase special colorless blending pencils to use on our work as well.

What are the caveats of using this medium?

Erasing colored pencils is difficult due to the wax base, so you have to be careful. They can also break easily and you have to do layering to enrich color, rather than simply push harder on your pencil. Also, if you push too hard, then your layering is quite limited.

Pros at a glance:

  • Lots of colors
  • Mix them  for drawings on canvas
  • Watercolor and blend pencils available

Cons at a glance:

  • Hard to erase
  • Easily broken
  • Layering has a learning curve

Graphite Pencils

Probably the number one medium, everybody likes the graphite pencil. Typically, the 4H or 6H is employed for basic sketching for fun, for a painting guide, or for producing a fine piece of art without having to carry a huge assortment of good. It’s one medium you are always sure to have handy.

What makes this a great medium?

What’s there to say about pencils? Well, they come in mechanical and standard variety and are the go-to staple for drawing, tracing, and outlining, and you get extremely stable control that is easily erased as-needed.

What are the caveats of using this medium?

While you can certainly make dark lines, they have a touch of gray that is inescapably the ‘pencil look’. Pencil marks are also easy to smudge and you do have to spend a lot of time sharpening if you are using old-school pencils.

Pros at a glance:

  • Great for drawing and tracing alike
  • Easy to control
  • Easy to erase (as long as marks aren’t too deep)

Cons at a glance:

  • Your marks aren’t truly black
  • Requires a lot of sharpening maintenance if you don’t go with mechanical


India Ink

When you’ve worked a long time to build up your experience, India ink is a really rewarding medium. You can make really striking sketches that are detailed and frankly, quite sharp. It’s one of my favorite mediums, except where mistakes are involved, but the finished product of a good ink sketch just looks so perfect that it’s hard not to love the medium. Let’s go into the pros and cons of this sharp and sexy sketching option.

What makes this a great medium?

There’s no contrast quite like black and white and India ink truly delivers here. Not only can you use it with your favorite pen-types, India ink can also be brushed on like paint and the results are spectacular. You can thin it with some water, as well, so that you can have varying shades in your work. Honestly, I think that I like the challenge of going without colors that this medium provides the most.

What are the caveats of using this medium?india ink art

Now that we’ve discussed the fun parts, there are some headaches when it comes to using India ink that you are probably aware of. First off, India ink has a nasty tendency to end up on your clothes and all sorts of

“India ink has a nasty tendency to end up on your clothes”

other places. You can’t erase it from your canvas, either, and so you’d better be extremely careful. That leads us to the final caveat – you need serious levels of control to manage and properly use this medium, so it’s gonna take LOTS of practice.

Pros at a glance:

  • Beautiful contrast
  • Can be painted on with brushes or drawn in with pens
  • May be thinned for amazing shading

Cons at a glance:

  • Gets on everything (maybe that’s just me?)
  • Mistakes can’t be erased
  • Requires advanced skill levels for effective use



Markers can be a lot of fun. You get an amazing amount of ink saturation for some truly deep colors and if you are going with acrylic markers then you can do some detail work with your drawing hand rather than having to brush everything in. This can make for some interesting compositions on your canvas and that is really the name of the game!

What makes this a great medium?

First off, markers work really well with India ink if you want to saturate an area and don’t feel like risking clogging up your pen. While they can dry out fairly easily over time, you can rejuvenate them by adding a little and ink to your marker and then refilling again with your standard inks. For colorful work, you’ve got lots of choices of markers and if can draw swiftly you can create some interesting compositions quite quickly.

What are the caveats of using this medium?

The ink can soak through fairly easily if too much pressure is applied, and this can be quite irritating. Whie you can make some interesting things with marker, I personally just tend to use it more with other mediums rather than on its own, but this is just a personal observation and might not be the issue with your own experience.

Pros at a glance:

  • Can complement India ink drawing
  • Easy to refill and re-use
  • Lots of colors
  • Quick application

Cons at a glance:

  • Inks can soak through quite easily
  • More of a ‘supportive’ medium for many artists, rather than a primary

Some final words on drawing mediums

As you can see, each medium does indeed have it’s owns pros and cons but there really is not a bad decision in the bunch. Each of them offers their own flavor to add to your drawings on canvas and is well-worth your time to experiment with.

Hopefully this list of pros and cons has given you a few ideas as to which mediums you would like to work with next but, if at all possible, try to get a sampling of each of these mediums to play with. Reading about them and actually using them are two very different things and you might just find that a medium you thought poorly of before really works well along with your current favorite medium.

Find out what you can do with each one alone and then when you have some free time, try a little mix and match to see which ones play best together in your work.

You’ll be very happy that you did!


Drawings On Canvas


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