Cathleen Lengyel > Scribbles > Artist Help > Basics > Erasers, For More Than Mistakes

Erasers, For More Than Mistakes

Erasers.  We generally think of that pink thing on the end of our pencils or the pink rectangle that we use for our mistakes.  In graphite drawing, erasers are much more than that!  Did you know you can draw with erasers?  Did you know graphite artists use many kinds of erasers and none of them are pink? In today’s post will take a look at some of the different types of erasers and how they are used beyond cleaning up mistakes.

Pink Erasers

pinkeraser I’m starting with the familiar pink erasers because those are the ones most people think of when the word eraser is mentioned. While these wonderful erasers work great for correcting mistakes made with our #2 pencils, they are not suggested to use when you’re working in graphite.  These erasers, besides leaving crumbs all over, tend to smudge graphite.  They will also damage/crush the tooth of the paper you’re drawing on and some artists have even reported that they can leave a pink color on the paper.  That’s something you definitely do not want!  So when it comes to graphite drawing, leave the pink erasers in your drawer and save them for your everyday uses.

So what do graphite artists use?

Graphite artists have a wonderful array of eraser types to choose from for our work!  Each kind has it’s own use.  I personally utilize several types of erasers on every drawing I create.  I’ll begin with the most common go to eraser for graphite artists….
Prismacolor Kneaded Erasers
Prismacolor Kneaded Erasers
Kneaded Erasers
The kneaded eraser is usually a gray colored square eraser packaged in plastic.  I use the Prismacolor kneaded eraser.  They are inexpensive, and one of the most important tools for graphite artists. To use the eraser, you hold it in your hand to help warm it up and begin rolling it between your hands.  As it warms up it becomes pliable and you’ll be able to squish it into any shape you need!  It’s a fun eraser, because it makes you feel like you’re playing with clay (or silly putty). Kneaded erasers are not used in a back and forth motion.  You also don’t want to press hard and “scrub” at the graphite on your paper.  These erasers pick up the graphite on your paper by the simple pressure of touching them to your paper.  This is an important step as the eraser works by actually “lifting” the graphite off of the paper. While kneaded erasers will not totally remove all the graphite (down the white paper), they remove the excess of graphite in turn making your other erasers more efficient. The fact that they are so pliable means you can make them into any shape and even roll them into a tiny point, so you can erase even the smallest of places in your graphite drawing.
Staedtler Mars Plastic Factis Plastic Factis Extra Soft
Staedtler Mars Plastic
Factis Plastic
Factis Extra Soft
White Plastic/Vinyl Erasers
The white plastic and vinyl erasers are your next step in graphite removal, after you’ve dabbed off graphite with your kneaded eraser.  There are several brands to choose from when buying a white eraser.  I use two brands:  the Factis Plastic erasers and the Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser.  These erasers will generally take the remaining graphite off of the paper.  I have to say, the Staedtler Mars eraser does remove graphite just a bit better than the Factis. Even though these erasers can not be kneaded in your hand, you can still use them to erase small areas.  I keep an Exacto knife in my supplies and one of it’s uses is to slice off small portions of my plastic erasers when needed. These are “dust free” erasers, but they will leave crumbs, so it’s good to keep a brush handy to gently wipe away the crumbs.  Most artists use a drafting brush for that purpose.
Factis Black 18 Eraser
Factis Black 18 Eraser
Generals Factis Black 18 Eraser
This eraser is made specifically for graphite and charcoal.  I’ve found it more useful when I need to erase the charcoal and prefer my white vinyl erasers for graphite.  Like the vinyl, this eraser leaves some crumbs on your paper.  Remember: Never brush away eraser crumbs with your hands, always use a brush!
Bostik Blu Tak   / Aleene’s Craft Tack Putty
Bostik Blu Tak is a wall adhesive putty that can be found primarily in the United Kingdom.  Many European artists rave about it!  They all agree that Blu Tak works even better than kneaded erasers for removing graphite.  I do not have any personal experience with it, but I am looking forward to purchasing some through Amazon and giving it a try! An American artist recently mentioned an equivalent here in the states.  She said she found that Aleene’s Craft Tack Putty works just as well if not better than Blu Tak. It is labeled as “Acid Free.”  I plan to pick some up and give it a try as well.  Perhaps I’ll do a blog post comparing the two once I have them. One thing to note, the name brands of Bostik and Aleene’s are what you need to purchase if you want to add these to your collection.  Off brands will NOT work as well.  This is another case of stick to the name brands!
General's Fine Art - Craft Gum Eraser
General’s Gum Eraser
Gum Eraser
I’m including this one because there are artists who use these frequently.  I personally don’t like them.  They are incredibly crumbly and I find I get better results with my kneaded and plastic erasers.
Tombow Erasers (top) Round Refill Pack (bottom)
Tombow Erasers (top)
Round Refill Pack (bottom)
Tombow Mono Zero Erasers
These erasers are in the category of specialty plastic/vinyl erasers.  While you don’t need them, they are a wonderful resource to have at your fingertips!  I have both the Tombow Mono Zero 2.3mm ultra fine round and the Tombow Mono Zero 2.5mm x 5mm rectangle.  While they are nifty for erasing small areas, they truly shine when it comes to negative drawing. Negative drawing is a process by which you lay down graphite and then use erasers to then lift and draw in that graphite space. Negative drawing can be used when creating backgrounds, grasses, wildflowers, weeds, in animal fur, creating whiskers, highlights in human hair and many other ways!  It can create wonderful effects in your pictures. There are other “stick” style erasers, but honestly, I would invest in Tombow Mono Zero’s.  They are quality made and worth the investment.
Derwent Battery Eraser
Derwent Battery Eraser

This is another specialty eraser.  I waited quite a while before purchasing a battery eraser, I honestly thought it was a silly thing to buy.  I had no idea just how useful it would be!  Now it’s a favorite in my toolbox!  A side note to this eraser, be sure to purchase refills!  Once you try it you’ll probably fall in love with it and want to use it frequently!

Derwent Eraser Refills
Derwent Eraser Refills
This is also incredibly useful for negative drawing!  With a light touch you can create grasses, weeds, and flowers in the background of a picture with ease.  The erasers are easily replaceable, you simply pull out the metal clip, insert a new eraser, then push the metal clip back in.   This eraser is also great to use to clean up the edges of a drawing!  It’s not too big, so it fits well and is comfortable in the hand. (I have small hands and have no problems with it.)  It’s light weight and so far the batteries have lasted quite well.  While not a “must have” for graphite drawing, I would definitely put this on your list to purchase when you can.  You won’t regret it!   So there you have it!  Many options to choose from and many ways to use them. Comments/Questions/Suggestions?  Leave them below! Until next time…. Keep Creating!  
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