Most people assume they know all there is to know about erasers. But there are different types for different jobs and you are more likely to get the result you want if you use the right tool. After testing different types of erasers and different methods I have discovered a few things that might help you get the most from this small but important drawing implement.
How will you be using your eraser?
An eraser removes dry medium from a surface (usually paper) but how you will be using it determines which type you will need. There are a number of things to consider when choosing an eraser.
Will you be using your eraser for:
- creating highlights in subtractive drawing techniques, often with charcoal
- removing mistakes as you start seeing your subject more clearly and your proportions start being more correct
- removing your pencil sketch from underneath your finished watercolor or ink drawing
- tidying up small areas and edges
- removing some layers of color to fade an area or so you can apply more on top
- cleaning up a whole sheet of dirty paper
All erasers work by being sticky. All types leave some sort of residue of the material it is made from- powder from the genuine rubber, vinyl from the plastic or oil from the putty
There is two basic type of eraser:
1. Putty Rubbers
Kneadable putty erasers work by absorbing colour, they do not wear away. They can be very soft or quite stiff, but are not abrasive.
- This type of rubber is the best choice for erasing highlights in charcoal or pastel because plastic and rubber erasers leave pieces that can smear the drawing when you rub them away, but a putty rubber collects the charcoal or pastel inside itself without leaving any crumbs to brush away.
- The usual method for using a putty rubber is to press and lift. The color sticks to the putty and is removed without rubbing. They can be molded to any size and shape you need for removing large areas or small details.
- The makes of putty rubber vary a lot in softness- from very soft and melty to super stiff almost like a hard rubber eraser.
- Kneaded erasers are not very good for completely erasing an area. If you need to completely erase an area – first use a kneaded eraser to lift as much graphite as possible to prevent inadvertently pushing dark graphite farther into the paper, then use a firmer eraser to finish erasing completely.
2. Erasers: That Make Crumbs
This group includes rubber erasers, gum erasers and vinyl/plastic erasers that all remove color from the paper by picking up the color and shedding parts of themselves. Each has a different hardness.
a.) Rubber Eraser:
You are most likely familiar with rubber erasers. These are the pink erasers found on the end of every #2 pencil. In the art world, you may recognize the name “Pink Pearl” which is a pink rubber eraser in a wedge shape. This eraser removes graphite pencil on paper by shedding itself as it lifts the pencil marks. If using over-aggressively, these could tear your paper but with normal use, this does not happen.
b.) Gum Erasers
Gum erasers (also called art gum erasers) have a completely different feel than that of a Pink Pearl. While these are also made out of rubber, they are much softer than what we consider typical rubber erasers. When used, gum erasers tend to crumble but don’t worry, this it supposed to happen! The crumbs actually help absorb the graphite. The nice thing about gum erasers is that since they crumble when erasing, they do not tear up your paper. However, they also tend to not last as long as other erasers. Like the Pink pearl, art gum erasers are ideal for erasing graphite on paper. You’ll recognize these as being brown in color, sometimes semi-transparent.
c.) Vinyl Erasers
Vinyl erasers, also called plastic erasers, are the toughest erasers on this list. If not used carefully, they can easily tear through paper. These erasers are definitely handy as they can erase almost anything, even ink! Vinyl erasers are preferred by draftsmen because of their clean and complete erasing. They often come in white and can be found in a variety of shapes.
Almost all sketch artist’s favorite eraser tombow monozero eraser is also a plastic eraser/Vinyl Eraser.
Pencil erasers are made out of vinyl (as mentioned above) and come in pencil form. They can be sharpened to a point with a regular pencil sharpener the same as you would an ordinary pencil, making them ideal for small details, such as highlights in hair. It’s always a good idea to wipe the tip of the eraser while working so you don’t smear graphite back on your work. Don’t forget that since these are made of vinyl they are very tough and can damage your paper if not used carefully!
Why do so many erasers state they are ‘phthalate-free’?
Phthalates or phthalate esters, are esters of phthalic anhydride. They are mainly used as plasticizers, i.e., substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity. They are used primarily to soften polyvinyl chloride (PVC). There is more and more evidence that this chemical group affects the human body in negative ways as phthalates interrupt the hormonal system. Many brands of erasers have stopped using them. so kindly choose that brands/erasers which is phthalate free.
Popular Brands that do not contain phthalates:
Factis (all styles)
Faber-Castell (most styles)
If you’ve read all that and you still want to know more , you might have a bit of an obsession developing! We do know a few great places to send you, though, if you want more:
jacksonsart.com for detailed study of different type of eraser
keetonsonline.wordpress.com for basic type of eraser
easy-drawing-lessons.com for different type of eraser
wikipedia.com for detailed study of phthalate