Everyone makes mistakes now and again. That’s true in all parts of life, but particularly when you start drawing. Thank goodness for erasers! This guide to the different types of erasers used in drawing will help you choose the best one to fix your drawing mistakes.
Illustration by Paul Heaston
Pencil lines go askew, marks go where you don’t want them, composition ideas change.
Here’s a handy field guide to which types of erasers are the best fit for the job!
1. Gum eraser
Also referred to as “art gum” erasers, a gum eraser has a soft, somewhat gummy texture and can have a slightly translucent-looking appearance. They absorb graphite and crumble as they erase. While they will leave a sea of “crumbs” on your page, the eraser itself is a little bit softer than a typical rubber eraser, so it is better suited to use on a variety of different paper types. It is not the most precise mode of erasing, though, so for finer lines or details, consider using a kneaded eraser.
2. Rubber eraser
This is one of the most classic types of erasers — it’s the pink cylinder on the top of your pencil, for starters. These sturdy, all-purpose erasers often come in pink, but are available in a number of colors. They are firmer than a gum eraser, and they’re effective at removing pencil marks from paper. A rubber eraser works similarly to a gum eraser but with a little more precision. It pulls graphite from the paper while shedding itself, so it will leave little “crumbs” on the paper. While overzealous use can damage paper, rubber erasers, like gum erasers, are less abrasive on paper than vinyl erasers.
3. Kneaded eraser
Also referred to as “kneaded rubber,” this type of eraser is pliable and can be molded sort of like a stiff clay. It works by picking up pigment off of the paper, and doesn’t leave “crumbs” like a gum or rubber eraser. It can be re-kneaded to absorb graphite.
Since kneaded erasers can be shaped into a point, they can be used to erase areas of very fine detail. However, because the rubber can become sticky when handled for long periods of time, kneaded rubber is not the best choice for erasing large areas.
According to Patrick Connors, the key to success with a kneaded eraser is all about technique: “The ideal way to use it is not to rub, but to press, rotate and pull the eraser away from the paper. With these erasers, you also need to periodically pull and fold the eraser, kneading it.”
4. Pencil eraser
Nope, we don’t mean the pink cylinder on the top of your #2 pencil — that’s covered in rubber erasers section, above. Also referred to as an “erasil” or “eraser-tip pencil,” a pencil eraser looks like a pencil, but instead of graphite, it has a vinyl eraser tip. It can be used to erase very specific areas, and can even be sharpened to a point, like a regular pencil. However, the firm tip and point can make it harsh on paper, so this should only be used on small details.
5. Vinyl eraser
Also referred to as “plastic erasers” or “drafting erasers”, these erasers are hard — literally. They have a rigid texture and are capable of doing some heavy-duty erasing, with the ability to lift even ink from a page. Their clean and complete erasing capabilities make them the favored type for drafters. Because of the very rigid texture of a vinyl eraser, there is a possibility of damaging the paper, so work gently when erasing, and don’t use on delicate types of paper.