I get quite a few questions about erasers from my learners and students. One issue seems to be if erasers are ‘allowed’ in art. This idea seems to come from school where some are told erasers are banned in the art class! Artists do indeed use erasers, although many don’t know all the types that are available and how to use them. I will explain the different types below:
This is the most familiar type of eraser, it is suitable for drawing and sketching. A good quality one will be soft enough for fine papers and to use with pastels and charcoal as well as pencil and graphite.
I recommend this type of eraser for beginners. I like ones with round edges so you can get into small areas in your artwork. Try to avoid plastic erasers, these ones will smudge graphite and create smears on your work. Some artists actually use plastic erasers for this purpose to blend the graphite, if this is not what you are after then a plastic eraser (the cheaper ones tend to made of plastic) could ruin your work. There are other ways to smudge graphite so I would recommend a good quality soft eraser.
Putty Rubber or Kneaded Eraser
This type of eraser is usually blue or grey traditionally but now they can come in white shades. It is very soft eraser that resembles putty or gum, you can form them into shapes with your fingers. It is ideal for forming points for small areas of artwork. It works by absorbing graphite or charcoal and is designed to be ‘dabbed’ rather than rubbed on a surface. This type of eraser is ideal for watercolour painting where you don’t want to damage the surface of the paper. This type of eraser is kind to the paper surface and can be used with pastels, graphite or charcoal.
These erasers have small nibs and are ideal for getting into small areas of artwork with precision. You can also ‘draw’ with them on graphite or charcoal covered surfaces. The nib spins around and you can sharpen it to a very fine point. They are easy to use but more expensive than other types of erasers. They cut through thick graphite creating white areas that jump out, ideal for highlights. They come with refills and if you use them frequently you can get through quite a few refills, making them a more expensive option. They are fun to use, once you use them if you like them you will probably want to always have one.
These types of erasers are in the form of a stick or pencil. They are usually made of a vinyl type of material and are ideal for erasing small areas in your artwork. You can sharpen some of them into a very fine point and ‘draw’ with them. You can sharpen the point into different shapes using a scalpel.
These types of erasers do vary in quality, I would advise purchasing one from an art store rather than a general stationary store. They can be expensive to buy and not as durable as regular erasers as the point often snaps with too much pressure. They are designed for delicate work and not for large areas. They would have to be used in combination with a soft eraser for larger areas.