What Is The Best Eraser For Graphite Pencil? (2022)


What is the best eraser for graphite drawings - erasers - verycreate.com

Here is a sampler of some of the best erasers for graphite pencil in my studio.  I’m always up for trying out a potentially great eraser!  I typically use a minimum of two erasers in a graphite or charcoal drawing…but it is not unheard of for me to use five!  

I spent quite a few years being frustrated with my finished drawings, and it wasn’t until the advent of the internet where I learned all the different uses and varieties of erasers and papers that I discovered that my frustrations centered around my tools, or lack thereof, not my drawing skills! 

What is the best eraser for graphite drawings - erasers - verycreate.com

I have learned the hard way to quickly throw any eraser directly into the garbage that I discover doesn’t erase well.  I tend to be quite frugal, and hang onto lousey things with the expectation that they might come in useful someday. Then I forget that they are bad and reach for them when it counts.  Yikes, what a disaster mess!

So nowadays if I come across a terrible eraser that somehow mysteriously shows up in my home, it goes into file can 13 before I can repeat my disasters.  Most of these erasers arrive on the top of pencils – so, out go the pencils as well…..NOT worth the tiny savings of salvaging an office pencil.

Hopefully I can reduce your learning curve and shoot you some good information here!

In case you are short on time, here are my best recommendations:

As a standard go-to, I would own an electric eraser for quick thoroughness, a gum eraser for clean up, a vinyl poly eraser as a standard all-around use and a kneaded eraser for reductive drawing.

Electric eraser

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Package set of gum erasers

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The Pentel Hi-Poly Polymer

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The Faber-castell kneaded eraser

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Eraser shield

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Introduction To The Best Erasers For Graphite Pencils

Graphite is made of the chemical element Carbon in its crystalline form, a naturally occurring element on our planet and found in volcanic rocks.   It is unique and versatile. Think of carbon as very small sheets of shiny, greasy feeling plates. It is used as a lubricant in some metal machinery.  Compressed under high temperatures and pressures, it makes diamonds! In its crystalline form it is very soft, ranging in grey to black in color and when dragged across paper it makes marks. I told you it was versatile!

Some graphite carbon pencils have a bit of a clay binder in them to increase hardness or darkness.  

What is the best eraser for graphite drawings - graphite rock photo - verycreate.com

There are a lot of factors to consider when selecting an eraser for graphite.  Currently, I do have a concern related to chemical exposure and our personal health.  I am not personally allergic to Latex or PVC but I am very concerned about Phthalate exposure, as those chemicals are endocrine disruptors, and I suspect, contributors to inflammation in our bodies (which leads to a host of nasty health issues like autoimmune diseases, cancer etc. etc.). Some manufacturers post the chemical content of their products  and some do not.

Successfully erasing graphite depends on three things: the hand pressure or number of layers of graphite used, the kind of paper drawn on and the hardness or softness of the graphite ‘lead’ used in the drawing.  The lighter the pressure with a harder lead will erase much easier than a heavy pressure with a softer, blacker lead.

Bristol smooth board will erase much easier than a heavy soft tooth paper.  

Test eraser sheet

Here is a sample sheet that I made on Bristol paper using  five different graphite applications. On the right is an ordinary 2B office pencil, Second right is General’s No 555 Xtra Black graphite, Middle column is Pentalic 8911 8B, Fourth column from right is Viarco Soft Carbon and the far left side is a liquid pencil product by Derivan in Grey 3.   I was surprised by some of the erasers and disappointed by others. See the results below:

What is the best eraser for graphite drawings - eraser examples - verycreate.com

So here are further details about my conclusions:

The Pentel Hi-Polymer was great. It lifted everything equally well, with the slightly less well done on the Viarco soft carbon.  It was smooth and crisp to use.

The Pink Pearl did surprisingly well!  It erased cleanly and firmly, but I like it less than the Pentel Hi-Poly.  It feels a tad more gritty than the poly eraser. It did the best on the liquid pencil.

The Tombrow Mono Zero  was a surprise too.  It erases cleanly and thinly with minimum pressure.   

The Faber-Castel eraser pencil was disappointing. It did do a good job on the liquid pencil, but as a first pass eraser, not so much. I would save this for erasing down to the lightest lights in small areas that have been erased with other erasers first.  

The electric eraser was pretty good.  It let me down on the Viarco soft carbon though with a less than clean erase.

The rubber eraser did not give a clean erase, but it did remove more than I thought it would. It couldn’t even put a dent in the liquid pencil.

The gum eraser performed much like the kneaded eraser except that it totally smeared the Pentalic 8B and did not lift the liquid pencil at all.  I would not use this eraser with any of the graphite/clay mixed pencils. It’s pretty indispensable for final graphite clean up work though.

The Factis Black did well, but with black shedding that I worried would smear the page as I brushed them off.  It lightened the liquid pencil a tad, but not much.

The Faber-Castel Grip is a triangular tube shaped eraser that feels very hard.  It erased ok on all samples. Not the brightest, but good. It did very well on the liquid pencil

The Steadtler Mars Click eraser bombed on the Pentalic 8B.  Total smear with zero lifted off.  What a surprise!

The Alvin White Vinyl performed well on all except the Pentalic 8B, which mostly smeared.  

So, which one you use will depend  a great deal on what sort of graphite pencil you are using.  As a standard go-to, I would own an electric eraser for quick thoroughness, a gum eraser for clean up, a vinyl poly eraser as a standard all around use  and a kneaded eraser for reductive drawing.

Types and Eraser Shapes:

Shape of the eraser is important because square edges can be used to drag on an edge to erase a thin straight line. Some plastic erasers can be cut down with a sharp knife if the edges become rounded from use, revitalizing their crispness.

1. Kneaded erasers

Can be molded to different shapes and they can be revitalized by kneading to get rid of the pigments they’ve picked up. They are partially from a rubber tree and can have substantial Latex content, so avoid these if you are allergic to Latex, or if you notice yourself sneezing often while you use them.  Faber-Castell is the only rubber kneaded eraser that I know of that does not use Latex in their formulas.

Faber-Castell Erasers – Drawing Art kneaded Erasers, Large size Grey – 4 Pack

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Kneaded erasers are made of butyl rubber and a few other compounds AND phthalate compound, a known endocrine disruptor.  Faber-Castell Kneaded erasers are the only erasers that I know of that do not use phthalates in the manufacture of their kneaded erasers.  

  • No Latex
  • Gentle on paper
  • Moldable into any sort of shape-very versatile
  • Stretch, fold and massage the residue on the eraser – self cleaning
  • Limitations of erasability
  • Long time favorite by many artists of all levels
  • Excellent when used for reductive shading
  • Does not work well with an eraser shield

Before you first use a new kneaded eraser, it needs to be kneaded.  (Don’t we ALL? L.O.L.) It is really soothing to mold and knead and if you are like me, you’ll find yourself stretching and kneading it over and over while you mull over the options in your drawing.  Besides being very useful, it is therapeutic.

It is also possible to roll kneaded erasers into a rolling pin shape and roll it across the drawing to lighten the entire area.  You can even mold them into a point and dab a very small area with good precision.

Kneaded erasers are pretty much a necessity if you want subilty and smooth gradations in your shading.  I like to think of them as elegant helpers.

They are clean erasers, meaning they don’t leave behind crumbs and they are very gentle on the paper.

They do have a down side or two though.  They don’t erase thoroughly, and as they are kneaded and held, they pick up dirt and oils from your skin which will ultimately load the eraser with so much gunk that it will transfer to your artwork. They will pick up every loose fiber or speck of dirt, so don’t let them fall on the carpet or dirty floor or heaven forbid, get around pet hair.  Once they pick up any grit they need to be thrown away.

They do contain a bit of oil which may transfer to your surface and interfere with subsequent layers of pencil or charcoal, although that will be pretty undetectable until you try to apply another layer over the erased area.    

They typically have a tough time completely erasing graphite pencil.  They just don’t have enough gusto to handle it. You CAN use them to press and lift  much of the offending pencil mark, but scrubbing back and forth will just drive you crazy and be fairly fruitless.  

They also become progressively stickier the longer you use them.  Sometimes they don’t age well at all and become too hard to knead. That’s when you’ll know it’s time to buy more.   But they’re not expensive, so they are easily replaced.

Please see my demo of reductive technique at the end of this article!

 

2. Plastic erasers

Erasers that are firm, low shedding and can give crisp edges without the use of an eraser shield. They are also called vinyl erasers.   They are usually clean erasers, meaning that they don’t typically smear the job and make a mess of things.  They can shed in curls or tendrils which make for a cleaner clean up afterwards or shed crumbs that will need to be brushed away.  

Pentel – Hi-Polymer Eraser – Large – ZEH10 – Pack of 5

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  • Can be carved as it ages to regain a sharp edge
  • Fairly low shedding
  • Erases graphite very well without smearing
  • Clean it by wiping on a piece of fabric or paper
  • Firm eraser, so no wobble as you erase
  • Fairly gentle on paper
  • Long-lasting
  • Works well with an eraser shield
  • Free of phthalates and Latex

With firm erasers, you may be able to carve into them like a linocut and use the carved area to lift off pigment like a reductive stamp.

They come in all kinds of sizes and shapes, from disks, cubes, cylindrical, oval, square, and novelty shaped like animals and characters.

Some plastic erasers contain Latex or Phthalates, and most will not label their chemical content on the label, so do your research if you are concerned with chemical exposure.  

3. Artgum Rubber erasers

are soft and crumbly, and are especially gentle on the paper surface.  They leave lots of crumbs behind, which is intended…the crumbs help grab up the graphite as you rub.  They won’t last long, as they are designed to basically crumble away, but they are my standby choice when doing life drawing because they clean cheap newsprint paper very well without tearing the paper.  It’s a good idea to keep several new ones on hand when you need a super gentle eraser.

SAN73030 – Prismacolor ARTGUM Non-Abrasive Eraser

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Holy moley, the best deal is to buy a package!  

Prismacolor 73030 Design ArtGum Erasers, Beige, 12-Count

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  • Very effective eraser over large areas
  • Crumbles easily, makes a lot of crumbles
  • Very gentle on paper
  • Will wear down quickly, so have several on hand
  • Good clean up eraser after you are nearly done

4. Pink Erasers Rubber erasers

most commonly called Pink Pearl, there are lots of knock-offs on the market.  This is the eraser you may have coveted in grade school. They are the pink eraser found on the top of most household number 2 pencils.  Some brands tear your paper, especially the ones on top of cheap office pencils. Some brands are just horrific, with more smearing than true erasing.

They are probably the one eraser that seems to have the most variety of quality between different brands, so test a few of them out before you commit to your artwork page.

I have this one and it surprised me the most in my erasing tests.  It actually performed quite well in most cases.

Paper Mate – 70501 Pink Pearl Premium Erasers, Large,Pack of 9

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  • Surprisingly effective in erasing graphite
  • Firm
  • Fairly gentle on paper
  • Works well with an eraser shield
  • Last a long time

5. Pencil Erasers and pencil-shaped erasers

These are plastic erasers encased in wood and can be sharpened like a pencil.  There is nothing more maddening than having a useless eraser on the top of your pencil that does nothing but SMEAR! 

This form of erasers are used for thin stripes like hair and small highlighted areas. They are very strong though, and you really have to watch your vigorous pressure as they can tear the paper.  

You also need to wipe the tip off with nearly every stroke or you’ll transfer that graphite right back onto your paper. They are especially good for reductive drawing where you need to take the area where you used a kneaded eraser to a lighter level.  They won’t erase a super fine line though, the eraser isn’t THAT skinny.

Faber-Castel Eraser Pencils, 2-Pack

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  • Limited use
  • Good for regaining the lightest light of the paper
  • Needs to be cleaned often while erasing
  • Use a light touch
  • Gives a thin erased line, but not a super fine line

Tombow MONO Zero Eraser, Round Tip, Retractable, Silver Barrel (Eraser with an extra refill (57305 and 57307)

These retractable tiny erasers do a good job of getting into very small areas.  See my experiment sheet to see how they performed with a variety of graphite ‘leads’.

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Tombow 57317 MONO Zero Eraser Value Pack, Rectangle 2.5 mm. Precision Tip Eraser with Refills

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  • Precision tip
  • Sorta wobbly – not super hard
  • Works well with eraser shield
  • Free of phthalates and Latex

6. Electric Erasers

are powered with batteries or by electricity in a hand held motor similar to a dremel tool.  They do a fantastic job. I first used them in drafting school and man oh man, they are little miracles on mylar paper.  

You do have to imagine yourself as being a dentist though and use a very, very gentle touch or you’ll grind yourself through the paper and  all the way down to the tabletop surface if you’re not careful!

You’ll also burn through the tiny white erasers very quickly, and they do shed a quite bit of fine grained pieces of eraser as you use it.  Plan on buying a large packet of refills if this becomes your go-to eraser.

Here are a few highly rated battery operated erasers.  Most of them are pretty much all the same. The motor on battery operated erasers isn’t going to be strong enough to be like a dremel, so don’t expect that kind of versatility. But to erase graphite, they do a stellar job.

Ohuhu Electric Eraser Kit with 20 Eraser Refills and 1 Eraser Brush

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  • Rated number one by users
  • Good price point
  • Battery operated

Afmat Electric Eraser for Artists, 140 Eraser Refills, Rechargeable Battery Erasers

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  • Rechargeable with USB cable=no batteries
  • Lots of refills
  • Highly rated

Electric Eraser Kit, AFMAT Electric Drawing Erasers for Artists, 140 Refills

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  • Slender case  comfortable hold
  • Includes two sizes of erasers
  • Lots of refills
  • Battery operated

Staedtler 527-00 Electric Erasing Machine, 10 ft. Cord, Hanging Hook

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  • Long electric cord so you can suspend it from above your drawing table
  • Runs on electricity, so no batteries
  • For all day long erasing needs
https://youtu.be/dWYfzXpJZHc

 

7. Extra erasers

I have not personally tried these new erasers, but they are very highly rated, and they’ll be next up on my purchase list.

Sakura Color Foam Eraser W 5P RFW100-5P

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  • Erases with one long snake residue and all round best eraser for graphite
  • Contains Latex and Phthalates….it might be worth the exposure
  • Highly rated by professional illustrators and artists

Sakura 50259 Sumo Grip Eraser B60 Premium Block Eraser 4Pc, 4 Piece

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  • Latex and Phthalate free
  • Highly rated by professional artists and illustrators

Alvin XRFCB150 Sakura Sumo Grip Retractable Eraser – Black

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  • Latex and Phthalate free
  • Highly rated by professional illustrators and artists

Vanish 4-in-1 Artist Eraser Replaces Gum Rubber Vinyl and Kneaded Erasers

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  • Leaves one stringy clump of shavings that is easy to clean up
  • Measuring 2 1/2″ x 3/4″ x 3/4″ it’s a large eraser
  • Cleans up linework after inking or watercoloring artwork
  • Multi-use, blending pastels and charcoal as well as erasing
  • Leaves behind no residue

Magicdo Cube Erasers with Grip, Different Shapes Eraser 

 

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My must have tool: Mr. Pen- Drafting Brush, Eraser Shield, Eraser Artist, Dusting Brush, Desk Brush, Eraser Brush

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  • Nice brush to sweep away eraser shavings – keeps your surface clean and free of smudges
  • A traditional eraser shield with typical cut-outs
  • Polymer eraser included

BCP 2-Pieces Stainless Steel Erasing Shield

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  • 27 different cut out shapes
  • Great to have two – one for art, one for office use or to keep in a traveling set

Very Cool pencil gadget!

I’m not reviewing graphite pencils here, but this thing is pretty dang cool and it deserves a shout out.  Guys, the lid unscrews and you insert the lead into the cap of the lid and it’s a sharpener! It sharpens up to  a nice squat point. The sturdy tin comes with three thick graphite leads, one dark grey kneaded eraser and the clutch-grip lead holder….and it’s made of solid metal, not plastic.

It has a heavy feel in the hand and is multi beveled on the sides for a no roll, comfortable grip. Self contained in the portable tin case.

Art Alternatives Pocket Clutch Pencil Set,Black, 5.6 mm

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Techniques and samples

Reductive drawing using a kneaded eraser

These erasers can be used to pick up graphite off the paper in subtle gradations and value changes in what is called ‘reductive drawing’.   The more you dab at the paper, the more pigment it will pick up. Some graphite artists use the reductive method to get gorgeous subtle artistry. It is surprisingly easy and effective.  You lay down a medium value of graphite pencil over a large area ( this is creating a toned paper ) then use a kneaded eraser to lift off areas that would be the lightest lights in the drawing.  Add a quick darkest dark and voila, you have super quick and effective three value sketch.

This is a tremendous help in planning a powerful composition and is indispensable in preplanning your artwork.  It is very quick and easy to do. Typically, they are called thumbnail sketches because the size is around 2 inches by 1.5 inches.  Here, I did a 5 x 5 inch size on multi-media paper so that you could see more detail.

Step one is to lay down a medium value range.

Step two is to lift off the areas you want to bring back to the white of the paper.

What is the best eraser for graphite drawings - sail boat 1 - verycreate.com three value reductive 1

What is the best eraser for graphite drawings - sail boat 4 - verycreate.com reductive4

Step three continue lifting off, using an eraser shield on the mast areas  and an electric eraser in the ocean waves and a few highlighted grass areas.

Step four is to darken any darks, suggest grass shapes and darker areas of the waves.

At this point you reevaluate your overall composition for drama, focal point, mood, if value planes are clearly defined etc. and if it ticks all the boxes, you move on to painting it, or start a larger detailed drawing of your sketch.    

It is very beneficial to do half a dozen or more thumbnail value sketches to audition compositions and three values.  

What is the best eraser for graphite drawings - sail boat 3 - verycreate.com reductive3

What is the best eraser for graphite drawings - sail boat 4 - verycreate.com reductive4  

Check out my friend Allen William’s work.  He works in the movie and publishing industry and he is wildly creative! He uses the reductive erasing technique and he is a true master of graphite pencil art.  

 

 

I hope this article will help you decide which erasers to try and which ones you will need to tailor to the kind of graphite pencil you are using. As always, make swatches on samples of your chosen paper and with your pencils and experiment with different erasers.

It is much easier and much more headache relieving to take the time to do this step than to experiment on your artwork!  Many an artwork has been ruined by skipping this step.

Good luck and let us know if you have any questions!

Anita

I hope you are enjoying this article! I really care a lot that you find what you are looking for. There are so many ways to go about creating and my goal is to help you. Thank you again for reading!

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