Part of drawing is making mistakes.
(I’d probably argue with myself on that opening sentence.) Part of drawing is subtracting. (That’s probably more accurate.) Erasers are an inevitable part of the process of subtraction in drawing. I’m not going to discuss the many ways that erasers can be used to actually create the drawing in this article. Instead, I want to give you a run down of the different types of erasers and what they are generally used for.
1. Rubber Erasers– A rubber eraser is the most common type of eraser out there. It can be found at the end of every #2 pencil. Rubber erasers are generally colored pink, although I have seen them available in all different types of colors. The Pink Pearl brand eraser is a standard for most artists. It comes as a wedge shape and is colored pink. Rubber erasers are best suited for erasing pencil (graphite) on paper. It works by shedding itself as it lifts the pigment from the surface. Rubber erasers will not tear the paper unless they are used over-aggressively. Rubber erasers are also quite economical averaging from $.25 to $.50 a wedge.
2. Gum Erasers– Gum erasers are sometimes called art gum erasers. These erasers are also made of rubber, but are a softer version than rubber erasers. Gum erasers are very soft and tend to crumble as they erase. If the integrity of the paper is a concern, then a gum eraser may be your best bet because they will not tear the paper even with aggressive rubbing. Gum erasers are best for erasing graphite on paper. These erasers are usually brown in color and some are even semi-transparent. One negative aspect of gum erasers is that they don’t last very long. Because they crumble so easily, the life of the gum eraser is a short one. Gum erasers range in price from $.50 to $.75.
3. Kneaded Erasers– Kneaded erasers are very soft, pliable erasers that be formed and sculpted. They are a unique breed of eraser because of this feature. They work by lifting the pigment off of the surface. Because of this, kneaded erasers will not harm the surface. Because they are easy to form, kneaded erasers are particularly popular with artists. Kneaded erasers become dirty as they erase but can be pulled and manipulated to clean them. They can even be washed. The standard color for kneaded erasers is gray, although I have seen them in all sorts of colors. Kneaded erasers are mostly used for graphite and charcoal. Kneaded erasers are best suited for charcoal. These erasers are a bit more expensive than rubber erasers averaging in price from $1.00 to $2.50.
4. Vinyl Erasers– Vinyl erasers are made of soft vinyl and are sometimes called plastic erasers. These erasers are the toughest of the bunch. If not used properly, they can easily tear paper. Vinyl erasers can erase almost anything including ink. Vinyl erasers are usually white and come in a variety of shapes. Many draftsmen prefer vinyl erasers because of their ability to erase cleanly and completely. Vinyl erasers are fairly expensive, ranging in price from $2.00-$5.00 depending on the brand.
5. Erasils– Although the material used to create erasils is vinyl, I still think it necessary to mention them. Erasils are just erasers in a pencil form. They can sharpened just like a pencil for super precise erasing. Because the eraser material is vinyl, they can damage the paper if not used gently. Erasils are becoming increasingly hard to find, but with a little search on the internet, you’re sure to find a place where they can be ordered.