This Is Why Pencils Don’t Have Erasers

This Is Why Pencils Don't Have Erasers
This Is Why Pencils Don't Have Erasers

Have you ever wondered why drawing pencils don't have erasers? When you think about it, it is kind of strange. Just about every other type of pencil you'll find has an eraser on it, so why not pencils designed for drawing? 

This Is Why Pencils Don't Have Erasers. Well, there are a few reasons for this. The types of erasers that you find on most pencils aren't really a tool that works well for an artist. They weren't designed to properly erase pencil marks without wearing on the paper, leaving marks behind, and possibly tearing the paper.

Erasers on the end of a pencil are a nice convenience, and they work great for students doing schoolwork, or office workers taking notes, but they don't work well for artists.

What makes the erasers on the end of pencils such a poor choice for artists? For one thing, most artists erase quite a bit, and those little pencil erasers are worn out very quickly. Then what do you have? You have an ugly, metal ferrule. Nobody wants to look at that, especially when you are trying to create a masterful work of art!

Pencils With Built In Erasers Is An American Invention

Erasers have been around for a long time, but they weren't found on the end of pencils until Hymen Lipman patented the idea in 1858. Prior to that, people had been using larger erasers for quite a while, and they worked just fine. 

But once the idea of having an eraser on the end of a pencil was put out there, it spread quickly. Everywhere that is, except for artists' pencils.

Is It True That “Real Artist” Don't Erase?

Some people have heard that so-called real artists don't erase when they are drawing. This is another instance where people are trying to put rules in place to guide the creation of artwork

Art, by its very nature, doesn't have rules. If you put a markdown on a paper with your pencil and it turns out to be a mistake, the idea that erasing it means you are not a real artist is preposterous. 

If an artist were forced to follow some kind of rule that says that erasing wasn't allowed, do you really think they'd be able to complete a detailed drawing? Of course, not!

Now, while no rule says that an artist cannot erase when they are drawing, no rule means that they have to erase either. If you prefer a slightly more messy drawing, such as an expressive drawing, then there's no need to erase either. 

In fact, in this type of drawing, the preliminary light marks you make with a pencil add to the appeal of the piece. The point here is that whether or not you should erase when you are drawing is a decision you have to make on a drawing by drawing basis. There's no rule prohibiting it, so feel free to erase or not erase.

What Type Of Pencil Is Easiest To Erase?

If you decide that you want to be able to erase your artwork, which most artists do, then you must understand what types of pencils are easiest to erase. As a general rule of thumb harder pencils, which create lighter marks, are easier to erase than softer pencils, which produce darker marks

Pencil lead, which is actually graphite, comes in a wide range of types. The following are the types of pencil lead in order from hardest to softest: 4H, 3H, 2H, H, F, HB, B, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B. As a point of reference, an HB pencil is what is commonly known as a #2 pencil.

Now, if you want to be able to erase your initial drawing marks, you'll want to use a harder pencil lead. These types of pencils are not only easier to erase, but they are also perfect for putting down very light marks that you can build your drawing on top of. 

One popular type of lead for sketching out initial outlines is the 2H pencil. It will allow you to put down moderately dark lines if you apply enough pressure but is still easily erased. You'll definitely want to stay away from anything softer than an HB pencil until you are ready to commit to creating lines and shadows that are not going to be erased.

How Does An Eraser Work?

Erasers are usually made of vulcanized rubber. They work through simple friction, as you rub them on a paper, they bond to and remove graphite. Unfortunately, rubber erasers, while useful, do have their limitations. First, they don't fully erase darker pencil marks. 

While no type of eraser will remove really dark pencil marks, other types of erasers are more effective at removing darker lines than a rubber eraser. Rubber erasers also tend to wear out somewhat quickly. 

A standard rubber eraser will last for some time, but smaller ones, like the ones found at the end of most pencils, can be worn out in just a few uses.

The Advantages Of Using A Vinyl Eraser

As an artist, you should experiment with different erasers to see how they react with your style of drawing. You should also have a variety of erasers at hand when you are drawing. Yes, there is more than one type of eraser. While the standard pink rubber eraser is the most well-known type of eraser, it's far from the best eraser out there.

If you've never tried a vinyl eraser, then you are missing out on a very useful tool for artists. Vinyl erasers offer the unique advantage of being able to erase much darker lines than a traditional eraser. They are so effective in fact that they can even remove ink with a moderate level of success. 

Vinyl erasers are preferred by many architects and draftsman because of their ability to thoroughly erase marks and leave behind a clean surface free of dark spots. 

Unfortunately, vinyl erasers are also very tough on paper and when used to vigorously, or too frequently, will damage your drawing surface. With that being said, keeping this type of eraser on hand really is a necessity. 

It's the ultimate safety net for you as an artist, giving you the ability to remove mistakes and undo what could have been a disaster.

Another beneficial type of eraser is a kneaded eraser. Kneaded erasers are a soft and pliable eraser, with a consistency somewhere between clay and hard rubber. 

This allows you to bend, manipulate, and sculpt a kneaded eraser into any shape you want. If you need great precision, a kneaded eraser can be shaped to a small point. Kneaded erasers can also be used with a very light touch to aid in blending pencil drawings.

What Can I Use Instead Of An Eraser?

Are you curious about what you could use instead of an eraser? Maybe you don't have an eraser laying around, or perhaps you just feel like experimenting with something new. In either case, there are some things that you can use instead of an eraser. 

  • You probably didn't know that you can use Blue-Tak adhesive as an eraser? Simply apply a small amount, then once it's dry rub it off. 
  • You can also use bread as an eraser! Yes, bread! Or, if you want something closer to an actual eraser then try using a rubber band. As long as the substance your using as an eraser is stickier than the paper you are trying to erase from, it should do the trick for you.

There's Nothing Wrong With Using An Eraser When You Draw

There's nothing wrong with using an eraser as an artist, just don't use those awful erasers at the end of most pencils. 

You can draw with any type of pencil you are comfortable with, but using the erasers at the end of pencils is a great way to grow frustrated quickly. 

Not only will that tiny eraser be used up very quickly, but it will also do a poor job of actually removing pencil marks. If you happen to use a softer lead pencil when you draw, then you'll have an even worse time using a regular pencil eraser. 

The bottom line is simple, don't use the erasers at the end of a pencil, when there are so many other great options.

Above all else, remember, you are an artist! You can do whatever you want in the process of creating your masterpieces. If you feel that erasing your drawing with bread works, then do it! If you feel like a kneaded eraser is a better option because of the precision it allows you to erase with, then use a kneaded eraser. 

Don't let the myth that artists don't erase when they draw dispel your pursuits. Nobody is perfect, least of all an artist trying to draw something! 

When you are drawing, it's natural to make mistakes, and a good supply of different types of erasers can help you to rectify those mistakes as you work to create a fantastic drawing.


Ian Walsh is the creator and author of and an Art teacher based in Merseyside in the United Kingdom. He holds a BA in Fine Art and a PGCE in teaching Art and Design. He has been teaching Art for over 24 Years in different parts of the UK. When not teaching Ian spending his time developing this website and creating content for the improvedrawing channel.

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