Botanical Drawing Tip #3

Tip #3 Erasers are not all the same

I used the kneaded eraser to lift the background leaves in this graphite drawing.


First, I would like to start by saying that making mistakes when drawing is common for the botanical artist and natural science illustrator. We are driven by accuracy and having an eraser is a blessing. Knowing which eraser to use saves time and energy.

Types of Erasers:

The Pink Pearl:  This is the eraser that has been around forever and is on the end of regular pencils. Think of it as Comet or Ajax. It is going to scrub the surface of the paper. If the paper is delicate, it will probably wear a hole right through the paper. It alters the surface, so beware and use it with care. It stains the paper if it is too old. The eraser should be flexible and pink, not orangey pink. If the eraser is orangey pink it is no good. Throw it out. I almost never use it because it is so abrasive. There are also concerns that the Pink Pearl can add acid to the paper that eventually can ruin the paper.

Plastic Erasers: These erasers are relatively new. They were designed to be used on drafting films, mylars, and acetate. The texture on "plastic papers" are microscopic and most conventional erasers are too abrasive and ruin the surface. Think of plastic erasers as Soft Scrub. Although they originally were designed to work on plastic surfaces, they can be used on paper as well. They remove lines as well as tone without altering the paper too much and maybe not at all. They come in all sizes and shapes. I really like the Click Eraser by Pentel. It is a retractable eraser that comes in pencil form. You can use an x-acto blade and carve it into the shape you want. It also fits into the Panasonic pencil sharpener for a nice point! It can be purchased at any office supply store.

The Kneaded Eraser: This is by far my favorite eraser. If I were stranded on a desert island, I would want at least one kneaded eraser with me. It not only gently erases mistakes but it lifts areas of tone. I use it like Silly Puddy. Remember that stuff? I place it over my drawing and press into the paper. The graphite lifts up. The harder and more times you press it onto your drawing, the more graphite comes off. This is awesome for me because I have a heavy hand.


Mr. Clean's Magic Eraser: You know the bald guy, gold hoop earring with the big biceps who has been winking at us for 50 + years? Well now he has made his way into the art studio. Suppose your cat, dog, child, husband, or maybe yourself, knocks, walks, spills, drops something onto your drawing or painting. Hours of work down the drain? Nope. DO NOT BLOT the spill….. it pushes it further into the fibers of the paper. Remember Rosie? Bounty Paper Towel to the rescue. It is the quicker-picker-upper! Gently put a corner into the spill and watch it travel upward and off your drawing. After I get as much of it up as possible, I let it dry. Then I take the Mr.Clean Magic Eraser sponge and tear off a piece of it and get it wet. I squeeze out as much moisture as possible and very gently in small circular motions remove the stain. I go outside the stain to make it even. I clean the sponge and repeat as necessary. If you see little white balls on the paper it should not be the paper but the sponge disintegrating if you are doing it correctly. Let the paper completely dry before you do anything else.

Tip:  If the paper has been roughed up by the Pink Pearl, Magic Eraser or any other eraser, take a clean piece of tracing vellum and put it over the spot that appears damaged. With the back of a spoon or bone folder lightly burnish, applying pressure to the spot. By compressing the fibers in the paper it will be virtually undetectable. You can then go back over it with graphite if you wish.

I hope that this takes the panic out of making mistakes. Why do you think they make erasers?