Every time I see or hear about Kneaded Erasers, my mind travels back to high school as well as college. Although I don’t use them anymore, since most of my work is done digitally, I still have lots of memories of drawing classes with the company of a kneaded eraser, even if it was used as a distraction tool (c’mon, don’t tell me you never played around with your kneaded eraser like it’s a piece of Play-Doh!).
This is a very useful kind of eraser, especially if you do a lot of traditional art! So let’s talk about what is a Kneaded Eraser and what you can use it for.
What is a Kneaded Eraser
Unlike a common eraser, that you usually have in your case or desk, a kneaded eraser is malleable. You can mold and stretch it however and whenever you want. It is also known as putty rubber because of its characteristics and some people even use it to make small sculptures! It is made of a flexible material, usually grey or black, but you can find in many other colors and can be used to erase many traditional mediums, including graphite, charcoal, colored and pastel pencils.
Aside from erasing, it is also commonly used to add highlights, depending on the pressure, you apply with it. So more than erasing, you can also play and experiment with it in your drawings, getting different results than with only your pencils. Try it out!
Since it won’t leave any residues behind, like a normal eraser would, it will last you longer (but not as long as a Tablet Pen Nib) and it has the advantage that won’t leave your workplace dirty, like other erasers would, so that’s another point for kneaded erasers!
Using a Kneaded Eraser for Erasing Small Details
Kneaded erasers are excellent for details! Unlike a hard eraser, where if you need to change a tiny mistake you made in your drawing, you have to erase a big chunk of it and redo it again. With a kneaded eraser you can mold it into any shape you like.
You can even have more than one shape in it.
Let’s say a pointy end, to erase very small details but very hard to reach.
Another end longer but very thin, to erase individual lines or even to add small highlights.
And finally, a big chunk to erase bigger areas.
There are infinite possibilities that you can mold your eraser into!
And that’s what makes the kneaded eraser so fun and useful. You can add or take details from a drawing very easily.
Try to use a kneaded eraser more often instead of a hard one and see how much different it is to use and its advantages.
You’d also be improving your artistic skill, which can always come in handy!
Using it to Highlight your Drawings
I’ve already mentioned it, but let’s talk a bit more about how you can use your kneaded eraser to add highlights to your drawings. There’s a variety of ways you can work with it and a big range of highlights you can get, there’s only need for some practice and you’ll get the hang of it!
If you wish to add some reflected light to your drawings, you can very easily do this with your putty eraser. Usually, this kind of light would appear as a thin white space, generally at the edge of an object.
So mold your eraser into a very thin side and draw a line along the space you want to erase. Since here you’d want it to look very white, try to erase as much of the graphite (or any other medium you’re using) as you can.
If you mold your eraser into a twisted, pointy end, you can add very small highlights to your drawing. Some examples are the small dots of light on the eyes, usually very bright. Or when drawing jewelry and spheres. In short, very small points of highlight that tend to pop up in your drawing, making the object look very shiny!
Using this kind of eraser is fantastic to learn values and contrast.
As you learn, you might need it less and less until you can do all the shading and highlights you want using only your pencil. But while learning, it’s one of the best tools you can use!
Experiment as much as you want and have fun with your kneaded eraser and its possibilities!
Lightening Up Shadows and Midtones
Aside from adding highlights, you can also change the light and dark values of your drawing by lighting some shadows that you already did. So if you feel like you’ve messed up your drawing when doing the shading, a kneaded eraser is your best friend!
You can work up some midtones that you think are too dark and need to be changed, so use a rounded corner of your kneaded eraser and instead of rubbing it in your paper, just press it lighter and lift it, little by little, until you get the desired value. The trick here is the pressure you add to it since a kneaded eraser easily absorbs graphite. If you wish to, apply different pressure in some test drawings to see the results you can get.
This is very helpful when drawing hair or fur, for example.
All those strands of hair and shading can end up blending with each other and a kneaded eraser can help you give some more contrast and light to it. This is something that can be done easier in Digital format, which is something I teach in one of my online courses, but when doing it the traditional way, a Kneaded Eraser can do wonders.
When shading fabric or clothes, since it tends to be a big space to shade, it’s natural that at the end you notice it’s all too homogeneous to your taste, so pick up your kneaded eraser and open those highlights a bit more!
How to Clean a Kneaded Eraser
Since this kind of eraser won’t leave any residue behind as you use it, this means it’s absorbing the material you used, meaning that it will stay in your eraser. If you’re not careful and forget to clean it, you might end with some accidental smudges on your paper later on. But don’t worry, it is very easy to clean your eraser and it’s only a matter of developing your muscle memory for this. Sooner or later you’ll be cleaning your eraser every time you use it, automatically!
One option is, every time you use it, stretch and mold your eraser again until the dust it just absorbed ends up blending with it. The problem with this is that your kneaded eraser will accumulate too much graphite dust over time and at some point, it will become too dirty. But this is not worrisome since it will still last you for a long time!
Kneaded erasers have a very big lifespan and when you buy them, you can even break it into two or three pieces, so buying one, means you can have at least three erasers that can last you for quite some years!
Another option is to, after erasing something on your drawing, use the eraser in a clean piece of paper you might have around, so most of the residue stays in the paper, instead of the putty. Then just stretch it and fold it again until it looks clean!
There’s no wrong way to go about this. Just remember to give it some good stretches every time you use your eraser to avoid smudges later on!
How to Make a Kneaded Eraser Easily
It’s not hard to find a Kneaded Eraser and their not particularly expensive either, but if you do find yourself missing yours or just want to try out different possibilities, you can make your own kneaded eraser. It won’t be 100% the same, but it’s always fun to see how will it behave and how does it feel to use it.
One option is, if you have a hard eraser around, use it on a piece of paper, keeping the residues it leaves behind. When you think you have enough of it, join the residues together, mold them, until you end up with a ball of rubber. Now you just need to use it!
You can also rub two erasers together and do the same. You’d probably have enough residue to make your kneaded eraser faster, but you’d also be consuming two erasers instead of one. It’s totally up to you, how you’d prefer to go about this and both methods would work!
If you happen to have silicone craft glue at home, you can use it to make a homemade kneaded eraser! Just get a jar with a lid, squeeze some glue into it and close it. Wait for about 24 hours, then check your glue. If it’s no longer sticky, you can scrap it out of the far, mold it in your hands and it’s ready for use!
The amount of glue you put in the jar will determine how big your eraser will be, just take in consideration that as the glue dries, it will reduce its size.
Try out your homemade erasers and see which you prefer. If none, go back to your trusty kneaded eraser.
Prismacolor and Faber-Castell are the most popular ones and you can usually find them easily!
If you tend to do traditional art a lot, namely graphite and charcoal or even colored pencils and chalk, do consider having a kneaded eraser with you at all times!
It’s more easily adaptable than a hard eraser and you can mold it to your liking. Asides from erasing you can also use it to change highlights and midtones in your drawing, which can be very useful!
Another thing you need to keep in mind is that a hard eraser won’t help you with some mediums.
For example, if you use colored pencils, you’ll have a hard time erasing any mistake you might’ve made, but a kneaded eraser can help you better.
Alright that’s about it about Kneaded Erasers, I hope you’ve enjoyed it and learned a lot.
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