Guide to Choosing an Eraser

Guide to Choosing an Eraser

February 18, 2014 - Posted by Miriam to Guides, Pencil Accessories

We all have memories of our elementary school days, using gummy pink erasers—that rubbery smell that lingered on our fingers, the inevitable pink smear and occasional hole in our math homework, and red faces from frantically blowing wads of blackened pink residue. Erasers have come a long way since then, especially with the advent of plastic erasers and the revamp of the formula in rubber erasers. How do erasers work exactly? Eraser molecules are "stickier" than paper molecules and thus are able to lift graphite (what pencil lead is made of) from the paper.

With hundreds of erasers on our website, we know the magic of a good eraser. Whether you're an eraser expert or not yet convinced that erasers warrant so much attention, this article will shed some light on why having a good eraser can change your life.

What to Look for in an Eraser

There are many things to consider when you're picking out an eraser. Here are some of the things we looked into as we were testing our erasers:

  • Erasability. Counting the number of strokes an eraser makes should not be like counting sheep. A good eraser should lift graphite with the lightest of touches without smudging or smearing.
  • Paper trauma. There's nothing more embarrassing than handing in a piece of work with a bunch of holes in it! An eraser should treat paper nicely. No matter how hard or how much you rub, the paper should stay hole-less.
  • Residual mess. No one wants to have a mountain of eraser bits after finishing a big test! Nor do you want a bunch of eraser dust stuck to your paper. The ideal leftover residue from an eraser clumps together and is easily brushed or blown away.
  • Lifetime. It's the worst feeling in the world to have a brand new eraser not even last through one big project. Look for an eraser that doesn't wear down too quickly.

These are all things to keep in mind as you read through our favorite picks.

Staff Recommendations
General Purpose
What are our requirements for a good eraser? Erase cleanly with minimal mess, be gentle on our paper, and have no smearing or transferring of pigment. Here are our top three picks that do just that.

This plastic eraser is the most popular on JetPens and for good reason. Its small, rectangular shape is easy to hold and control, and its black color means that the eraser never looks dirty! Appearance aside, this eraser erases incredibly well with very little mess. The residue from the eraser sticks together in thin strips for easy cleanup. If you're looking for an all-purpose, no fuss, no frills eraser, this is it!

Also consider: Pentel Hi-Polymer Ain Eraser - Small - Black

Softer, with a bit more give than the Uni Boxy Eraser, this classic white eraser is gentle on paper, yet erases completely. Aptly dubbed as a "Dust Gathering" eraser, it really does clump the residual dust and eraser bits into small round balls that are easily blown or brushed away. One thing to note is that the eraser itself is dusty to the touch, so we wouldn't tear the packaging off this one until absolutely necessary.

This foam eraser is designed to minimize the mess from an eraser while erasing at the slightest touch! The technology behind this plastic "foam" allows the residue from the eraser to clump together into little strips. It's gentle on your paper and produces little mess! A similar option is the Sakura Arch Foam Eraser, which features a break-resistant design. We love the unique arched sleeve that reduces the bend of the eraser, contributing to its break-resistance.

Also consider: Pilot Foam Eraser

For the Artist
Precision is paramount for the artist. When you're sketching or drawing, you need to be able to remove the slightest little marks without damaging the paper to create your masterpiece. Other times, you have to erase large areas of space or create different effects, like fading or smudging. Here are a few picks that will fit into any artist's arsenal.

This eraser is "light erasing," meaning that however lightly you touch the eraser to your paper, it will have an effect on your pencil marks. We found that this is true. A slight touch will lift some graphite from the paper, but not all, so it's perfect for fading. If maneuvered in a certain way, this eraser can also smudge the graphite. For some artists, this is an invaluable asset. If you're not happy with the smudging, the eraser can erase it cleanly with additional rubbing.

Also consider: Staedtler Mars Plastic Eraser

Also known as an "erasil," this plastic eraser is in the shape of a pen, so you have complete control over what you erase. This is the preferred eraser of a lot of the artists we've interviewed on the blog, because of it's extremely small size and its ability to erase well. It allows you to precisely pinpoint even the tiniest mistake and remove it completely. Its compact form factor means it will fit easily into your pen case like a pencil so you can take it wherever you go.

We're kicking it up a notch with this recommendation! This eraser is battery-powered and vibrates in a spinning motion over the graphite to lift it from the paper. A good amount of dust forms due to the vibration, but this is easily blown or brushed away. Extremely gentle on paper and meticulously exact, this is a must-have for any artist! Because it is battery-powered, it is clunkier than the sleek Tombow Mono Zero Precision Eraser, making it more difficult to carry around.

For the Student
From grade school to medical school, a good eraser is a critical tool in a student's pen case. Work should look clean and presentable, not full of smears and holes! It's also annoying if you're constantly blowing away at dust particles when trying to concentrate. These next three picks are a student's best friend.

This "erasil," though not as small as the Tombow we mentioned earlier, is for the student who wants a little more precision over what he's erasing. It's roughly the size of a regular ballpoint pen, so it's easy to hold and intuitive to use. The eraser is small enough to erase between the lines of graph and ruled paper and its round shape helps you to control where you're erasing. We did find that the dust from this eraser stuck to the paper, so be careful when you're brushing it off--you don't want to smudge your work!

Also consider: Pentel Ain Clic Knock Triangular Eraser with Clip

Different types of paper have different line spacing and sizes, and this star-shaped eraser was designed to combat that! The numbers at the end of the eraser represent the size in millimeters. From graph paper to lined paper, you can find a shape that will let you erase what you need to erase without disturbing the other sections. Though the idea is innovative, it did take a little longer to erase using the back and forth motion that's necessary when erasing an exact line. Because of that, the corners tend to wear down pretty quickly. Nevertheless, this is a good tool for students who need flexibility in their eraser.

If a no. 2/HB pencil isn't dark enough, but you're at your wits end trying to find an eraser that will erase darker leads, never fear: the Kokuyo Campus Student Eraser 2B is here! Erasing HB graphite with extreme ease, this eraser is specifically made to erase 2B graphite. It takes longer to erase completely, but when it does, it's incredibly clean. Eraser bits are left behind as easy-to-clean, easy-to-blow thin strips, so don't worry about a messy workspace.

Specialty and Fun Erasers
Let's move onto the fun part with some specialty erasers! From cool innovative design to cute shapes of every variety to an eco-friendly rubber eraser, check out these three picks:

These wildly popular erasers need no introduction. Coming in a variety of shapes such as animals and food, the Iwako Novelty erasers are truly the epitome of the Japanese word for cute, "kawaii." Can these cute erasers really erase? The answer is yes! They're not as effective as our favorite Uni Boxy Eraser, but with a little bit of patience, you can get a clean erase from these kawaii erasers. On the flip side, do you really want to use them as erasers?

This funky looking eraser is actually very practical! With 28 corners in one eraser, you never have to worry about running out of a corner to get at those tiny, hard to reach spots. While we were testing this eraser, we noticed the corners wore down rather quickly though, and the eraser was more effective after the corner had worn down. However, it erases cleanly with no smearing, and even when worn, the area it covers is still quite small.

All of our plastic erasers are made from U.S. government approved materials, but for the person who is extra conscious about being eco-friendly, this rubber eraser is the answer. This isn't your ordinary pink rubber eraser--the updated formula uses a special rubber that mimics the characteristics of the aforementioned plastic erasers. It takes a little more rubbing and the residue sticks onto the eraser itself instead of cleanly coming off, but it erases without any smearing. This one is dusty to the touch, so keep that packaging on!

Eraser Facts
It's time to delve a bit into the different kinds of erasers and their characteristics. There are four major kinds of erasers: rubber, soft vinyl (plastic), art gum, and kneaded erasers. Keep reading to find out more about each type!
Rubber erasers are what most people think of when they think of erasers. These classic erasers include the gummy pink erasers and the ones found on the backs of pencils. Usually made from a blend of rubber and pumice, these erasers tend to smear and leave a residue. The pumice in the eraser can be abrasive to paper. However, there are some rubber erasers that have an improved formula, like the Tombow Mono Non PVC Eraser, which are gentle to paper and leave no residue or smearing.
Soft vinyl
Also known as plastic erasers, the soft vinyl eraser provides an easy, clean erase as leftover residue tends to clump together. It is similar to rubber erasers in that they may be abrasive enough to damage paper, but manufacturers have experimented with different types of plastic to minimize paper trauma. Some of the popular PVC erasers are not as readily available in the U.S., but there are many plastic (and non-plastic) erasers that work just as well! Plastic is a popular material for erasers because it is easily shaped and molded. Without it, we wouldn't have the cute Iwako novelty erasers!
Art Gum
The art gum eraser is made from a soft coarse rubber that crumbles easily when being used. It's extremely gentle, so the integrity of the paper is never compromised. It erases graphite effectively; however, because it disintegrates so quickly, it doesn't last as long as its rubber and soft vinyl counterparts.
The kneaded eraser is made from a type of rubber that absorbs the graphite so there is no residue and it doesn't wear away. However, it gets dirty quickly, at which point, you have to "knead" it to push the dirty surface inward to have the clean area on the outside, or you can also clean it to remove the graphite. Otherwise, the graphite on the eraser will transfer back to the paper. If placed in a warm area, it may smear or get sticky. Kneaded erasers are not just effective for graphite; they also remove charcoal easily. Many artists use this eraser for that very reason!
Erase Away

The good thing about erasers is that they're fairly inexpensive, so you can experiment with different ones to find out what is best for you, or have several for different purposes. Never underestimate the power of a good eraser! It can mean the difference between an A and a B grade, a framed work of art or a crumbled piece of paper, or a stunning presentation and a haphazard mess.

We hope you found this article useful and maybe even learned a few things you didn't know about erasers. Do you have any eraser recommendations or questions? Share with us in the comments below and be sure to check out the Eraser Category of our website!

Model Type Erasability Residual Mess Lifetime Best For
Uni Boxy Eraser Block High Thin strips High General Use
Pentel Hi-Polymer Ain Eraser - Black Block High Thin Strips High General Use
Pentel Hi-Polymer Ain Eraser - Dust-Gathering Block High Clumps dust together; dusty to touch High General Use
Sakura Foam Eraser - W80 Block High Thin clumps High General Use
Sakura Arch Foam Eraser Block High Thin clumps High General Use
Pilot Foam Eraser Block High Clumps dust together; dusty to touch High General Use
Pentel Hi-Polymer Ain Eraser - Light Erasing Block High Clumps dust together; smears slightly High Artist
Staedtler Mars Plastic Eraser Block Medium Small clumps; smears High Artist
Tombow Mono Zero Eraser - 2.3 mm - Circle Pencil Medium, but precise Short strips High Artist
Sun-Star Bode Electric Eraser Pencil High Very dusty High Artist
Uni E-Knock Eraser Pencil High Small clumps of dust High Student
Pentel Ain Clic Knock Triangular Eraser with Clip Pencil High Small clumps of dust High Student
Kokuyo Miri 5-Function Eraser 5-Point Star Shape Medium Fat clumps Low; wears quickly Student
Kokuyo Campus Student Eraser - For 2B Lead Block High Thin clumps Medium Student
Iwako Safari Animal Novelty 8 Piece Set Novelty Medium Small pieces of dust Medium Kids
Kokuyo Kadokeshi 28 Corner Eraser Novelty High, after worn down Fat clumps Low; wears quickly General Use
Tombow Mono NP Non-PVC Eraser Block Medium Thin clumps Medium Eco-conscious
**All erasers are soft vinyl (plastic) erasers, except for the Tombow Mono Non-PVC Eraser, which is rubber. All erasers are gentle on paper. Tests were done on paper from the Maruman Mnemosyne Imagination Notebook with a wooden HB and 2B pencil from the Uni Mitsubishi Hi-Uni Wooden Pencil Art Set.

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