The Humble Eraser – The Artists Saviour?

Image by SKsiddhartthan

An eraser, (also calleda rubber outside the United States,from the material first used) is an item of stationery that is used for removing writing from paper. Erasers have a rubbery consistency and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours. Some pencils have an eraser on one end. Less expensive erasers are made from synthetic rubber and synthetic soy-based gum, but more expensive or specialized erasers are vinyl, plastic, or gum-like materials.

At first, erasers were made to erase mistakes made with a pencil; later, more abrasive ink erasers were introduced. Ink erasers are denser, allowing them to erase pen marks. The term is also used for things that remove writing from chalkboards and whiteboards.

Eraser Types

Cap Eraser

Originally made from natural rubber, but now usually from cheaper Styrene-Butadiene, this type contains mineral fillers and an abrasive such as pumice with a plasticizer such as vegetable oil.

Vinyl Eraser

Good quality plasticized vinyl or other “plastic” erasers, originally trademarked Mylar in the mid-20th century, are softer and non-abrasive. Being softer and non-abrasive, they were less likely to damage canvas or paper. Engineers favour this type of eraser for work on technical drawings due to their gentleness on paper with less smearing to surrounding areas. They often come in white and can be found in a variety of shapes.

Kneaded Eraser

Kneaded erasers have a plastic consistency and are common to most artists’ standard toolkit. They can be pulled into a point for erasing small areas and tight detail erasing, moulded into a textured surface and used like a reverse stamp to give texture, or used in a “blotting” manner to lighten lines or shading without completely erasing them. They gradually lose their efficacy and resilience as they become infused with particles picked up from erasing and from their environment. They are not suited to erase large areas because of their tendency to deform under vigorous erasing.

Poster Putty

Commonly sold in retail outlets with school supplies and home improvement products, this soft, malleable putty appears in many colours and under numerous brand names. Putty works much the same as traditional kneaded erasers, but with a greater tack and in some circumstances, lifting strength. Poster putty does not erase so much as lighten by directly pulling particles of graphite, charcoal or pastel from a drawing. In this regard, poster putty does not smudge or damage work in the process. Repeatedly touching the putty to a drawing pulls ever more medium free, gradually lightening the work in a controlled fashion. Poster putty loses its efficacy with use, becoming less tacky as the material grows polluted with debris and oils from the user’s skin.

Electric Erasers

The electric eraser was invented in 1932 by Arthur Dremel of Racine, Wisconsin, USA. It used a replaceable cylinder of eraser material held by a chuck driven on the axis of a motor. The speed of rotation allowed less pressure to be used, which minimized paper damage. Originally standard pencil-eraser rubber was used, later replaced by higher-performance vinyl. Dremel went on to develop an entire line of hand-held rotary power tools.


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