Painting & drawing blog


Drawing erasers and paint

If you’ve ever experienced that awful moment when you make an accidental mark on a pencil drawing after working on if for hours – here’s what to do about it!

It’s not unusual to find an unwanted dark smudge or spot on your paper, and it can occur from to a number of causes. Most commonly a little bit of graphite dust gets rubbed into the paper, and if it mixes with a tiny spot of grease – maybe from the natural oils in your skin – it can cause a dark mark that won’t easily rub off. This is how I tackle the problem……

→ Start with some tissue

In case there’s any grease in the mark, I first want to try to blot this up. I’ll press the mark gently with a facial tissue to try to absorb what I can.

→ Then a kneadable eraser

Next I get to work with my erasers. First I use my kneadable ‘putty’ eraser. Unlike a hard rubber or vinyl eraser, a putty eraser won’t smear and you can use it to lift off any loose graphite before it spreads and makes the mark worse. I’ll mould the eraser to a point and press it against the spot several times to lift graphite off the paper. Once I’m confident I’ve got any loose graphite, I’ll drag the eraser across the mark to see if any of it will lift off.

→ Next a plastic eraser

Assuming the mark is still present, it’s now time for some harder erasing. Using a vinyl eraser (you could use a natural rubber one too, but vinyl erasers are harder and are probably going to be more effective) I’ll gently rub back and forth over the mark several times.

→ Bring out the big guns with a battery powered eraser

If the spot is still there, I’ll next resort to a battery eraser. Electric battery erasers are really powerful and can completely remove amazingly dark marks! However they can also smear loose graphite, so it’s important to first follow the previous steps to make sure this is all gone. Otherwise the eraser may spread the mark further as it rotates around.

Hold the eraser firmly against the mark and press the ‘on’ switch for a couple of seconds at a time. Don’t go on erasing too long on the same spot because eventually you may damage the paper surface. 

→ Try an ink eraser

There are quite a number of erasers intended for erasing indian ink and ballpoint pen, which are very coarse and have sand or other substances imbedded in them to give them erasing strength. They can sometimes work to remove a dark mark where other erasers have failed because they are quite abrasive.

→ Try to scalpel it off…

In nearly all cases this process should deal with even an obstinate mark! However if your mark is quite greasy then you may have difficulty in rubbing it off with any number of erasers. Once or twice I’ve had to resort to actually slicing a mark off the paper surface, which is something I don’t recommend unless you’ve had some experience with craft knives. I’ve done this on heavyweight cartridge (drawing) paper as well as thick watercolour paper, but it’s a trick that probably wouldn’t work with thinner paper because you’d likely just cut straight through your sheet.

You’ll need a very sharp and slim scalpel such as a Swann-Morton, and a fresh blade. Very carefully slide the knife just under the surface of the paper and slice the mark off.

→ Or cover it with some Chinese White

If you don’t want to risk attempting to actually scrape a stubborn mark off, then another trick I’ve used successfully in the past is to apply the tiniest thin dab of Chinese White watercolour paint or some white gouache over the top of it. This likely won’t cover it completely (you don’t want to end up with a thick and obvious blob of paint in the middle of a drawing) but it will tone it down and hopefully deflect the eye away from it. Painting a mark out works best if it’s not right in the middle of an area of blank paper. 

→ If all else fails, draw over it!

Finally my very last tip: if you have drawn something like a portrait and have a stubborn mark in an area of blank paper around your subject, consider adding a bit of background to your drawing! A bit of softly hatched background shading can cover a mark and might even enhance your drawing.

And lastly, avoid it happening in the first place!

Of course prevention is always better than cure! This post on drawing hacks has suggestions on how to protect your paper from graphite dust and other damage while you are working.









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