In order to create beautiful charcoal artwork, it’s sometimes necessary to start over. Sometimes accidents happen, or you may simply not be happy with your work. Luckily, there are several ways how to erase charcoal on canvas without causing too much damage to the canvas. Erasing charcoal sticks on canvas is very different from how you would erase charcoal pencils on paper.
In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the easiest methods that work well for artists of all levels from using kneaded erasers, bread, cloth, water, vinegar, and even toothpaste with baking soda. So whether you’re a beginner just starting out, or an experienced artist looking for a new way to erase charcoal drawings, keep reading for some helpful tips that will always work!
How to erase charcoal on canvas with an eraser
While I have covered how to erase charcoal pencils with various eraser types in another post, this one is specifically covering how to erase charcoal on canvas.
Canvas is a lot more forgiving than paper when it comes to using erasers for charcoal or pencil so while the best eraser is the kneaded eraser, you can also use a regular gum or vinyl eraser for most cases. Just keep in mind that kneaded erasers are much less likely to damage the canvas than other types of erasers.
Kneaded erasers will work on primed and unprimed canvas but you should be aware that an unprimed canvas will be much harder to remove charcoal using just an eraser. You may need to follow it up with some additional method such as water with a cloth or a brush.
How to erase charcoal on canvas with bread
If you don’t have an eraser on hand, or if you’re just looking for a new way to erase charcoal, one option is to use bread!
Yes, that’s right – bread can actually be used as an eraser for charcoal and it works surprisingly well.
All you need to do is take a piece of the inside of the bread, mold it into a ball or compress it so that it is easy to hold and rub it over the area you want to erase. The bread will pick up the charcoal and leave your canvas fairly clean.
Just be sure to use fresh bread as stale bread will just leave lots of crumbs everywhere and will not be moist enough to pick up the particles of charcoal. Bread will also need you to have a few passes at removing the charcoal from the canvas.
How to erase charcoal on canvas with a piece of cloth
If you don’t have an eraser or any bread on hand, another option is to use a piece of cloth. For this method, I will state that it works best on small areas of charcoal on canvas and not on large areas.
Again, all you need to do is rub the material over the area you want to clean. A microfiber cloth works best as it will pick up more of the charcoal than a regular cotton cloth.
The problem I have when trying to erase charcoal from a canvas with a piece of cloth is that you end up with a black canvas as the cloth is great for erasing small areas but not large areas of the canvas.
To remove large areas of charcoal on canvas with a cloth you should try this with a little water to try and ‘wash’ the canvas clean – noting that your canvas will never be completely white but a light shade of gray.
How to erase charcoal on canvas with water
One way that you can remove charcoal from your canvas is by using water. Water on its own will do very little except make a mess so really, this method requires the use of water AND a sponge, brush, cloth, or hand towel.
Simply wet your brush or sponge and start dabbing at the area you want to clean. The water will cause the charcoal to run and eventually come off the canvas. You will then need to wipe the water and charcoal off the canvas with a drier sponge or cloth. Repeat the process until your canvas is clean enough to your liking.
How to erase charcoal on canvas with vinegar
Using white (don’t use brown vinegar) vinegar to erase charcoal on canvas can be done but in my opinion, it is overkill. You would need to use a lot of vinegar and it will most likely damage your canvas, smell up your room and who knows what effect it may have on any other medium that you plan on using on the canvas given that vinegar is quite acidic. I only recommend using this method if you have no other choice.
To erase charcoal with white vinegar, simply soak a towel, sponge or cloth in vinegar and then rub the area where the charcoal is. The vinegar will help dissolve the charcoal and eventually it will come off the canvas. Again, this method will damage your canvas so use it sparingly.
How to erase charcoal on canvas with toothpaste and baking soda
This is another overkill method but it does work. You will need to use a bit of toothpaste and baking soda and you will also need to ‘wash’ down the canvas after you are done to remove the soapy residue. I only recommend using this method if you have no other choice.
To erase charcoal with toothpaste and baking soda, mix the two together to form a paste. Apply the paste to the area where the charcoal is and rub it in well. The toothpaste will help lift the charcoal off the canvas and the baking soda will act as a mild abrasive to buff away any residue.
Once you are done, wash or sponge down the canvas with a bit of water and allow it to dry.
How NOT to erase charcoal on canvas
There are a few methods that you should avoid when trying to remove charcoal from your canvas.
Never use anything sharp or abrasive such as a knife or sandpaper on your canvas as this will also damage the surface.
Never use solvents such as nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol as these can dissolve the paint underneath the charcoal.
If you are unsure about any method, always test it on a small area first before trying it on the entire canvas.
With these easy methods, you should have no problem removing charcoal from your canvas. Just be careful not to damage the surface and always test a small area first before proceeding.
How To Erase Charcoal On Canvas – Wrap up!
So there you have it, six different ways of how to erase charcoal on canvas and a few ways on how not to erase charcoal. Whichever way you choose, make sure the eraser or material is finely grained and applied gently so that it doesn’t damage the surface of your canvas.
Also, if one method is not giving you the desired results you can mix the methods up a bit and see what works for you. Lastly, if all else fails and sometimes it does for me, remove as much of the charcoal that you can, wash down the canvas and re-apply a coat of underpainting and start again.
And don’t forget to experiment until you find the method that works best for you. Happy erasing!
Cover image – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Charcoal_sticks_051907.jpg
White Bread by mitchenall
Cloth “Two microfible cloths on white background” by wuestenigel is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
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