My kneaded eraser is one of the biggest workhorses in my art supplies. I can easily shape it to a fine point or use it over a larger space. It’s delicate enough to merely lighten or erase without damaging the paper’s surface. It leaves no residue behind but makes quick work of graphite dust and pencil shavings. Kneaded erasers are useful, and it’s easy to take care of them but do they dry out and if they do, you need to know how to keep kneaded eraser from drying out and not only lasting but being there for you when you need it.
When not using your kneaded eraser, to keep your kneaded eraser from drying out you need to:
- Wrap it up in clear cling wrap or SaranWrap (c) or in a ziploc bag to stop the air from reacting with it. While air will not dry it out overnight it will dry out if left exposed over long periods of time.
- Store it in a cool dry place. I like to keep mine in a cool drawer under my desk. Heat also accelerates the breaking down of the rubber compounds that make up the kneaded eraser.
- Take it out now and then and knead it a little, while acting as a little stress ball it also keeps the eraser from becoming brittle and cracking.
Do kneaded erasers last forever?
Kneaded erasers do not last forever, but they will last a long while with proper care. They are also affordable, so it’s not hard to replace even when they reach the end of their life span. And while they do not rub away as with a traditional hard eraser, they will eventually just break apart and disappear as they absorb the graphite and no longer stick to anything.
Does a kneaded eraser dry out?
Yes. Kneaded erasers, or putty erasers, can dry out. They are also at risk of degrading in direct exposure to light or heat. So, how to keep kneaded eraser from drying out?
When you are not using your kneaded eraser, keep it in a sealed environment away from exposure to intense light or heat. Some kneaded erasers come with their own storage box. You can also store them in cling film, wax paper, sealing bags, or air-tight storage containers. Regular cleaning will also help introduce moisture back into the eraser, keeping it pliant.
Cleaning your kneaded eraser
Regularly cleaning your kneaded eraser serves several purposes – it eliminates residue that could rub back off onto your project and reintroduces moisture to the putty. It’s also a straightforward process. Work the putty until it’s soft and uniform in color once again. I usually stretch and roll it into a ball. You can knead it or press it as well.
If you are in the middle of a drawing and don’t want to invest a lot of time into thoroughly cleaning your kneaded eraser, you can stretch and fold the eraser until you reveal a clean section. A quick knead will let you get back to work without smearing your art.
Can you fix a dry kneaded eraser?
If you’ve left your kneaded eraser out and it feels stiff and unworkable, don’t fret; you can still revive it. Much like the process of cleaning your putty eraser, rolling, stretching, and kneading will help bring it back to life.
Depending on how dry it is, you may need to work the eraser longer to become pliable again. The stiffer the eraser, the smaller the pieces should be for easy recovery. You can carefully cut it into smaller pieces if it’s tough to knead.
If even small pieces are hard to work with and the warmth and pressure of your fingers are not enough to get it pliable again, you can use warm water or a hairdryer on the low setting. Remember that intense heat can degrade your kneaded eraser, so be cautious with a hair dryer.
Using these steps will help you address all of these common kneaded eraser challenges:
- The eraser is too stiff to use.
- The eraser broke in half when working the putty.
- The eraser is too hard to work.
- The eraser is crumbling.
When should a kneaded eraser be thrown away?
Kneaded erasers do eventually need to be replaced. Eventually, the eraser becomes fully saturated with pigments from charcoal, graphite, and pastels. It will no longer absorb anything else. Even after kneading, it will still leave marks on the paper. That’s the time to buy a new one.
What is a kneaded eraser made of?
Kneaded erasers are a type of putty made from unvulcanized rubber. You may see them sold under the name art eraser, kneadable eraser, or putty eraser.
How do you use a kneaded eraser?
You can shape a kneaded eraser into the finest point or unique shapes to brighten or erase parts of your artwork. With a soft touch, you can remove some of the pigment but not all of it, lightening the shade without removing it. Kneaded erasers work exceptionally well with charcoal sketches. You can also use the eraser to pick up dust from charcoal and graphite.
Kneaded Eraser Techniques:
- Shape. Determine the shape and size you want the eraser to be, then sculpt it to fit.
- Dab. Rather than scrub, press the tip of the eraser into the art to lift away the pigment. After every few presses, knead the eraser again to disperse the pigment and reshape it to avoid smearing the art. It may take multiple dabs before you get the shade you want.
- Swipe. If you want to remove smudges or lift away shavings, gently swipe the eraser across the page. Make sure to knead the eraser between attempts if you are picking up a lot of dust or shavings. You can also wipe up excess pigment off your hands as you write.
- Render. A kneaded eraser is great for creating detailed highlights. If you start with a heavy layer of pigment, you can use the kneaded eraser to pull out excess pigment to render lighter shapes in the art.
What art mediums can a kneaded eraser remove?
A kneaded eraser can lift pencil marks from charcoal, graphite, and many colored pencils. It’s also useful for pastels. Even some ink, especially slow-drying ink, can be removed or lightened with a kneaded eraser. Conversely, fast-drying or already dry ink will not be affected by a kneaded eraser. So you can lift light pencil marks after laying down ink line work without worrying about smudging your clean ink lines.