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  • Writer's pictureKonstantin

Can Charcoal Pencils Be Erased?

Updated: May 25, 2020

This was one of the first questions I had when I started to experiment with charcoal. Do you want to get into charcoal drawing as well and wonder the same thing? Let me answer your question right now.

Can charcoal pencils be erased?

Charcoal pencils can be erased. It can even be easier than erasing graphite because charcoal contains fewer binders than graphite. Vine charcoal doesn't contain binders at all, which makes it perfect to erase.

The kneaded eraser is a splendid option to erase charcoal with. Also, how is it different erasing compressed and vine charcoal? Let me explain and show it to you in the following paragraphs.

I. Erasing Compressed Vs. Vine Charcoal

So, we've talked about charcoal already a few times now on Mac H. - Creative and if you didn't know already, charcoal can be mainly divided into two main categories.

On the one side, we have compressed charcoal which is known for being very hard and making especially darker marks. It comes in the form of sticks but you can also buy it in the form of pencils.

Whether you erase charcoal pencils or charcoal sticks doesn't matter. The eraser will have the same effect on both tools.

When erasing charcoal the only slight difference you can notice is the one between vine charcoal and compressed charcoal.

On the other hand, we have vine charcoal which is known for being soft and for enabling the artist to create lighter marks more easily. Vine charcoal is only available in stick form, which means you're not able to be extremely precise with vine charcoal.

In the answer paragraph above I've already mentioned that vine charcoal (which only comes in the form of sticks) contains no binders such as wax, clay or gum. This allows this kind of charcoal to be erased entirely.

It is not that dark and it contains no binders. These are perfect conditions for a drawing medium to be erasable. Compressed charcoal is very dark and contains a few binders that make it a little bit harder to erase them.

It is certainly not impossible to erase compressed charcoal. In fact, both charcoal types are fairly easy to erase. This is also a reason why these drawing tools are such great options for beginners to start off in drawing in general.

In this video, you can perfectly see how it looks to erase compressed charcoal and how it looks when you do it with vine charcoal marks. The artist talking about charcoal in this video doesn't only talk about erasing but also gives valuable tips for charcoal beginners.

Once again, concluding the difference:

Vine charcoal is very soft and doesn't consist of any binders at all. This makes it perfect to erase it completely leaving no remnants. Compressed charcoal is harder and makes darker marks. Therefore, it is a bit more difficult to erase.

Nevertheless, both types are erasable easily and it doesn't matter if you use charcoal pencils or sticks.

If you ask yourself, why drawing media containing more binders is more difficult to erase you can simply explain it. Just imagine drawing with a very hard (maybe 6H) graphite pencil and making very dark marks by putting a lot of pressure on the pen.

Is it easy for you to erase this? No, it definitely isn't and if you now compare it to erasing dark marks that you've drawn with a very soft (maybe 6B) pencil you'll quickly notice something. Erasing the marks you've drawn with the softer pencil is way easier.

This is due to the following fact. The softer your pencil, the fewer binders it contains. I memorize it this way. If you want to start drawing a charcoal artwork one day and don't remember this Mac H. - Creative article, just compare erasing soft and hard graphite.

II. The Best Charcoal Eraser

What is the best eraser for charcoal?

The best option to erase charcoal from your drawing is a kneaded eraser. It can be transformed into any form perfectly suited for the charcoal artist's needs. You can be very precise with it but you can also erase large areas on your surface with it.

Additionally, you are not only able to erase the charcoal by pulling and pushing the eraser over your surface but you can also use it in another way.

When you're drawing with charcoal on your preferred surface, you soon realize that creating marks with that tool can get very dusty. To prevent this dust from destroying already finished parts of your work you can use the soft kneaded eraser to carefully remove that dust.

Do this by carefully dabbing or rolling the eraser over those certain dusty areas. Only roll it if you also want to lighten the area up a little. Carefully dab if you merely want to eliminate the annoying and dangerous dust.

In the video below a very nice art teacher on Youtube shows you how to use the kneaded eraser correctly with compressed charcoal.

If you watch the video you will also hear him say that softer compressed charcoal pencils are darker and easier to smudge. Before he smudges the charcoal spots, you're also able to see how dusty charcoal can really be on your paper.

If you want to learn more about kneaded erasers and how to use them I recommend taking a look at this article from Darlene on her website "rapidfireart". She tells you exactly what kneaded erasers are and how to use them correctly.

The soft pencil is already dusty after this first small mark he draws with it. Imagine, how much this will become when you fill larger areas with that kind of tool. This is why I'm always recommending a kneaded eraser to charcoal artists. You can get the one I'm using from Amazon if you click here.

Watching this video here will teach you how to use a kneaded eraser to create highlights in your charcoal artwork. The expert says "a gum eraser can be very handy for that". I don't exactly know why he says that because he is clearly using a kneaded eraser.

So, don't let this confuse you. The video is about using a kneaded eraser to create highlights in charcoal drawings that maybe have too many blended areas. You can easily use that kind of eraser to reduce these areas by adding little highlights within them.

Another possibility is to erase complete areas that you're not happy with. A kneaded eraser is of course also suitable for that kind of intention.

For erasing larger areas, however, I personally prefer conventional gum erasers after I've lightened these certain areas with a kneaded eraser before. So, first of all, I take a kneaded eraser and roll it over the areas and then I use the harder gum eraser to eliminate the entire area.

Lightening the area before with a kneaded eraser makes it much (MUCH!) easier to erase it completely afterward with the gum eraser. Get a high-quality gum eraser (made in Germany of course) on Amazon here.

III. Erase Charcoal On Canvas - Bonus Tip

Now, maybe you've experienced that problem before. When you're drawing on canvas in can be hard to erase marks made with graphite or charcoal. At least if you're only using a normal gum eraser or kneaded eraser.

I found this video a few months ago and the guy talking in it perfectly explains two very simple and highly effective methods to erase something from an art canvas. It is rather unusual and I have never seen someone else do this, to be honest, but it worked perfectly fine for me personally.

For both techniques, you will need a soap-water solution containing a little bit of bleach for the erasing to be most effective.

1. Scrubbing With The Toothbrush

For the first way to erase marks on canvas which is presented in the video above you need your soap-bleach-water solution, a toothbrush, and a towel or any kind of cloth that can get dirty.

Dip your toothbrush in the solution and then scrub the marks you want to be eliminated off of your canvas. Now, use your cloth to dry the area. Most of the time, there won't be a single piece of graphite or charcoal left.

2. Dabbing And Erasing

The second method shown in the video is to be really sure there's absolutely not a single lead atom left on your canvas. You will need the same tools as in the first method but add a regular gum eraser to the list.

You want to dip your toothbrush in the water again but now, you don't scrub your marks off but rather carefully dab the toothbrush on the unwanted regions. Now, your gum eraser comes into play. Scrub the marks from the wet area.

Use your towel or whatever it is you're using and carefully press it on the wet area a few times to dry it. As soon as it's dry enough you can wipe the dirt off of your drawing surface and you're ready to continue with your artwork.

IV. Related Questions

1. How Do You Erase A Pencil Without An Eraser?

A very simple solution to that question is to use rubber bands as alternatives. If you happen to have no regular eraser but you do have rubber bands, these will work just as fine as a gum eraser.

2. Can I Draw With Pencil On Canvas?

You can draw with any kind of pencil, brush or pen on art canvases. Regular graphite or charcoal pencils work perfectly well on canvas. Graphite and charcoal, however, are media that have to be sealed with fixative spray.

3. Which Pencil Is The Easiest To Erase?

The softer the pencil is that is being drawn with, the easier it will be to erase. A pencil from the B scale is always easier to erase than a pencil from the H scale. The harder the pencil, the more binders it contains. These binders hinder the marks from being erased.

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