Can colored pencils be erased? That’s what Katherine wants to know. Here’s her question.
Erasing? Is it a reality? I know I drew with too much pressure on my first project and plan to use a lighter touch and layer the colors this time. So will this facilitate erasing at all?
Thank you for offering to help all of us with our art journey,
I want to thank Katherine for this particular question because it’s a subject that arises often.
I think there’s the perception that because colored pencils are pencils, they can be erased just like graphite pencils. How I wish that were true!
Unfortunately, it’s not.
Can Colored Pencils be Erased?
Colored pencils look and behave like regular pencils, but they are very different. Both types of pencils contain a binding agent that allows the manufacturer to form graphite or pigment into a lead.
It’s easy to erase the binding agent in graphite pencils once the graphite is on the paper. Removing the binding agent also removes the graphite. Almost any eraser removes graphite from paper.
Colored pencils, on the other hand, are made with a binding agent that includes wax and oil in differing amounts. Wax-based pencils contain more wax than oil. Oil-based pencils contain more oil than wax.
The result is the same, though.
Both oil and wax resist removal once they’re on paper. Try to erase them with a regular eraser, and what happens? You may remove some color, but you’re more likely to smudge and smear it around, making a bigger mess.
But does that mean you can’t remove color once it’s on the paper?
Is Erasing a Reality?
Erasing is a reality if you use the right kind of eraser. Some artists use what they call an ink eraser. I don’t know exactly what that is, but I imagine those old typing erasers that look like a pencil with plastic bristles on the end.
Other artists recommend Tombow Mono erasers.
I have no personal experience with those, so I don’t know how they work on heavily applied color.
I’ve had success lifting color using mounting putty, masking tape, transparent tape, and what I call a click eraser, shown below. But even they do not completely remove heavily applied color.
If you work on traditional drawing papers, it doesn’t matter what method you use to lift color. Even combining some of the tools mentioned above removes only a limited amount of color. The more color on the paper, the more difficult removing it becomes.
Yes, applying color with lighter pressure makes lifting color easier. That’s because you don’t press the color so deeply into the tooth of the paper.
Starting with a harder pencil such as Prismacolor Verithin, Faber-Castell Polychromos, or Caran d’Ache Pablo also makes lifting color easier. But even then, it’s next to impossible to get down to bare paper again.
To read more about my experiences removing color, read how to Remove Color from a Colored Pencil Drawing here. You can also read 2 Neat Tricks for Erasing or “Lifting” Color from Colored Pencil Drawings here, published on EmptyEasel.
The Paper Makes a Difference
The difference can be huge!
I described above what happens when you try to erase colored pencils applied to traditional papers.
But apply color to a sanded art paper like Uart, Fisher 400, Pastelmat, or Lux Archival, and it’s a different story. Regular graphite erasers are still a no-no, but you can remove color almost completely from sanded papers with mounting putty, a stiff brush, or other similar tools.
I’ve been experimenting with the Brush & Pencil products lately, and can tell you that when I use Powder Blender before adding color, it’s even easier to remove color.
In fact, Alyona Nickelsen’s “painting with colored pencils” process involves adding color AND removing color. This lifting off method is very much like the wipe-off method oil painters have been using for centuries.
So Can Colored Pencils be Erased?
It all depends on the paper you use, the tools you use to lift or lighten color, and how you apply the color.
I recommend testing various methods with the paper or papers you use most often to find the method that works best for you.