Let’s talk about those necessary accessories that help us get the most out of our pencils: colored pencil sharpeners and erasers.
There are lots of sharpeners and erasers on the market. I haven’t used all of them, or even most of them, so the best I can do is tell you the which sharpeners and erasers I’ve used and what I thought of them.
Questions about Colored Pencil Sharpeners and Erasers
Let’s begin with sharpeners.
Colored Pencil Sharpeners
What is your favorite sharpener for colored pencils?
Of all the sharpeners I’ve used, I’m not sure I have a favorite. All of them have worked well for some applications, and haven’t worked at all for others. I haven’t found a sharpener that works great for everything.
The first sharpeners I ever used were hand-held sharpeners. You know the kind. They’re a dollar or less at your favorite super store or grocery store, they come in bright colors, and are made of plastic.
Sometimes they come with a container to hold shavings; sometimes they don’t.
My first sharpeners didn’t have a container for shavings, so I had to carry one. Usually a small, empty wide-mouth jar. The sharpeners were usually small enough to fit into the wide-mouth jar.
Back then, they worked extremely well. Prismacolor pencils were still made with a solid wood casing that could withstand sharpening without breaking or cracking. I never once considered a different sharpener, especially since I was doing a lot of work out of the studio. Usually at horse shows.
The bonus was that if I happened lose or break a sharpener, it was no big deal. I just went and bought another!
I currently use an old-fashioned crank sharpener by Apsco. The kind that used to be in every classroom in every public school. I like this sharpener because it’s solid, is designed to take pencils of different sizes, and it sharpens like a dream.
It’s easy to clean, too. Just turn the shaving container a quarter turn, slide it off the blades, and empty it.
To keep the blades sharp and functioning properly, I sharpen lead pencils once in a while to remove wax and other colored pencil debris.
A few years ago, I had a battery operated, which made it ideal for working away from the studio. I used that Stanley Bostitch Model BPS10 everywhere. It fit into the laptop carrier I used to tote art supplies, and it was quiet enough to use almost anywhere I wanted to draw.
It used four AA batteries and had a good-sized, easy-to-empty shavings tray.
I also used a Panasonic Auto-Stop KP-310. The power cord was long enough to also make this compact sharpener good for drawing away from home if I was going to be in a place with access to electricity.
It sharpened extremely well, and had an auto-stop function, so it didn’t sharpen pencils beyond an ideal point.
But perhaps the best thing about this sharpener was the suction cup feet on the bottom. They kept the sharpener from moving backward when I used it. No need to steady the sharpener with one hand.
This sharpener is no longer available new, but I did find several listings at Amazon and eBay. If you’re looking for a good, reliable, and inexpensive electric sharpener, this is a good place to begin.
Colored Pencil Erasers
What is the best eraser for colored pencils?
There isn’t a good eraser for colored pencils. Colored pencils are either wax-based or oil-based, so most “normal erasers” tend to smear the color around rather than remove it.
Some companies make colored pencils that can be erased, but these are not recommended for fine art use, or for any art you want to last. However, if you use them for sketching, you can use almost any standard eraser on them.
Here are some erasers I’ve tried…. for better or worse.
What I refer to as click erasers are similar to mechanical pencils. The eraser is a long, round “tube” and fits into a plastic, pencil-like holder. The eraser is “advanced” by clicking a mechanism at the top of the barrel, hence my name for them.
Here are my click erasers.
The lighter blue one is a Pentel Clic Eraser ZE22. The darker pencil is a very old Faber-Castell Jet Eraser.
Refills come in various hardnesses. It’s helpful to have more than one eraser, each with a different hardness of eraser refill.
These erasers are stiff enough to sharpen with a blade if you want to make a very fine point. You can also shape them with an emery board or sand paper.
Kneaded erasers are pliable, which means you can shape them into various forms, roll them into points, or tear off pieces for small work.
I’ve used kneaded erasers, but they’re better suited to graphite than colored pencil. They work wonders for graphite, but aren’t very effective for colored pencils.
My husband has a couple of old electric erasers that work extremely well with my colored pencils. He worked on one drawing that I thought was hopeless and was able to remove enough color to allow me to finish the drawing.
I’ve used them once or twice myself, but confess that I’m not comfortable with them. There’s just too much risk of scuffing the paper. They could be extremely useful with enough practice, but I work with such a light drawing hand that I see no reason to spend the time to get proficient with an electric eraser.
If you’re more daring with electric tools, you might try an electric eraser, though. A lot of colored pencil artists swear by them.
My Favorite Erasing Tools Aren’t Erasers
When I really want to remove color, I don’t reach for an eraser.
Instead, I use mounting putty (shown below,) or transparent tape.
Mounting putty is a lot like a kneaded eraser, but it’s sticky enough to remove wax- or oil-based colored pencils. You can’t lift all of the color, but you’ll be able to remove enough to work over it.
The real beauty of mounting putty is that you can shape it, clean it by kneading it, and reuse it for a long time.
Transparent tape is very good at lifting color, and it’s very easy to use. Just tear off a piece, press it lightly to the color you want to lighten, and lift carefully.
The only real disadvantages to using tape to erase is that you can tear the paper if you’re not careful, and it can leave the paper feeling a little bit slick. My suggestion is to use it as a last resort, and use it sparingly.
For tips on using mounting putty and tape, read 2 Neat Tricks for Erasing or “Lifting” Color from Colored Pencil Drawings on EmptyEasel.
There you have it. My favorite colored pencil sharpeners and erasers.
As I said before, these aren’t the only sharpeners and erasers available, but they are the ones with which I have experience. They may be ideal for you, but if not, I at least hope I’ve given you a good place to begin looking!