Erasable Colored Pencils: Good or Bad?

Erasable Colored Pencils: Good or Bad?

Erasable colored pencils are the topic for today, after a reader asked the following question.

I’ve heard of erasable coloured pencils. What is your experience with them?

What are Erasable Pencils?

In short, erasable colored pencils are colored pencils that made with a unique binding agent. You can use them just like regular colored pencils, but they’re not permanent. In fact, they’re quite easy to erase, hence the name.

Col-Erase is an erasable pencil from Prismacolor. Crayola also makes a line of colored pencils you can easily erase.

I have no experience with this type of colored pencils. Mostly, I suppose, because I’ve never seen the need for them.

But Brenda Matsen does use Col-Erase pencils.

Brenda uses them for her line drawing, then layers regular colored pencils over them. Here’s what she had to say about them in the September 2021 issue of CP Magic!:

[Col-Erase pencils] erase well and lift off nicely with a kneaded eraser. I keep them sharp and use light pressure.

I also choose colors that go well with my project, just in case some color might stay behind.

They aren’t advertised as lightfast but rather as erasable and break resistant. I only use them for line drawing which doesn’t need to last. They keep a good point.

Brenda Matsen

The Bottom Line

As I mentioned above, I’ve never used Col-erase or any other erasable colored pencils. But I can see applications in which they would be useful. Brenda’s method of using them to make line drawings is probably the best one.

You could also use them for the initial layers if you’re not sure of the best colors to use. If you don’t like the first color, erase it, then try another. When you’ve found the best color, then go over it again with regular colored pencils of the same color.

Col-Erase and other types of erasable colored pencils are also good for craft applications or adult coloring books. If it’s not important that your artwork last a long time, then there’s nothing wrong with using erasable pencils.

But if you’re doing work for sale or commission work, then use erasable pencils for the line drawing as Brenda does, and use archival, artist quality pencils for shading and rendering.

Do you have a question about colored pencils? Ask Carrie!

4 Comments

  1. Rick Steffens

    I have bought & tested out Colo-erase Prismacolor pencils before & liked them well enough to buy more to give to a couple grandkids who have an interest in doing artwork. But I tell them that if & when they get better, to only use better quality pencils. For kids, they’re great practice pencils & do erase pretty well.

  2. Heidi Hall

    Faber-Castell Polychromos are somewhat erasable and I am not too proud to admit that I have taken advantage of this feature on a few occasions. I am also not too proud to admit that I have used masking tape to lift Prismacolor pencil work. In both cases the pigment is not entirely removed but this technique allows me to alter the mistakes that I am not too proud to admit I make.

    So yeah – If you want to label a useful feature of colored pencils as “bad” I guess I am just a “bad” artist who gains a great deal of enjoyment from doing “bad” colored pencil landscapes and hanging the best ones on the walls of my house.

    1. Heidi,

      Thank you for reading this post and for taking the time to leave a comment.

      I agree with you about being able to lift color with all colored pencils using masking tape. I also use mounting putty, transparent tape, and a click eraser, and an electric eraser. I’ve even written a couple of posts on how to lift color and lighten color for my art blog.

      But the purpose of this post was to answer a specific reader question about my experience with erasable pencils such as Prismacolor Col-Erase.

      Are they a bad pencil? No. Would I use them to make line drawings as Brenda Matsen does? I can see how they would be useful for that, but I prefer putting line drawings on drawing paper either with my own, home-made transfer paper or with regular colored pencils (using a sharp pencil and very light pressure.)

      Would I use erasable pencils for layering, shading or finishing?

      No. I wouldn’t use erasable pencils for client work or pieces I wanted to exhibit or sell because they’re not permanent; they have no lightfast rating and I use only colors and brands that are highly rated for lightfastness.

      As I mentioned in my closing comments, there are a lot of really good uses for erasable colored pencils of any brand.

      In the end, the pencils you use and how you choose to use them is an entirely personal decision. There is no wrong way, or right way to make art.

      Nor are there pencils that are good or bad in and of themselves.

      But some pencils are better suited to some purposes than others. In my opinion, erasable pencils are not very well suited to creating any artwork you’re doing for a client or are hoping to sell.

      Thank you again for your comment!

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