Thursday, September 3, 2015

Artsy Goodness "Odds n' Ends": Erasers You "Knead" and Whatnot

Sorry about the corny title, but I am an unabashed art nerd. This will be a hodgepodge post with a side of lagniappe in the "artsy goodness" category, but I promise to make it interesting and useful, just the same.

As a little teaser, I will list some of the items I plan to review  and/or discuss in upcoming posts:

Upcoming Product Reviews

  • Derwent water soluble pencils: InkTense, regular  watercolor pencils, and, hopefully, water soluble sketching graphite and graphitone pencils
  • Daler Rowney pan watercolors: Aquafine and Simply
  • Nitram Academie Fusains, Maries paper-wrapped charcoal  
  • Various Pastels: Rembrandt, Mungio Gallery, Prismacolor NuPastel, 
  • Pastel Pencils: General's, Conte, Stabillo Carbothello, Koh-I-Noor 
  • Acrylic painting Mediums: Liquitex slow-dry retarder, Flow-aid, Air brush medium, and fabric medium, Daler Rowney glazing mediums
  • Artist markers: Copic, Prismacolor, Sharpie (yeah, why not?), Tombow

Possible Future Topics

  • Halloweeny stuff- great crafting possibilities  
  • Affordable digital painting software
  • Scoring artsy freebies 101 
  • Artist Paper: when to scrimp and when to splurge (with semi-reviews)
  • Favorite mixed media combinations
Please note that these are not listed in the order I will publish them. A few items I plan to review are still in the "wishlist" category for now, but I own and use most of these products already. 

Today's reviews will include the Tombow Mono 2.3 mm round shaper, the Pentel Clic, and various rubber and putty varieties.

image of erasers and eraser shield
Staedtler eraser shield, Koh-I-Noor kneaded eraser (the lump)
on the right, Pentel Clic, bottom left Tombow Mono Zero

Erasers You Need, Period

No joke! You may not even care about your erasers right now, but what about those times when you couldn't find any? Ever used a crappy eraser that ruined your artwork? Since erasers are cheap consumable items, we might not think about them much or even rank them among our fine art tools until we encounter one of the scenarios I mentioned previously. I have a large collection of erasers, but there are some that I cannot live without, including my pen-style precision erasers, kneaded or putty varieties, and hard and soft rubber types.

Affiliate Disclaimer: For full transparency, you should know that many of my links in my posts are affiliate links. As an Amazon affiliate, I receive a small commission when readers purchase items using my affiliate links. This helps me fund the blog domain costs, and you will not be charged extra if you buy anything using my links. 

Tombow Mono Zero 2.3 Round Shaper

As far as erasers go, the Mono is a splurge, but it is not a frivolous purchase for serious artists. There are times when you need an eraser that can lift or remove tone with utmost precision. The tiny 2.3 mm wide Mono Zero is perfect when you need to add tiny highlights and details. It works well with graphite, charcoal, and some colored pencils. 

I use it in portraits to lighten the inner parts of eyelids, bottoms of nostrils, and to make the shiny dots and lines on eyeballs and lips. The Mono is also the best eraser to make razor-thin highlights on delicate objects like jewelry, fish or dragon scales, tiny flowers, and highlights on the finest hair, whiskers, and fur. Those teeny-weeny details are important for enhancing the depth and realism in your drawings.

image of samples of erasures in shaded graphite
Showing the erasing properties of kneaded and pen style
erasers. Note the precise shapes from the eraser shield-
somewhat useful, but more so as a drafting tool. 
 Before I had the Mono, I was stuck with using an eraser shield, which really limits one's possibilities. The shapes in an eraser shield are limited and can be too rigid for some designs. I can "draw" with the tiny pen eraser to make flowing, organic marks that I would never get using an eraser shield.  You can buy the Mono Zero in 2.3 mm and 2.5mm round and 2.5 mm rectangular shapes. I do not have a rectangular one, but that is on my "wish list".

Mono Zero refills are available from and Jerry's Artarama, and I am sure other places sell them too. Jerry's sells the refills (two refills per pack) for $1.35, so I added one to my recent order, but if I were to buy just refills, I would go for the Mono Zero refill multi-packs from Amazon. If you were to buy refills online elsewhere, the shipping would put you off in a heartbeat. 

Alternative detail erasers include the Tuff Stuff eraser stick by Papermate and the Faber-Castell eraser pencil. I have used both, but I could no longer find the refills for the Tuff Stuff locally, and I think the FC eraser pencil is too expensive as well difficult to find. Tuff Stuff is a pen-style white plastic eraser with a diameter slightly larger than the Mono, about 3-4 mm. The FC eraser pencil is a wood pencil with a core made of the pink rubber type of eraser material. You can sharpen it with any sharpener, but the results will vary greatly. It is a hard eraser that can sometimes smudge a graphite drawing and rough up softer paper, and it costs more than the Mono or Tuff Stuff.  However, the eraser pencil will erase heavier colored pencil and other drawing mediums that many erasers cannot.

Pentel Clic 

The Pentel Clic is another staple in my art kit. This is a wider pen style eraser with a cylinder shape, and it is sold in most stores that carry office supplies. The eraser is the white plastic type, and while it will leave some crumbs behind, this eraser does not abrade the paper surface. If you like using the Staedtler Mars and General's white erasers, then you will like this one. It is about 8 mm wide, so you won't have the same precision as the Mono, but you can still get it in some small areas- great for cleaning up edges. It is also retractable like most pen type erasers.

The Pentel Clics are sold in packs of three with the hard plastic holders in different colors. I have seen refills around, but the 3-packs are so cheap (under $3 at WalMart) that I just buy another set when I need them. It takes a while to use all three, and I modify the empty cases to make pencil extenders and graphite stick holders.

A Caveat: All of the precision erasers that I have mentioned above will leave the typical "crumbs" behind, which is an issue with most hard erasers. I use a drafter's duster brush or a paint brush to remove the annoying bits, but there are many ways to remedy this problem.

image of an eye sketch with penny for scale refrence
I drew my eye using various graphite pencils and the Tombow Mono Zero,
Koh-I-Noor kneaded, and Pentel Clic erasers. Penny for size reference.
The tiny highlights would only be possible using the Tombow mono.

Kneadable Rubber and Putty Erasers

Ahhh, these are the best erasers to have around when you are an artist. Why? Let me count the reasons:

  1. No crumbs! Nothing wrecks a delicate drawing like brushing away eraser crumbs with your hand (brushes work better), but spittle comes in a close second. It's a reflex to blow the debris away, but understand that you are blowing more than just air.
  2. Easy on the paper- you don't need to rub the area to lift stray marks or extra tone. Simply press lightly and lift, and all is right again. 
  3. Control- kneaded erasers can lift a little bit of tone to adjust values as well as remove unwanted marks and smudges. 
  4. Malleable like Silly putty- twist it and squish it into the right shape for more precise erasure. Roll a putty cylinder over larger areas to lift swaths of unwanted tone. 
  5. Self- cleaning! Pull it apart and reshape it to work out any graphite, colored pencil or charcoal on the surface.
  6. Long-lasting- you can rip them apart and reuse them for a long time. Just don't drop them on the carpet too much, especially if you have pets. 
  7. Fun for fidgets! It's putty, after all, better than a worry stone and more fun than Play Dough! 

I have used different brands of putty erasers as well as the blue and white removable adhesive putties. Some adhesive putty brands I have used include Scotch and 3M (both white) and Elmer's (blue), but there are dozens of brands out there. They work in a pinch, but these types tend to lose their erasing power after a bit, and some, like one of the white ones I used, harden over time. They are not meant to be erasers after all, so I only grab these alternatives if I cannot find a real kneaded eraser.

My favorite kneaded erasers are made by Prismacolor, General's, and Koh-I-Noor, but the Daler Rowney brand is okay too. The one that came in my Royal Langnickel drawing set was disappointing because it was too sticky. You should be able to roll the putty around without it sticking to your fingers, especially in a climate controlled setting. If you feel excess residue on your hands, then you should assume that it will leave it on your paper as well. You may start to feel a little tackiness after using the eraser for a long time, which is your signal to get a new one soon. 

That's it for now! I have a UPS package from Jerry's Artarama that is currently "out for delivery", so my next post will revisit charcoals.  I will review Nitram Academie Fusains (and confirm if it is compressed or not) and Marie's Paper Wrapped Charcoal. 

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