What is a Kneaded Eraser and How To Use It! (With DIY Option)

Kneaded erasers are a widespread tool for any traditional artist. But what is the difference between this eraser and the rubber or vinyl ones? And what exactly is a kneaded eraser?

A kneaded eraser is a malleable eraser that can be easily molded, stretched, and compressed to erase pencil artwork. This kneaded eraser is also commonly used to add highlights, depending on the pressure you apply.

As you can see, kneaded erasers are super helpful and can level up your traditional artwork.

Differences Between A Kneaded Eraser And A Regular Eraser

A regular rubber eraser is made of hard material. This means that when you’re using it to erase something, you don’t have much control over its shape or size.

Not only that, but regular erasers leave lots of debris behind. It’s a very familiar scene to end up with your desk, lap, or even floor filled with detritus, after drawing, due to erasing!

Kneaded erasers, however, are made with a very different material. It’s almost like you’re picking up a piece of play-dough.

Here, you can stretch, mold, and compress the kneaded eraser as much as you want, and it won’t break.

They are made to be molded! This can be very useful, especially if you’re working with graphite or charcoal.

Sometimes you want to add some highlights or even erase a small part. With a kneaded eraser, you can mold it into a small and thin point, so you can erase only the desired area.

Another advantage of the kneaded eraser is that it won’t leave any garbage behind. As you erase, the graphite will stick to the eraser instead of creating small debris left behind!

This is very useful because you can also use your kneaded eraser to clean up the paper from any rubbish that might be lying around. Just poke at the paper with the eraser where you see debris.

If you’re not careful, regular erasers commonly damage the paper if you use too much strength or repeatedly erase something in the same place.

Due to its softness, the same won’t happen with a kneaded eraser.

The material makes it much easier to erase certain mediums such as graphite, charcoal, and even some colored pencils (here’s a guide on erasing colored pencils for good!).

A kneaded eraser is a must if you’re a traditional artist! Not only for erasing any mistake but also to make more subtle changes to a drawing or even to modify tiny details, hard to reach with a regular eraser.

How To Use A Kneaded Eraser

Kneaded erasers generally come inside a plastic wrap. Others are in a small plastic box, which can help keep your eraser clean when you’re not using it.

To use a kneaded eraser for the first time, you must first take it out of the package. Try to go through this process on a clean surface, so the eraser won’t come in contact with hair, dirt, or anything else.

Due to their consistency, kneaded erasers will pick up almost anything.

It’s time to soften our eraser a little bit, so it’s easier to use later. Stretch it with your hands and knead it back together.

Feel free to do this a few times since it’s fun!

mold your kneaded eraser before starting to use it
Mold and stretch your kneaded eraser first!

You can stretch the eraser until it breaks and put it back together. Alternatively, knead both parts separately and then squish them back together.

You should go through this process until you feel the eraser is soft and malleable. The eraser is ready when you don’t have difficulty molding your kneaded eraser.

So, it’s almost like you’re playing with play-dough all over again!

You can also divide your eraser into two parts. Now you can save one of them and use the other. Simply stretch it until it breaks.

This way, your kneaded eraser will last much longer! It’s also quite helpful if you prefer to have a smaller eraser.

Keep one somewhere clean and safe and mold and stretch the other for further use.

Since kneaded erasers are pretty big, you can do this and still have a good eraser to use; this way, you got two erasers in one!

Are Kneaded Erasers Reusable?

One of the most extraordinary things about kneaded erasers is that you can use them many times without losing your eraser.

With a regular eraser, as you use it, so will the eraser itself be destroyed. The debris you see left on the paper are pieces of your eraser.

With a kneaded eraser, however, this won’t happen. You won’t be out of the eraser since you’ll never lose bits of it.

This means you can use kneaded erasers over and over again.

The only issue with the kneaded eraser is that it will get dirty.

You’ll notice it will turn dark grey when you use it. This is left behind by the graphite, charcoal, or tool you’re erasing.

You’ll notice that the eraser will lose its strength the dirtier it gets. It might even do the opposite effect!

If not careful, a dirty, kneaded eraser will smudge your paper if not cleaned. But now comes the beauty of it: you can clean your kneaded eraser!

By doing this, your kneaded eraser will last a long time, so you can keep using it on your artwork.

Another thing to consider is that a kneaded eraser will harden when left alone. This is natural, but it doesn’t mean it’s time to get a new one.

Whenever you’re planning on using your eraser, take a few minutes to knead and mold it first. This way, the eraser will become flexible again and ready to do its job.

Knead and erase. That’s the motto when using a kneaded eraser!

How to Clean a Kneaded Eraser

As mentioned above, kneaded erasers will become dirty as they’re used. You’ll notice this by the change of color.

Most kneaded erasers are light gray, but they’ll turn dark grey with use. These streaks will appear in different places as you use your eraser.

If too much dust is accumulated into your kneaded eraser, it won’t erase as efficiently. In fact, it might even start smudging your paper if you’re not careful.

There are two ways to clean your kneaded eraser, and I actually recommend doing both of these:

  • Method 1 – every time you use your kneaded eraser, stretch and mold it again until the dust is absorbed. As you mold the eraser, everything will blend together, and there will be no risk of smudging your paper afterward.
  • Method 2 – pick up a clean piece of paper and use the eraser. Most of the residue will stay on the paper. Just erase and mold it again until it’s clean.

While drawing, I like to clean my kneaded eraser as I work. If I use it to erase something, I’ll go through the first method described by kneading it a bit to clean off the dust and use it again.

When I’m done drawing, it’s time to do a deeper cleaning so the eraser is ready to be used again. This time, I use the second method: I grab a piece of paper and clean my kneaded eraser as much as possible.

It’s always a good idea to clean your eraser every time. Kneaded erasers already last for quite a long time, but they will last even longer with the appropriate care.

Cost Of A Kneaded Eraser

Kneaded erasers are a bit more costly than regular erasers. However, you won’t have to buy it as often!

They can be affordable, and sometimes you’ll find them in packs. This way, you won’t have to worry about buying more kneaded erasers soon.

One example of this is the Prismacolor Kneaded Rubber. You can buy a pack of 3 kneaded erasers on Amazon for about $5.99.

If you do the math, this eraser will cost as much as a regular one. Not only that, but again, remember that you can actually divide each kneaded eraser into at least 2 parts.

Depending on the use you give them, you’ll have enough kneaded erasers for years!

Alternatively, suppose you like having a place where you can keep your eraser safe and sound.

In that case, you can always go for a Kneaded Eraser by Faber Castell. This one costs about $3.90 and comes inside a plastic box, so your eraser is always clean and free from random dust.

Both options are pretty good, and it really depends on your preferences.

Although they’re made very similarly, some kneaded erasers feel different to the touch from one another.

So, you can always try different brands and see what you prefer.

Some might feel smoother than others, for example, to the touch, and on paper.

And if you’re still finding the best paper for you, here’s an article on the 23 Best Sketchbooks For Artists On Every Medium!

Depending on what you’re using your kneaded eraser for, you might want it to feel differently. So, it’s all a matter of experimenting and seeing what you like the best.

Once you find the perfect kneaded eraser, you can start buying packs of them, so they’re never missing!

How to Make a Kneaded Eraser Easily

As mentioned before, kneaded erasers are generally quite affordable, especially considering how long they last.

However, knowing how to make your own if you’re in a bind can be helpful. Maybe you don’t have a kneaded eraser at home and need one stat!

Although not as optimal as an actual kneaded eraser, it is possible to craft your own in an emergency. There are two ways to go about it:

Eraser Method:

For this one, all you need is at least one regular eraser and a piece of paper:

  1. Grab one eraser and a piece of paper. Rub the eraser against the paper;
  2. Keep the rubbish that is left behind. Instead of putting these in the garbage, join them all together into a pile;
  3. Once you have a nice stack, pick up everything and mold it;
  4. Keep molding until it becomes a unified ball;
  5. If everything is kept together well, your DIY kneaded eraser is ready to use!

Notes: Instead of one eraser and a piece of paper, you can also use 2 erasers and rub them together. This way, you’ll have enough residue to make your kneaded eraser faster. However, you’ll also consume two erasers instead of just one.

rub two erasers together to make your own kneaded eraser
Rub two erasers together like this!

Still, it’s an option, especially if you want a big kneaded eraser!

Glue Method:

If you have it at home, glue can be a good material for an improvised kneaded eraser. 

For this one, it’s best to use silicone craft glue, which you can easily find on Amazon or a local supermarket! You’ll also need a jar or plastic container with a lid.

Here’s how to create the kneaded eraser:

  1. Grab a jar and the glue;
  2. Squeeze glue into the jar. The more glue you use, the bigger the eraser will be;
  3. Close the jar and leave it for at least 24 hours;
  4. Check your glue: if it’s no longer sticky, then you can take it out of the jar;
  5. Mold the glue in your hands and shape it as you want;
  6. It’s ready to use!

This method takes less work than the previous one, but it does take longer to be ready to use. So it depends on your home materials and how urgently you need the eraser.

Again, although not as good as an actual kneaded eraser, both will work well enough and do the job!

How Long Do Kneaded Erasers Last

When it comes to the lifespan of a kneaded eraser, it’s not a matter of time but how much you use it.

As we discussed, kneaded erasers can be used repeatedly for a long time. Your kneaded eraser will last for months if you’re careful and adequately clean it at every use.

However, there’ll come a time when the dust is too much, and no matter how much you mold and rub against the paper, it won’t come off anymore.

Kneaded erasers will absorb most dust. Even when you clean, something will stay behind.

You’ll notice it’s time to change erasers when their color turns dark grey or almost black.

If you’re using your kneaded eraser and no matter how much you molded it, it leaves streaks on the paper, it’s time to retire it!

Even though your kneaded eraser will not do its job as well as it should, it might actually take years for that to happen.

Again, it all depends on the use you give it as well as the mediums you use.

Some tools release more dust than others. Some dust is more refined than others as well. For example, erasing charcoal is not the same as erasing graphite.

These factors also count; however, it’s safe to say that you can use a kneaded eraser for at least a year.

Of course, as you go and learn how to use it, you’ll more easily understand when to change for a new eraser.

Are Kneaded Erasers Toxic?

Fortunately, most kneaded erasers are NOT toxic. So if your child, yourself, or a pet animal has tasted one accidentally or even eaten some part of it, there will be no risk to their health!

Do remember that if a small dog or your child has eaten part of a kneaded eraser, they can still harm themselves based on the size of the chunk! Especially if it creates any type of blockage that prevents them from breathing.

My recommendation: keep an eye on them for the next 24 hours. If whoever has eaten the kneaded eraser has diarrhea or vomited, take them to the hospital (or veterinary in case of a pet) to check it out.

It’s also a good idea to keep your eraser in a safe place, so such accidents won’t happen. Keeping a box or a drawer for your art materials is a good idea.

This way, you’ll have everything always organized.

Now that you know everything you need about kneaded erasers, it’s natural to get an itch for drawing, so here are 23 Easy Drawing Ideas just for you!

If you already have a kneaded eraser close by, this is the perfect opportunity to try it out.

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Patricia Caldeira is the main writer here at Don Corgi. She's an art teacher with over 20.000 happy students across many platforms and courses!

Enjoy your stay and as always:
Keep on drawing!