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I tried to figure out why some erasers can't do their job properly, and I ended up reading an explanation. My erasers are not the most expensive, which probably accounts for their inefficiency.

However, I would like to know if there are tricks to properly use regular erasers in pencil marks, to avoid smudges left by graphite, while erasing any (or most) evidence of use. Ideally, precision would be useful too, to prevent from losing entire lines (to try to erase the smudges).

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Big fan of pencils for both office & study as well as sketching & artwork. Different erasers are designed to work with your particular pencil and paper selection, so there are a few issues to consider.

Graphite Hardness and Erasability

At the bottom of this post, I included a pencil grading test to show the effect of graphite hardness on how a pencil writes and erases. Generally speaking, softer leads are easier to erase, but they are also more prone to smudging (left-handed pencil users sometimes prefer harder leads for that reason). Harder H-grade leads are more smudge-resistant and give cleaner lines, but they tend to be more scratchy on the paper and are harder to remove once applied heavily enough to be easily legible.

The sweet spot between legibility and erasability is somewhere around the HB to 3H range (HB is your #2 pencil in the U.S. grading system — Graphite Grading Scales Explained). 2H is dark enough to be read clearly with minimal smudging while being easier to erase and correct mistakes.

Choosing a Pencil

#2 pencil

The Dixon Ticonderoga yellow #2 pencil has been the standard pencil of choice since our school days. But with three lead grades (B, HB, H) available, you may want to try a few different hardnesses to find the level that works best for you.

But here is my top preference.

Uni Mitsubishi 9850 Pencil with Eraser - HB

Uni Mitsubishi 9850 Pencil with Eraser - HB

Many die-hard pencil fans swear by the Uni Mitsubishi 9850 for its smooth, dark lines and general utility for office and study needs. What caught my attention was the high-quality eraser that erases pencil marks easily and reportedly does not harden (a leading cause of erasers becoming ineffectual over time). I found the eraser on this pencil surprisingly good and erases easily without smudges.

Choosing an Eraser

There is a lot of variability in eraser materials and effectiveness and what they are designed to erase. The most common pink variety (made of rubber) tend to smear and leave a residue while the pumice can be punishing to the paper (think math homework filled with holes). But if you want to stick to what you're going to find in your local grocery store, the Papermate pink erasers have gotten notably better in recent years. Just make sure you keep swapping them out for newer erasers, as older ones tend to dry out and lose their effectiveness egregiously.

Erasers also come in soft vinyl (plastic), art gum, and kneaded erasers that absorb graphite rather than rubbing it away. I've been partial to gum erasers made for sketching and artwork, but I've been itching to try some of the newer plastics or even this battery-powered eraser that are reportedly extremely gentle on paper and meticulously exact. If you want to experiment with different materials, I would suggest the reviews at Guide to Choosing an Eraser… but if you want a one-stop solution, I would suggest the Uni Mitsubishi 9850 pencil I mentioned above. The pencil/eraser combination is surprisingly good.

Precision Erasing 2.0

You mentioned precision erasing to prevent you from losing entire lines when fixing up mistakes — from my aspiring graphic design and architecture days, I absolutely love these things:

enter image description here

Product Search: Erasing Shields

It may be overkill for some, but I find them indispensable.

Pencil Lead Hardness Test

pencil lead hardness test

  • From my one-sided question, you managed to show me there's more to it. As you said, the shields are more than what I need, but I will have more attention choosing my pencils now. I've been using HB, but I had a 2H here and gave it a try, with much better smudging results but still readable. Since there's nothing I can do about aging erasers, I'll consider buying smaller ones, to use all of them. Great sources too! Just a question: you said "2H [being] your #2 pencil in the U.S. grading system", but that would be HB, right? – bandrade Dec 31 '15 at 13:52
  • @bandrade The tl;dr version is try the Uni Mitsubishi 9850. With the good lead and the matching high-quality eraser, it should fill your needs. And yes, the #2 lead is HB. With the different grading systems, it gets confusing which is which. Corrected. – Robert Cartaino Dec 31 '15 at 15:07
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The composition of the eraser does cause some differences in how the graphite is removed, but in general I've found that a dabbing twisting motion is best regardless of what the eraser is made of.

I find soft putty erasers to be the best for soft pencils, and a hard grit eraser best for H4 and harder, but be gentle as it can shred the paper fibers.

The Staedtler Mars Plastic is a good general purpose eraser, in my opinion.

And as a final tip, keep the eraser clean: I find rubbing the built up graphite off with your thumb to be a good action prior to using it.

  • The twisting motion does help to avoid the smudging from "spreading", but do you clean the eraser with your finger? I tried to do it, but then it even smudged more. Does it depend on the material, maybe? – bandrade Dec 31 '15 at 14:10
  • Many years ago I worked as an archaeological drafter and surveyor and as such worked in many conditions and with many materials This is what I found; When using drafting film such as permatrace with a h6+ pencil (my actual preference was a h8) that a combination of grit rubber eraser and a Steadler plastic was best. The reason was that light use if the grit cleanded the graphite off then the plastic polished the surface. On 80gsm graph paper a kneedable putty eraser and the trusty Steadler plastic and for cleaning and polishing the surface band making the paper fibers lay flat. – Ourjamie Dec 31 '15 at 15:18
  • More on erasing. In some circumstances I had to resort to a fibreglass pencil. They'll basically remove anything from most drafting surfaces, but be careful as just touching the tip gets glass fibers ubder your skin which is quite irritating abd painful. Finally, yes I often, almost habitually, would rub the graphite buildup on erasers off with fingertips or thumb. – Ourjamie Dec 31 '15 at 15:23
  • Placing your eraser directly on the mark and rubbing back-and-forth on it will push the graphite into the surface. Rub from clean, across the mark into a clean area and back to pull the mark off the surface. +1 for the clean eraser tip. – Stan Jul 16 '16 at 1:45
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I have found that (like your referenced article states) the better quality and more pliable erasers work better. I also like to use short quick strokes. I don't think that there is much that can be done for an eraser that has outlived it's shelf life. Once it is smooth and glossy, it is time to get a new eraser. I tried to "shave" one, but that did not provide any better results.

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