May 2015

What is a kneaded eraser – How do you use one?

So, what is a kneaded eraser? Unlike the common vinyl or rubber pink erasers, kneaded rubber erasers are more pliable and can be stretched, molded and compressed.

These super fun erasers can be used for removing and highlighting mediums like graphite, charcoal, pastel and chalk.

They can even be used for entertainment purposes such as making sculptures and bouncy balls. Although a couple of bounces on the floor can pick up more than enough dirt to make you cringe!

 

how to use a rubber eraser

How to use a Kneaded Eraser

Details Details…

One of the most amazing things about kneaded erasers is that you can mold them into any shape which is great for detailing work. I remember the days of using a solid eraser and having to erase a large area of my portrait in order to fix a tiny flaw and boy was that fun!

 

rubber eraser

Highlighting
Kneaded erasers do not leave residue. Look at how it eats the graphite up without leaving a single trace
behind. I didn’t even rub the paper! Just press and lift. Do this a couple times and the graphite is gone. However, this might not work if the pencil marks are too dark. In the image below, I¬†gave it only ONE light press!
how to use a kneaded eraser highlighting

I mostly use the ‘press and lift’ method, but when it comes to things like highlighting hair, I’ll pinch the eraser and use it to swipe¬†the graphite using light strokes. Avoid putting too much pressure on your drawing or you will bend the eraser. If it starts to change shape or becomes too dirty, fold the eraser into itself, pinch it to a¬†fine tip and continue!

how to use a kneaded eraser on hair

How to Clean a Kneaded Eraser

Because kneaded erasers absorb graphite, they will become dirtier with use. To clean a kneaded eraser, you can stretch and knead it until the color turns light grey. Eventually they will become too dirty to use as graphite, charcoal, dust or other particles accumulate in the eraser. I’ve only thrown away 1 so far because of the excessive accumulation of dust and dirt from the eraser continuously falling behind my desk. That’s not a big problem because they are generally very cheap and can be found in most art supply stores.

When you get your first kneaded eraser, you will need to break it in. Prismacolor kneaded erasers are the perfect texture for me. If you got a different brand and find that it’s too hard to manipulate, cut it in half or use only one quarter to start. The eraser should become softer as it picks up more graphite. You can increase the softness immediately by creating graphite shavings with a¬†sandpaper¬†pencil sharpener and folding the graphite into the eraser and then pulling and stretching it until it becomes a darker grey. I’ve tested a few different brands and so far my favorite is PrismaColor for it’s softness and ability to pickup graphite with just the slightest touch right out of the packaging. Other brands I tried were either too hard,¬†difficult to mold and keep the shape I needed, or required¬†a lot of¬†friction to erase.

 

Detailed guide: How to use a blending stump

A blending stump or paper stump is a stick of tightly rolled up soft paper with 2 pointed ends. They are used to blend, smear or smudge graphite, charcoal or similar mediums. They work really well for blending large areas (using the side) and even small areas (when using the tip) which require detail and allow you to have more control than other blending tools like q-tips. A lot of people confuse blending stumps with tortillons.
how to use blending stumps Arya Stark GOT

What is a tortillon? They’re also made of rolled paper, however, due to the pointier tip, they are able to blend even tighter spaces where a high level of precision is required.

The tip can collapse when too much pressure is used. A toothpick or paperclip can be used to push the tip back out.

The side of a tortillon will not blend very smoothly, but it does create very interesting textures that resemble grass and brushed metal for example.

how to use a blending stump

I personally love using blending stumps with charcoal because it spreads the medium so beautifully. For graphite drawings, I mainly use it for dark areas of the drawing. It saves a lot of time when blending and shading clothing and backgrounds.

Different Methods for How to Use a Blending Stump

Smudging:

Drag the stub to smudge different elements of your drawing. You can use small circular motions to create interesting patterns on things like shrubs and trees.

Shading:
Draw some tight scribbles in a small corner of a scrap piece of paper and work the graphite onto the paper stump. If needed, remove excess graphite by rubbing it in a clean area of the paper before using it on your drawing. Use light strokes to layer the graphite onto your portrait. Keep the direction consistent with your overall drawing.

how to shade with a blending stump
Blending:
Use a clean blending stump to push the graphite on your drawing back and forth lightly until the tones blend together. If you are scared to do this, use very little pressure (it will take longer to blend though).

Light Values: Always use a clean blending stump when blending light values. You may need to sand it a few times throughout the blending process to keep it clean. I generally use tissue paper for the lightest areas of a portrait.

Dark Values: If you’re trying to achieve a really dark value, a blending stump will do the trick. You will notice that when shading, there are tiny little white dots between the graphite. These little grooves in the paper are really noticeable when adding¬†dark values. Using a blending stump will spread the graphite and fill the grooves to give your drawing a smooth finish.

If you notice many black dots on your drawing before and/or after using a blending stump, use a kneaded eraser to remove them one by one. Click here to learn how to use a kneaded eraser.

how to blend with a blending stump

How to clean a Blending Stump

When the tip of your blending stump becomes too dull or dirty, you can sharpen it using a sand paper sharpener, which usually comes with the stump if you buy it in a pack. After sharpening the paper stump, you will notice that it becomes a little fuzzy. I personally like this, and will use it to blend lighter areas of my portrait using very little pressure. You can also use a nail filer or box cutting knife. But be careful!
I recommend having dedicated stumps for dark, medium and light shades to avoid cleaning your stump multiple times for one portrait.

How to Make a Blending Tool

The benefit of making your own blending tool is that you can customize the type of paper and level of softness.

how to make a blending stump tortillion

Alternatives to Stumps and Tortillions

Tissue: Tissues work great for light or mid-tones.¬†But they don’t work as well¬†for darks because much of your¬†graphite will transfer¬†to the tissue, making those darker values almost impossible to achieve. Here are a few ways you can use tissue paper to blend:

  • Fold the tissue in half and then in half again. Fold it into a¬†triangle one or two times until you can get a pointy corner that’s relatively stiff. Great for tight spaces!
  • Wrap a tissue around your finger making sure to bunch the tissue at the top so you don’t accidentally smudge other parts of your drawing.
  • Make a tissue ball and wrap it inside another tissue. This is similar to the one above except you can blend a larger area.

Makeup or Paint Brush: Good for blending light areas. My favorite brush is the S60 Flat Shader by Robert Simmons. The bristles are stiff enough that the brush doesn’t flare out too much when pressure is applied, it’s super soft and the brush’s corners are perfect for getting into tight spaces.

Q-Tip:¬†OK for large areas, but not so great for tight spaces unless you roll the cotton to a fine tip. You might find it hard to erase areas where you’ve used the q-tip. Especially if the q-tip is hard. Can’t find soft q-tips? Use your clean hands/nails to fluff the cotton by pulling on it in different directions.

Chamois:¬†Chamois¬†are made of soft leather and are most ideal for blending charcoal and pastel. Not for detailing work. I haven’t tried one, but have heard amazing things about them.

Finger: Using your finger to blend a portrait is a big no no because the natural oils from your skin can cling onto the graphite, making the area impossible to erase. If you absolutely need to use your finger to blend, make sure to clean it very well using an oil/grease absorbing cloth/tissue.

I hope you enjoyed this guide! Click here if you want to learn how to use a kneaded eraser!

 

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