How to erase colored pencils

Reader Question: Do you have any tips for erasing colored pencils? I find them very hard to erase if I make a mistake. I am almost afraid of ruining my drawings just from making a few mistakes! My art teacher at school told me to just come up with a creative way to color over the mistake or somehow incorporate it into the drawing, but still, I'd rather not have to make any drastic changes on my work just to cover a mistake.

Also, are certain brands easier to erase than others?

It is true that colored pencils are hard to erase! In most cases it is usually impossible to erase down to the pure white (or whatever color) of the paper. At best, you will be able to lighten the mistake enough that you can color over it.

How to erase colored pencil

Here are a few ways to erase colored pencil:

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Kneaded Eraser

I'm a big fan of kneaded erasers (also called kneaded rubbers). They can be molded to any size and shape you need, so you can erase big chunks as well as small details.

Two things you need to be careful of when erasing colored pencil with a kneaded eraser:

  1. As the color lifts off the paper and onto your eraser, you'll need to mush the kneaded eraser around so that the pigment that is now on your eraser doesn't accidentally leave colored marks on your drawing. Sometimes you can just mush the color into the eraser and it will become dispersed, but other times you'll need to rub the eraser against a scrap piece of paper to get the color out.
  2. Also be very careful not to crease the paper from rubbing too vigorously. Sometimes it can be easy to get caught up in rubbing out mistakes without realizing how hard you are pressing down, and before you know it, your paper can buckle and crease, so be careful to use a steady, careful touch.

Electric Eraser

An electric eraser is another option for erasing colored pencil. The Sakura Cordless Electric Eraser receives excellent reviews from artists who say that it can erase dark marks that would have been more difficult to erase by hand. You can also use it to lighten areas and create interesting effects by lifting off color.

One technique is to apply a small amount of solvent to the area you want to fix, which will loosen the colored pencil marks, and then use the electric eraser over the area.

If you use an electric eraser, be sure to practice with it first on some test pieces before using it on one of your colored pencil drawings. That way you can get used to the feel of handling the electric eraser and figure out how much pressure you need to use. It's also a good idea to observe how the paper reacts to the eraser, because some papers can handle erasing better than others.

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Eraser Pencil

An eraser pencil is a neat concept - a pink eraser wrapped in a wood case, like a pencil… and it can be sharpened with a normal pencil sharpener! The eraser pencil is an option for eraser finer, smaller mistakes.

Artist Tape

You can use artist tape to lift out the color by cutting a piece of tape to the right size, pressing it against the area to be fixed, and then rubbing the tape where the mistake is. The colored pencil marks underneath will stick to the tape and lift off.

This technique can be a bit tricky because you need to be careful that the tape doesn't also lift off pieces of the actual paper. It can take some practice to find just the right touch. Still, it's worth mentioning this technique in case you don't have any other erasing tools around.

If you use the artist tape removal technique, be sure to use an acid-free tape!

A tip to help reduce the chance of mistakes

Always start your colored pencil drawings by laying down the colors lightly. Don't build up colors too boldly right off the bat. Instead, build up gradually, through layers. Plus, make sure you don't press too hard.

Erasable Colored Pencils

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Prismacolor makes a brand of erasable colored pencils called Prismacolor Col-Erase that you can buy individually or in a set of 12 or 24. I haven't used these myself but they are designed to be erasable, although they probably won't be able to erase down to the pure white (or whatever color) of your paper - I imagine there will be some faint tint of the color left on the paper. Even so, they are far more erasable than most colored pencils. This makes them a great option for students and beginners who are just learning how to use colored pencils, because you can practice freely without worrying about making any irreversible mistakes!

As you get more comfortable with colored pencils, you should switch to a professional brand of colored pencils though, like Prismacolors or Polychromos. The Col-Erase pencils aren't lightfast so they will start fading within a matter of years, whereas the Prismas or Polychromos will last for decades (at least up to 100 years) with the right care. Even so, the Col-Erase Colored Pencils might still be handy for sketching and planning out ideas.

Hope that helps and Happy Coloring! 

Learn more about Colored Pencil Art