Is the Faber-Castell Kneaded Art Eraser the secret tool you need to get the best soft shading with graphite pencils? Or is it some silly putty that can’t get you a clean erasure of pencils? We test out this extra soft kneaded eraser from the venerable Faber-Castell stationery brand which comes in nice colours and in a cute little plastic case to find out. Kneaded putty erasers are a special artistic tool meant for a special use. Watch the episode to see what subtle effects we find you can create with one.
Reviewing the Faber-Castell Kneaded Eraser
Vishal: Hello and welcome to Stationery Test Drive where every week we take stationery tools that are ordinary, extraordinary and just delightful and take them on test drives. I’m Vishal.
Samir: I’m Samir.
Minjal: This is Minjal and today we’re looking at small suitcases! But also the Faber-Castell kneaded erasers.
Vishal: Now we are artists and designers and calligraphers and illustrators and all sorts of things, so we are quite familiar with the kneadable or kneaded art eraser or at least the type of eraser that it is. Samir, why don’t you and Minjal tell us about what these are?
What is a kneaded eraser?
Minjal: From whatever I’ve managed to read about the kneaded erasers, they are made of unvulcanized rubber. And they’re supposed to be more pliable, they can be stretched, they can be shaped into flat surfaces, they can be shaped into pointed edges, they’re not really firm like the normal erasers that we use.
Samir: Yeah. I think when we tested out the Nataraj Plasto Eraser, most of us kind of leaned into the fact that we were kind of drawing with the eraser rather than just erasing things.
I think this is more so useful for that way of using it than anything else – which is that you’re trying to actually draw or make the art with it rather than just get rid of something.
Vishal: Yes and because of the sort of the texture of it – the soft texture, it doesn’t fully erase. The hard eraser removes all of the graphite and this one sort of still leaves a faint glow or a trace of graphite. And we can use that to our advantage as artists. It may not be something you need when you actually want to erase.
Samir: Yes, I mean this is an artistic tool not a correction tool.
Vishal: It’s also fun to play with!
Minjal: It’s almost like plasticine, isn’t it?
Vishal: It’s softer than plasticine I think. Most plasticine I’ve used has a certain oiliness and this one is more like chewing gum. The nicest chewing gum!
Samir: We’ll get into the specifics of this particular one but I think this is one of the softest and most flexible kneaded erasers I have used.
Vishal: Well first of all these ones are new and yes the ones that I’ve used have been a bit harder and they get hard over time. In fact they get to the point where they almost seize up and become like hard blocks but not quite.
Minjal: The way it picks up the graphite actually is quite wonderful and there is no eraser residue.
Use of Bread as Erasers
Vishal: Oh yes, that’s the other thing – there are no rubbings, none of that stuff to brush off because it is more or less one piece. The chewable part is actually interesting because I think in French it actually says ‘gomme mie de pain‘ and as my very horrible rudimentary French, that has something to do with bread and that’s not a coincidence, is it?
Samir: No, because when graphite was first discovered and pencils started being used as a writing instrument, and we have covered some of this history before, the first things that were used as erasers were generally little crusty pieces of bread.
And people would actually knead the white part of the bread into various shapes to erase graphite. So in some ways this is a more original form of the eraser than the one we have today.
Vishal: That makes sense. I think Minjal was saying that is unvulcanized rubber?
Samir: The way erasers were invented so to speak was actually that scientists and artists at the time would have been playing with things like rubber, which is a new import from the new world.
And this is also around the time when graphite was being used and people were using bread to erase their graphite. And probably at some point someone dropped their little eraser piece of bread, picked up a piece of rubber instead and found that it was doing a better job.
And back then that piece of rubber would have been not vulcanized because vulcanization came later. So this is literally the first kind of rubber that was used as an eraser which is something that could be shaped.
Vishal: Well, there’s bread and there’s rubber but we are neither a cooking show nor really a crafting show, although we do that sometimes. What we do every week is test drives and Minjal you have done a wonderful test drive with this. That is quite lovely! I know that you’ve had some misgivings about it so why don’t you tell us more about it?
Calligraphy Tattoo Design with Faber-Castell Kneaded Eraser
Minjal: While my experience with this particular eraser was that it’s not really meant for beginners. While it may look like a really soft, moldable piece of clay that you have in your hand, it’s really not something like that.
I made a calligraphy tattoo design and what I did was basically the ‘dabbing’ technique, people who use makeup will know, so the idea is to just dab it, you dab pull off some of the graphite.
I still prefer the trusty Nataraj Plasto Eraser. However, if you want to subtly pick off graphite and get some shading, that is not possible with hard erasers.
Samir: But the effects that you have gotten with the kneaded eraser, where these literally look like ribbons made of pencils is an effect that I think more letterers should use!
Comic Illustration with Faber-Castell Kneaded Eraser
Vishal: Yes and I think all of us leaned into that. I certainly did in my test drive, which is this. And, yeah in the same way that we’ve all done, I put down with this, the Apsara Extra Dark Platinum which we have done an episode of. It’s a great pencil it puts down a good medium to dark graphite line.
And so I drew the lines on it, I put down an even layer and then I used just a tiny piece of the kneaded eraser which is now discolored, I just went in and rolled or made a little sausage and then just sort of rolled that across.
So, it’s literally like a piece of sculpture in some ways where you can sculpt it to the muscle you want to erase and then erase it that way and yeah there is no other way I can think of other than like I said building up to it. But even then building up to it you get hard edges, you will get a total highlight which in some ways I didn’t want in this one.
Minjal: Do you usually use the kneaded eraser in your work a lot?
Vishal: I have used them before but again in pretty limited quantities, like you said, to take things out like this and or when I have a heavily shaded thing and I don’t want to just go in and like fully erase to zero,
so to speak, but I just want to take off that first layer.
Samir: There’s an observation I’m making just after seeing both of these together. This is the closest I have ever seen to a physical medium looking like a digital painting, in both of your cases. There’s a certain smooth transition to these letters or the way those muscles are shaded.
Vishal: Having done some digital painting, yes, I would agree it is a bit like when you take your standard soft round airbrush and set it to an erase it does give you the same effect.
Samir: There’s almost kind of a rendered look to it which I’m not used to seeing in traditional media and it’s great.
Vishal: Funnily enough before I landed on this drawing I thought of doing the very standard exercise of a sphere and trying to figure out the chiaroscuro of it. But then I figured muscular muscles sort of are the same thing and they’re more fun to draw certainly than spheres.
Samir: And the guy looks like he could be sculpted out of a putty eraser.
Vishal: I think Samir you have something that is quite different.
Pencil Portrait with Faber-Castell Kneaded Eraser
Samir: Yes because I chose to go in a much more sort of traditional drawing route and I also used rougher paper, which is why I think these two have such a smooth kind of almost digital look.
So I went for this, which unlike these two, uses a rougher cartridge paper and I just thought that a sort of a more traditional pencil portrait was one of the best tests of a kneaded eraser. I have used it before but a long time ago. This is definitely as I said the softest kneaded eraser that I used and sure this would this will harden up over time.
Vishal: But I have heard that you can revive these in some form, you can even clean them out by kneading them with some kind of soap?
Samir: Yeah I think people do try things like that but most people of course, this is just inexpensive enough that once it starts to go really saturated people just stop using it.
So what I did here was to lay out the basic drawing using the Staedtler Mars Lumograph which we have covered before. A 4b and a 6b for getting some variety in the shade. I actually did a fairly basic drawing and then just kind of went over it with an even tone, darkened some of the bits that needed to be darkened in the background and then a lot of the lighter shades.
So the face started with an almost even grey tone over it, so all of the light parts of the face are actually just picked up with the kneaded eraser. And every light little section of the hair to give it that almost sculpted look.
Vishal: And yet a very organic look.
Samir: The hair specifically if I would have used a hard eraser, would have had these very distinct white lines which would have looked more unnatural than this.
But having said that, this is not an eraser that is your one eraser. No. You cannot only use this eraser unless you’re doing something very specific like in fact something like what Minjal did. Well maybe she didn’t need to rub out any large area. These are terrible at rubbing out an entire dark area of pencil. It just can’t be done and they can’t really do a sharp edge, the way that hard erasers can. This was quite a fun test to do.
Vishal: I think mostly the first time I heard of kneaded erasers was when people would talk about the tools of the trade and things like making comics and all that.
But I think there you can get away with the kneaded eraser because at least at the time before digital things, you would almost not rub out all your pencils and it would be fine to keep some there because it would not make it through the production process .
Samir: Yeah, you didn’t care. And the pencils would not show up on the photographic plate that you were making.
Vishal: This is another kneadable eraser that I’ve had for like 5 or 6 years. I think it’s Japanese.
Samir: Yeah the Seed brand is actually fairly well known.
Vishal: It says normal type kneadable eraser for soft pencil and charcoal works. Charcoal is one thing that we didn’t try this on. The Faber-Castell ones we have are quite new. This one started off more tough and it is still quite tough.
Samir: That’s more like the kneaded eraser consistency that I’ve used before.
Vishal: Yeah, this one is more close to a rubber, it’s not the same as the hard one. It says easily kneadable and maybe I can introduce some more moisture into it to make it.
This was from Kinokuniya, Dubai which we wish was in India but it’s not. It’s non-toxic and this is what I was used to. So this is actually kind of a fun new direction for me in terms of how much pliability, how much malleability, how much sculptability you can get with kneaded erasers.
Samir: The erasers we have used before like this, you would not be able to shape them.
Vishal: No, you would have to hope for the best.
Samir: Surely we’re going to do an episode on plasticine now!
Minjal: You know what would be fun is if we get modeling clay also from Faber-castell.
Samir: There’s only one way to find that and stay tuned for that.
Vishal: Yes! and do stay tuned for all sorts of other things, especially for this show of course, every week. But also our own work, personal work that you can find at the social links as well as at inkymemo.com. And do subscribe to the Inky Memo newsletter where there are many more pliable and gummy and sculpted tales of stationery and other wonderful things as well.
This little suitcase is going back into our bigger stationery cases but not for long. I think we’ll use it, in its uses which are limited but intense, let’s say, and yes they do not leave behind any residue.
But please if you are interested in this and the kind of things we did please look at our Nataraj Plasto episode because we had a great amount of fun with that as well. Until next week when we promise to have more fun whether you like it or not. I’m Vishal.
Samir: I am Samir.
Minjal: This is Minjal.
Get Faber-Castell Kneaded Erasers
1. Faber-Castell Kneaded Eraser With Case – https://amzn.to/3pXBdmt
2. Faber-Castell Pack of 3 Kneaded Erasers – https://amzn.to/4530Dhm