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How to Erase Charcoal?

how to erase charcoal

One of the reasons why a lot of budding artists are avoiding charcoal pencils is that they think that such pencils are unforgiving. They do not know how to erase charcoal so they are afraid of making mistakes and wasting a lot of drawing paper in the process.

The truth is it is possible to erase charcoal. Yes, it may not be as easy as when doing it with graphite pencils but you can do it. Aside from that, you can also use charcoal pencil erasers to blend and lighten the values of charcoal marks. This article will teach you how you can correct your mistakes and make the most use of your charcoal pencils

What Kind of Eraser Should You Use?

What beginners do not know about charcoal pencils is that they are quite easy to control. You can move values around whenever you need to and it is easy to erase. However, you do not use a regular eraser. The best way how to erase charcoal is to use a kneadable eraser.

The thing is that a regular eraser won’t usually cut it. Unless you are erasing an entire bulk of the drawing, a hard-core eraser would not be of too much use. What you need to use is a kneaded (aka dustless) eraser. Another nice thing about a kneadable eraser is that you can turn it into any size and shape so you can use it for detailed work as well.

How to Erase Charcoal Using Kneaded Erasers?

What to Prepare:

Kneaded eraser – There are many different brands that you can choose from with each one having different degrees of firmness. Choose the one that you are most comfortable using.

Detailed Steps:

Step 1: Pick up the Excess Dust using a Paper Towel

Charcoal pencils create significantly more dust compared to graphite pencils. This is especially true when using darker charcoal pencils. Before you start erasing, use a paper towel or a rolled-up piece of tissue to pick up the excess dust.

Carefully dab the tissue over the area that you plan to erase. This will prevent accidental smudges and make the erased area cleaner.

Step 2: Shape the Eraser

Kneaded erasers have the same consistency as putty, so you can shape it any way you want. If you need to erase a small portion of your drawing, knead your eraser to a small point. If you will be erasing a larger portion, you can leave the eraser as is.

Step 3: Erase the Errors

There are several ways you can use a kneadable eraser, including the following:

  • Pressing – If you want to dull the value of the charcoal marks by just a bit, you can just press the kneaded eraser into the area. Repeatedly press the eraser until the desired effect is reached
  • Rolling – This offers a similar effect as pressing, but this is better if you want to give a more linear motion to your highlights or erasures
  • Drawing lines – You can also use the kneadable eraser as you would a regular eraser. Push the eraser against the paper and drag it across. You can use it often to create white highlights in charcoal drawings. The more you erase, the brighter the highlight

Other Erasers That Work Well

how to erase charcoal using kneaded erasers

Electric Erasers

These are battery-powered erasers where the tips spin at high speed. This means you do not have to rub the eraser against the paper to remove the charcoal. However, this does make a lot of eraser dust.

You should get yourself one of these gadgets because they are the most precise. You can erase areas of the charcoal drawing very precisely, like when you want to give your drawing highlights.

Plastic Erasers

Don’t be fooled by the name as plastic erasers are not as hard as you think it is. They are better than rubber or kneadable erasers when it comes to completely erasing charcoal or graphite.

The best thing about plastic erasers is that you can form them into any shape you want just like kneadable erasers. However, plastic erasers hold their shape better, which means they are more precise than kneaded erasers.


Yes, you can also use bread to erase charcoal marks on paper or canvas. Regular white bread is fine but it should be at least a day old or more. A lot of artists that use charcoal as a medium use this. Bread works almost like kneaded erasers, but with the added benefit of adding texture to the charcoal drawing.

Helpful Tips

  • When drawing with charcoal, always wear a cloth glove – Aside from making your hands all dirty when drawing with charcoal, you are also inadvertently making the paper’s surface resistant to marking
  • Your hands are constantly secreting oil. When this oil gets into the paper, it will act like a barrier that prevents charcoal from sticking to it
  • Use erasers to lighten the values of your drawings – Erasers are more than just for removing charcoal marks. Artists commonly use erasers as a drawing tool as well. You can also use them to create highlights. Essentially, you will be using an eraser to remove charcoal from your drawings strategically
  • Once you finish your charcoal drawing, always apply fixative all over it – Unlike paint, charcoal does not stick that well on paper. It is very prone to damage. Even lightly brushing against the surface is enough to ruin the drawing
  • To prevent this from happening, you need to spray fixative all over the surface. This will provide a protective coating for the drawing while allowing it to permanently adhere to the drawing surface


Charcoal drawings only look difficult but you can learn how to do them easily. It is just like drawing with graphite pencils but charcoal’s texture is quite different. One of the reasons most people think charcoal drawing is difficult is that they think it is not easy to erase, which is yet another misconception.

How to erase charcoal? Just like how you would erase pencil marks, but with charcoal, you can also use the eraser as a drawing tool. Hopefully, you learned something from this article and you now dare to try charcoal drawing.