Changes often need to be made to a drawing - new shapes cut into existing drawing; elements added to restore balance; key highlights that need to be cleaned or sharpened; or perhaps grass or foliage that needs to be cut into background areas to increase depth. This video covers methods to achieve all those things... and introduces you to creative erasing, where the eraser is permitted to suggest form and texture.


An introduction to dedicated pencil erasers


Using dedicated pencil erasers, this video explores their uses in creating shapes in already applied graphite.
cutting white lines through lightly applied graphite in pencil drawing

Through grey to white

Discover a popular method of cutting white lines through lightly applied graphite - perhaps to create fly-away hairs.
Demonstration of drawing hair with an eraser in a pencil drawing


Mike shows you how the hairs in the body of this Old English Sheepdog's leg were created - with a soft art eraser.
Cutting shapes into very dark graphite pencil shading

Cutting shapes into blacks

Wish you'd left a shape or two in an area of very dark drawing? This method achieves that. Cut shapes into heavily applied 4B with a kneaded eraser or Blu-Tack.
Kneaded erasers and Blu-Tack compared for erasing shapes

Mark making

Kneaded erasers and Blu-Tack are equally good at holding a point or sharp edge for erasing shapes. Both are compared.
Creative erasing in graphite pencil drawing

Creative erasing

Discover the power of creative erasing. Let your eraser suggest form, texture, and lighting. The results often surprise, and surpass anything you might have consciously thought of.
Creative erasing of an old tree and branches in pencil


Mike demonstrates the creative erasing of a section of old tree, and its branches and leaves. With advice on how to define and refine the result.
Creative shading in practical use

Practical demonstration

Mike explains how he created additional leaves and twigs in an area of completed drawing - in this case, to distract the viewer away from a hidden rabbit.
A fun exercise in creative erasing

Fun exercise

Try this exercise in creative erasing. Make marks and let those suggest the subject and content. Just let it grow as it unfolds under your eraser.
Creative shading exercise results from Mike's students at

Example of creative erasing

To get you in the mood, Mike displays a number of creative shading exercise results from his students at - and offers advice on using it in a stress-free manner. Just enjoy!

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Erasing Selectively
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10¾ mins
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Maggie H
Who would have thought, Blu-Tack as an eraser?? Took me a bit to get the hang of it, but the more I use it the more I fall in love with it.


In erasing basics I looked at types of eraser and the removal of complete areas of graphite. This time I'll explore ways of removing graphite from small selected areas. That includes "drawing" with your eraser, and creating shapes within existing areas of drawing.


I'll begin with the conventional soft plastic art eraser, and then move on to using a kneaded eraser and Blu-Tack. Inevitably, I'll focus on Blu-Tack, because that's my favoured eraser, but a kneaded eraser can perform many of the same tasks.

Try these exercises yourself, because nothing teaches you as well as practical experience. Draw a 3 inch (7.5cm) square. Now - using a soft grade pencil and the flat face of a chisel point - lightly draw simple locks of hair. Or you can choose anything you prefer - even simple lines. However, if you draw something you recognise, such as hair, you might find natural shapes suggest themselves as you erase. Use a 2B or softer - soft grades sit on top of the tooth more readily. I'm using both 4B and 6B, so I can easily vary the values. The aim is to deposit graphite on top of the paper - don't embed it deep in its tooth. This technique works best on lightly applied graphite, so make life easier for your humble eraser.

Using an art eraser is a popular way of creating fly-away hairs and beards - although it's not a technique I'd use. It will present problems, such as the smudging and softening of edges. And it won't return the paper to pristine white. For those reasons, I no longer use it.

That said, I have used art erasers in large drawings, where soft edges were acceptable. For example, this close-up view of an Old English Sheepdog's paw is a section of a 30 inch (76cm) high drawing, At that scale, this method suited the dog's hair. Now, I much prefer negative drawing. And if I want soft edges, I'll create them. But this is a technique worth knowing about, and it might work very well for you. And recreating the technique used for that paw is what I'm about to show you.

Prepare a chisel end on your eraser. You can use the manufactured edge, or use a blade to cut a chisel end, as I'm doing. You can even sharpen the core to a point, but I find it too soft for good control. If you're using a narrow mono, or electric, eraser, the core can be used as it is.

I'm cutting thin white lines into these varied grey lines, to represent stray hairs. This is white hair, so the lines I'm erasing appear to be hairs. On dark hair, they'd represent highlights. For best results, clean the eraser often. I screw mine into a ball of Blu-Tack. Erase white hairs wherever you feel a stray hair might naturally occur. Or throw caution to the winds and just erase! The experience, and what you learn from it, is all that matters.


When you need to remove more heavily applied graphite, a different method is required. One that won't smear, and doesn't need a rubbing action, which might further flatten or damage your paper's tooth. I've already covered the removal of large areas of dark and dense graphite. So, this time I'll concentrate on removing shapes within dark areas of drawing - creating shapes you perhaps wished you'd left earlier. Both kneaded erasers and Blu-Tack are capable tools, so let's see what they can achieve.

Both are malleable - easily pinched into a point or edge. That alone offers a lot of advantages over other types of eraser, because it offers greater accuracy. I'll use both a kneaded eraser and Blu-Tack, so you can compare their effectiveness. Blu-Tack is manufactured in the UK and, if you have problems sourcing it, it's available worldwide from my website ( Take your eraser and pinch it into a sharp edge - about half an inch long (1cm). Don't press! Just touch it to the graphite. Repeat with the Blu-Tack, just touch and lift up to see what that simple action achieves. Try a curved edge and roll it along the graphite. You might have to use a little pressure with a kneaded eraser, or even drag it. Do not drag Blu-Tack. Just roll it. It works because it's sticky. Just have fun and try different pinched edges - long and flat, short and applied in lines, maybe a few converging lines... just experiment.

As I mentioned, there are two basic shapes - edge and point. So let's try a point to erase spots. Pull out a finger from the body and roll it into a point. Again, initially, don't press. Just touch the eraser to the surface. If your spots look more like rings, that occurs when you press too hard. The Blu-Tack point, in particular, will collapse into itself. The lightest touch is all that's required. You can erase extremely small spots very cleanly with a sharp point of Blu-Tack just lightly touched to any area of graphite.


Now let's get creative! I'll create a branch and twigs, and I'll only use Blu-Tack this time, because I know it will be the better performer of the two. With Blu-Tack it's a breeze. Any apparent shaping or texture is purely accidental - and very welcome! Aim to let the erasing suggest the details. Some very surprising results can occur, and they're often much better than you could have consciously invented. If you consider any mark to be misplaced or unsuitable, simply obliterate it with your pencil and try again. Define the edges of your marks to give them realistic shaping, and to introduce depth. Harder grades draw sharper lines, so try an HB to refine the shapes of the leaves, and the edges of the branch and twigs. Then use an HB or 2H to shade some leaves, so they recede into the background. Imagine this is part of an old tree in a dark forest. A shadowy suggestion of a tree that is perhaps a part of the background in a larger drawing. It helps to convey a sense of depth, and mystery too - maybe even menace - to the viewer.

This technique has many uses. Cutting in foliage in dense shade. Suggesting hair inside the large ear of an animal. Perhaps restoring balance with the introduction of a new element in an already completed area. Here's an example from my own work - an enlargement of the top left corner. I wanted to hide the rabbit, so it was not immediately obvious, but also not hidden. It needed additional leaves and at least one extra blackberry twig to attract the viewer's eye away from the rabbit. A point of Blu-Tack was used to cut in rough leaf shapes - letting the Blu-Tack suggest their shaping.

The empty hole in front of the rabbit was divided by using a pinched edge of Blu-Tack. Then another twig was cut in above. Again I allowed the Blu-Tack to suggest the form and lighting. When I was happy with the positioning, the edges were refined and sharpened, the highlights were muted, and the leaves were variously pushed back into the shade to create depth.

Before you try this technique in an actual drawing, have some fun with it. You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. Fill a 3 inch (7.5cm) box with 4B or 6B. Make it black and solid. Use your kneaded eraser or, preferably, Blu-Tack to draw into it and create an original artwork. And to warm up your creative brain, here are some of the eraser drawings produced by a few of my students at All were rendered with Blu-Tack.

Erasers and pencils can be used interchangeably to help you achieve specific textures and effects in a drawing. With practice and experimentation, you can adapt these techniques to help you draw a wide range of subjects. You can even make subtle changes, or major modifications to completed areas of a drawing.

Just let your imagination take over and erase spontaneously. You can plan and execute, but I find the most pleasing and natural curves, the most mysterious shapes, and the feeling of a natural realism, come from allowing your imagination to control the eraser.

Try making a mark and letting that suggest the next – serendipity - "happy accidents" - are stock-in-trade for this technique. You'll find shapes, forms, and textures arising out of nowhere – and occasionally, actual objects. If you feel inspired to create a perfect representation of a Stradivarius violin, don't let me stop you!

Organic forms will most probably suggest themselves – trees, grasses, twigs, ropes – but if a flowerpot suddenly appears, go with the flow and develop it.

Using an eraser in a creative way often produces very usable results. With no end result in mind, nothing actually exists - it just grows as it begins to resemble something remembered. And you'll create a natural feeling of form and reality. Why? Because when you work this way, you're really tapping into your innate sense of "what looks right". Rather than creating, you're making random marks until you recognise them as "being something". The fact that you recognise something already means it has a degree of realism. Then you begin to mould it to conform to the realism you recognised. You almost can't go wrong, because every action is based on what you already know about the subject.

Afraid of drawing dark? Go for it! Be bold! Because you now have the means to cut into it and make alterations.

© copyright: Mike Sibley 2019

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