Tool Time: Sticky Tack Erasers- gentle correction for colored pencil


Primum non nocere- first, do no harm

Abrasive Detail Erasers- Total Overkill |

This is something that runs through my head when a student pulls out one of these to correct a colored pencil mistake.

This is a detail eraser. It is designed to scrub away ink or grease mistakes from office grade, smooth paper. It is a very firm eraser which allows it to be sharpened to a fine point for small areas. It's also highly abrasive which means it rubs away more than just the mistake, it takes off the top layer of stained paper fibers with it.

But for soft, waxy colored pencil on delicately toothy paper?

You might as well use a hand grenade.

If you've got one of these weapons of mass destruction in your art kit, go put it back in the office drawer, where it belongs.

Right now.

I'll wait here.

I've been using colored pencils on an almost daily basis for over 25 years. I can honestly say that I've never encountered a situation where a mistake was so bad that it required stripping off the entire top surface of my paper.

Yes, I've made serious mistakes, but nothing that ever required the use of a hand grenade.


Colored pencils work best on toothy paper

Toothy paper for colored pencil |

Tooth is texture; tiny little micro mountains that grab and hold colored pencil pigment.

If you've tried using colored pencil on slick paper, you know how hard it is to get it to lay down smooth and not rub off. It's like trying to spread peanut butter on freshly Zambonied ice. You can try but hey, good luck with that.

Paper quality is a big deal; toothy paper is something colored pencil artists pay extra for.And that hand grenade eraser up there? It'll kill your paper.


Respect the tooth

Now I'm going to assume that most stamp colorers are using some form of office grade cardstock for colored pencil. There's nothing wrong with that, not all projects deserve special paper.

But that doesn't mean that you can ignore the tooth. In fact, because you're using only moderately textured paper, you need to protect the limited tooth EVEN MORE than someone working on generously toothed, premium cold press paper.

Abrasive erasers wear the paper smooth. The more you rub, the less tooth survives. So yes, you may have removed the offending mistake but when you reapply color, that smoothed area will not grab the colored pencil the way it did before. If you really damage the paper, you'll have a shiny zone that stands out to viewers.

So when you make the inevitable mistake and you reach for an eraser, remember Primum non nocere- first do no harm.

Start with the most gentle eraser you can find. If that doesn't lift the error, then bring out a slightly bigger gun. Do not start with a Tyrannosaurus Rex eraser; start with a soft, fluffy, white bunny rabbit.


Sticky Tack is the fluffy bunny of the eraser world

Lift mistakes with sticky tack |

Sticky tack?

Yep. Poster putty. The stuff that your fourth grade teacher used to put "Hang in There" and "Give a Hoot, Don't Polute" up on the class room walls.

This stuff.

Duck is a good brand, so is Scotch Brand. You want the white kind, not the softer blue or green versions.

Pull off one  strip (there's usually 8-12 strips per package). A single strip is enough to last for at least 6 months. You'll need a small airtight container (film canister sized) to hold your working piece. Pop the rest of the package into a zip lock bag for longer term storage.


This is not a kneaded eraser substitute

Gently lift errors with sticky tack |

Gray kneaded erasers are for working with charcoal, graphite, and chalky dry pastels. You drag gray erasers across the paper to gently lift powdery marks. Gray erasers are lightly abrasive and they are not sticky enough to lift stubborn and waxy pigments like colored pencil.

Sticky tack is lightly sticky. That's why it works. Use it the same way you used Silly Putty to lift up your favorite Sunday Comics.

  1. Soften and knead the sticky tack into a smooth, warm ball.

  2. Gently press into the surface of the mistake.

  3. The sticky tack will grab the paper; hold the paper down with one hand while gently peeling away the sticky tack with the other.

  4. Knead the residue into the eraser to create new clean surfaces.

  5. Repeat as necessary until you've lifted away the mistake.

Sticky tack lifts colored pencil without damaging the paper |

I know it sounds crazy but this stuff really works. Best of all, it doesn't damage the tooth of the paper the way rubbing erasers do.

The other benefit of this lift and remove method is that it eliminates transfer smudges. Let's face it, it's pretty easy to drag Prismacolor pigment into unwanted areas. I wear a drawing glove to prevent hand dragging marks. Rubbing erasers often pull color into your cleaning area... which then requires more rubbing. It's a vicious cycle.

Lifting mistakes straight upward eliminates the potential for eraser smudges.


When I make a mistake, I grab the sticky tack eraser first

As I said, start with the fluffy bunny, not the T-Rex.

If the sticky tack can't remove the oops, move up to your white eraser. But give that sticky tack several tries first, because the white eraser will drag and transfer pigment.

But honestly, the sticky tack almost always removes enough of the pigment that I can go back and add the correct color.

Remember, you don't have to get down to naked paper in order to fix a mistake. Most Prismas are fairly opaque and can cover over much of the mistake.


So here's the rundown on sticky tack erasers:

Alternate Names-

Sticky tack, poster putty, sticky stuff, adhesive putty


Duck, Scotch... choose a quality WHITE putty. The dollar store stuff was gooey and left residue. The colored versions seem to be softer but less sticky. Make sure it's fresh and clean, the once-used stuff in your junk drawer may have collected grit.

Defining Features-

A soft putty that clings to waxy pigment enough to lift it away but will not damage the paper or leave a residue.

Best used on-

Wax based colored pencil marks and other media that sit on top of the paper surface. Will not work on liquids like ink or paint that absorb into paper fibers.

Price Range-

Very inexpensive. One package will run just a few dollars and provides enough for several years of daily use.

Available at-

Office supply stores, hardware stores, or similar aisles in any big-box retailer.


Sticky tack... who'da thunk?

Go get some today, your tooth will thank you for it.

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