People make mistakes, which is why pencils have erasers (well, not all pencils, but you get the point). But most pencils are optimized for writing, not erasing, so not all erase from paper very well. Instead the pencils smudge, smear, or leave ugly marks on the paper which you need to wear down the paper in order to remove.
But what kinds of pencils erase the best?
Pencil Hardness Basics
As you likely know, pencils have graphite which adhere to a hardness scale. That ranges about 8B to 8H. 8B is the softest pencil which means the darkest lead and the most smudging where 8H is the hardest lead, the lightest color, and the most pressure applied to the paper to write with. In the middle you have HB and F pencils which are a blend of each side.
Erasing Pencil Marks
Keeping the eraser as a constant, you can generalize and say that if a pencil is too soft it is very hard to erase because the lead tends to smudge. Similar to a charcoal, a soft lead (think 4B up to 8B) will tend to smear across the page as you erase. You can remove some of the color, but it’ll start to stain the page making for a scenario where the lead is removed but color remains on the paper.
If a pencil is too hard (4H to 8H) then the lead will be very light, seemingly easy to erase, but in order to write you need a lot of pressure to so. This means the color of the graphite is easy enough to remove, but the marks made by the pencil point will remain pressed into the page. So while the lead might technically be removed the remnants of the writing remain so it’s difficult to say that the writing was truly erased.
So, it stands to reason that a middle ground would be the best place for erasing. This is, in practice true because the middle range of pencils, erring the softer side, had lead that is light enough that it doesn’t dig into the paper and isn’t so soft that is smudges without ever being fully removed.
The pencils that, generally speaking, erase the best are in the 2B, 3B and 4B grades.
Which Pencils Erase The Best?
We’ve discussed which kinds of pencils erase the best and why, but determining specific pencils that erase better than any other kind is a much more difficult matter.
In our testing almost all high quality pencils tend to erase the about as well as the rest, with the determining factors to erasure quality being…
- Hardness level
- Eraser age
- Brand quality
- Model quality
… roughly in that order. This is independent of other factors, like paper smoothness, paper quality, and the pressure applied when writing or drawing.
Brand quality isn’t a specific enough factor, but generally speaking the high quality brands are the ones you’ve heard of before. Blackwing, Uni Mitsubishi, Tombow, Caran D’Ache, Staedtler, Musgrave, and brands like these make high quality pencils.