I'm buying new pencils (all of the paint has flaked off of them so I don't know if they are 2B or HB), and I'm wondering which pencil lines are easier to erase. I googled it but all of the answers were very vague, and I'm newer to art so I didn't understand it too much.
If someone could please give me a nice, simple answer on which one erases better, that would be really helpful.
(Just to clarify, my eraser isn't the problem, I think. I'm using a Milan oval eraser, which works really nicely.)

3 Answers 3


Generally, softer pencils are easier to erase.
Even though this may seem counterintuitive, as softer pencils produce darker lines, they contain proportionally more graphite and less binder (clay). Harder pencils maintain their shape longer and tend to produce relatively finer and lighter lines: this also means they are generally applied using slightly more force, which can crease the paper and make it harder for erasers to reach the graphite.

It is slightly dependent on other factors, as well, though:

  • Brand and series: although similar, the ranges of pencils from different manufacturers are not equal - there is no hardness/softness standard. So the rule-of-thumb mentioned above might not always apply to drawings made with pencils from different manufacturers.
  • Softer pencils are more receptive to smudging, which is harder to erase, because the graphite gets rubbed into the texture of the paper.

Side note: there are also effects of an optical nature at work here: the darker marks of the softer pencils will seem to be erased more effectively because the difference in contrast will be more evident, and as harder pencils tend to leave creases these can be mistaken for traces of graphite.


Both are pretty much equally easy to erase, especially between HB and 2B. It is much more about the way the mark was made than the lead it was made with that determines how easy it is to lift off. Same goes for very soft and very hard leads. A line drawn with force will drive the graphite deep into the paper fibers as well as embossing the line below the original paper surface, making it difficult to erase.

Joachim's answer is right in that soft leads are usually drawn with less pressure so are usually easier to erase. However hard leads are typically used for under drawing because their lines, when drawn lightly, are easily removed (as well as being less apparent if the artist chooses not to erase them). Actually, a lightly drawn line with a very soft lead might actually be harder to erase than a hard lead drawn with the same weight.


I experimented with this a lot and found that all hardnesses of graphite pencil erase about the same when used with the same amount of pressure. What makes a difference is that you usually press harder when using a harder lead. Pressing harder drives the graphite particles deeper into the paper fibers. It also embosses the paper so the graphite is lying in a valley, making it harder for an eraser to reach.

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