Keeping paper tidy

Pencils smudge, and skin oil (which is present even on freshly washed hands) works the graphite into paper and makes the smudges both irremovable and conspicuous. Amateurs’ sketches are often blotted with dirty finger prints.

Working in the pen grip usually calls for resting the hands on the drawing, and makes smudging unavoidable. Even if you are extra careful, you will occasionally brush the paper with your hand, wrist, the other hand, sleeves. So we need to minimize the amount of rubbed-off graphite — and, most important, keep the skin oil off the paper.

There is a surprisingly little-known simple trick for solving that problem.

The solution is sold in photographers’ stores, and is called archivist’s gloves. They are simple white cotton gloves, used to keep glossy photos fingerprint-free. They are washable and cost very little. To use them for drawing, cut the tips off the first three fingers of your working hand’s glove, so that you feel the pencil as with bare hand. Leave the rest intact.

Whatever small amount of graphite rubbing off on the gloves can be wiped off the paper with a kneaded eraser without trace. To eliminate most of rubbing, and also the contact with forearms, you can use a piece of smooth transparent plastic (like a polyethylene document sleeve) to cover the portion of the drawing your hand rests upon.

Cotton gloves and page protectors are good for colored pencil work as well.

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