Home  »  Equipment Guide   »  

Difference Between Red and Black Rubbers

Difference Between Red and Black Table Tennis Rubbers?

Why do we need to use “black” and “red” rubbers in table tennis? Is There a Difference Between these two colors?

Why black rubbers on the forehand side?

A player asked me:

I found something consistent among the Chinese top players. They play the black rubber on the forehand and the red rubber on the backhand. Is there any reason for this?

I will explain you right now. Choosing the best forehand rubber is not the same as the best backhand rubber.

All forehand rubbers are black color
All forehand rubbers are black in color

Ping pong red vs black rubber? Which one is faster? Which racket color is spinnier?

I also answer your common question “Why do top Chinese table tennis players always use “Black rubber” on the Forehand side and the “Red Rubber” on the backhand side.

Watch this video:

Difference between red and black table tennis rubbers
Watch this video: Difference between red and black table tennis rubbers


Why do we need two colors of rubbers in table tennis?

Let’s talk about the table tennis rules and regulations for the racket. Based on the ITTF Laws of Table Tennis, in the beginning, the player can use any color for the rubber (green, rose, blue, black, red). That’s why you can see some green and blue rubbers on the Old Stiga Collection.

Stiga Ehrlich blades with Green Table Tennis Rubber
Stiga Ehrlich blades with Green Table Tennis Rubber


Stiga Hans Alser European Champion with Yasaka Blue Rubber
Stiga Hans Alser European Champion with Yasaka Blue Rubber

But during the years of the 1980s, players started using the “combination” racket with very similar rubber colors. For example, they use dark red normal inverted rubber and black long pimple (or antispin) rubber. During the rally, they twiddled the racket to make the deceptive shots.

Learn more “How to deal with long-pimples player

It was very difficult for the opponent to know which rubber was been used, especially on the serve. It’s not fun at all to play with the “combination rubber” player. Very tricky, and then players just profit to get the easy win.

Win easy with Top 5 Deceptive serve in table tennis. (Just kidding but they are all illegal)

Rule of table tennis: Two color rule

Then in 1986, the ITTF rule states that:

“one side of the racket must be bright red and the other side must be black”.

This rule is applied to counter the “twiddle rubber” trick of a long pimple, and anti-spin player (especially to counter the Chinese players during the World Championship).

Another example to show that this rule is very important is. John Hilton, an English player, only ranked at number 4 in his local club but won the Men’s Singles title at the European Championships. Because the other players were not used to playing against his tricky “combination” rubbers with the same color.

Currently, ITTF has changed the rule. You can use a black rubber, and another 4 new colors rubbers.

Pink Rubber will be allowed after the Tokyo Olympics
Pink Rubber will be allowed after the Tokyo Olympics

Which side of the ping pong paddle is forehand?

Well, you can choose either the black rubber or the red rubber as your forehand rubber. There are no official paddle regulations that forbid you to choose the racket color.

Chinese rubbers on the forehand side are black
Chinese rubbers on the forehand side are black

However, if you use Chinese tacky rubber, I recommend you the black rubber on your forehand. Because:

  • Black rubber is tackier
  • Tacky on black rubber last longer (crucial for Chinese rubber)
  • Black rubber gives more spin
  • Black rubber gives more feeling for longer stroke (important for forehand loop)
Glue the black Chinese rubber with TSP glue
Glue the black Chinese rubber with TSP glue

Red side versus Black side rubber

So what are the main differences between black rubber and red rubber?

Well, it’s due to the dying process in the rubber fabrication that makes black and red bat different.

Watch this video:


table tennis rubber fabrication process
table tennis rubber fabrication process

Some experts can easily feel the difference of the same brand racket but with two different colors.

Red and Black rubber are not 100% identical!


In general, black dye pigment will make:

  • Black rubber is a little bit softer than red rubber
  • Black rubber is tackier than the red one
  • The tackiness of black rubber last longer

While the red rubber has these characteristics:

  • Red rubber is harder
  • The red rubber topsheet is expanded easier. If you have the same rubber, same thickness, you always feel that the red one is a little bit thicker.
  • Red rubber is faster and less tacky
  • Red rubber in general has less spin, (the red pigment makes the topsheet harder, bouncier, hence less dwell-time)
Chinese rubber cutter process
Chinese rubber cutter process

Why do Chinese players prefer black rubber on their forehands?

Chinese table tennis rubbers have several famous marques: Double Happiness (DHS), 729, Globe, Galaxy, PalioSWORD, etc. And these table tennis brands produce both two colors: red and black rubbers.

Here is the personal equipment of Ma Long:

Ma Long equipment in 2011
Ma Long equipment in 2011


However, due to the dying procedure (a coloring material added to the sponge), the properties of the black and red Chinese rubbers are not the same.

Chinese rubber with Black Topsheet

Black rubber is normally tackier than red rubber. And the tackiness of black Chinese rubber lasts longer. When you choose a hard rubber on your forehand, to increase the spin of your service or your soft touch, you need the tackiness. That’s the reason why Chinese players always take black rubber as their forehand rubber.

Ma Long personal rubber
Ma Long personal rubber (2011): Black Hurricane 3, and Red Tenergy.


And here is the forehand rubber of Wang Liqin. They are black.

Wang Liqin equipment in 2011
Wang Liqin equipment in 2011

Red Chinese table tennis rubber

The red or the black rubber has the same sponge: same hardness, same density. But the red topsheet is a little harder because of the red dye pigment added during the rubber production phase. Red rubber is also less tacky than black rubber.

In general, the rubber used on the backhand side is in red color
In general, the rubber used on the backhand side is in red color

Red Tenergy rubber on the backhand

Since top players select the black rubber on their forehand, the backhand rubber is always red. Normally, on the backhand side, you can’t hit hard.

Zhang Jike used Butterfly Tenergy 64 on the backhand
Zhang Jike used Butterfly Tenergy 64 on the backhand

You need a bouncy and dynamic rubber (Japanese style rubber such as Butterfly Tenergy 05 or Tenergy 64). Recently, ESN European rubber is also very dynamic. These rubbers offer good gear to your shots.

How about red and black Japanese rubber?

Nowadays, with the advance in dying procedure, there is little difference between red and black Japanese rubber. So a black Ten05 is exactly the same as the red Ten05. But since people just look at the equipment of the top players like Ma Long, Zhang Jike, Wang Hao, Fan Zhendong, they get the habit of always getting the red Tenergy rubber as the backhand rubber.

Butterfly Tenergy 05 rubber black and red color has the same quality
Butterfly Tenergy 05 rubber black and red color has the same quality

Best table tennis rubber for backhand

Many players asked me:

“Dear coach, what is the best rubber for backhand?”

Backhand rubber is different than forehand rubber. Because you hit the ball with a harder, and longer stroke on your forehand. While you hit the ball (backhand topspin) with a much shorter and quicker stroke. Here is the list of the top 10 backhand rubbers that you should know.

Therefore, here is my quick advice to choose your backhand rubber:

  • Choose a rather bouncy rubber on your backhand side.
  • Don’t use very hard (harder than ESN 53 degree) on your backhand
  • Don’t use too hard Chinese rubber on your backhand
  • Prefer using 2.0 to 2.2 mm thickness. Don’t use max thickness if you are a beginner.
  • Don’t use very thin rubber, thinner than 1.8mm on your backhand. It makes you have bad habits for new players.
  • Don’t use too soft rubber, softer than 40 degrees on your backhand rubber. Contradictory to many Western coaches, who insist new players play with soft, to very soft rubber on the backhand side. In China, new players begin with medium-hard rubber, and they improve faster! Trust me!
  • There are many European (ESN rubber), or Japanese rubber that suits your backhand rubber.
  • Best backhand rubbers are in general Japanese table tennis rubbers (Butterfly, Tenergy rubbers).

I will explain to you and give you some best bat combinations in another post.

Search the latest post about rubber guide here:  “Table Tennis Best Equipments”.

Please share and rate this article, if you like it.

©PINGSUNDAY. Unauthorized use, translation or duplication of this material is strictly prohibited. Link and excerpt may be used, provided that clear credit is given to PingSunday with the specific link to the original content.

Sign up and join +65k readers. Get free coaching ebooks and coaching advice every week

Table tennis coach in France since 2012, founder of pingsunday.com (the best online coaching program for table tennis players). Born in Vietnam in 1983, Ph.D. in Université Pierre Marie Curie. Read more about him.

6 thoughts on “Difference Between Red and Black Rubbers”

  1. Dear! I am writing a book about Table tennis history.
    I kindly Ask for permission to use the two pictures of coloured Table tennis rubbers in your article, the alser and erlich rackets. I will of course refer to your webpage.

  2. Confesso que como estou trabalhando minha performance básica das técnicas do tenis de mesa, concinto em dizer o quanto estas informações me são úteis.
    Antes, não compreendia o que significava ser uma madeira de carbono ou uma de madeira pura.
    Hoje, minha performance técnica melhorou bastante, pois, através dos conhecimentos que a pingsunday tem me proporcionado juntamente com meu técnico, José Ricardo Rizzone.
    Hoje não uso mais raquetes de carbono (Primorac Carbon) e mudei para raquetes de madeira (Petr Korbel japan); deixei de usar borrachas européias para utilizar borrachas 100% chinesas (Hurricane 3 Neo Comercial) back e forehandle.
    Meu jogo melhorou muito neste período de um ano de trabalho.
    No futuro vejo melhor se devo mudar de raquete ou borracha (certeza), pois precisarei elevar velocidade em meu jogo.

  3. I used several pingpong paddles including DHS Hurricane III and Stiga Raptor . I can feel the red side is much bouncier and faster than the black side. I think it definitely makes sense to use the black rubber as forehand. Thank you so much explaining!


Leave a Comment