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?

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

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

Why we need two colors 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 Hans Alser European Champion with Yasaka Blue Rubber
Stiga Hans Alser European Champion with Yasaka Blue Rubber
Stiga Ehrlich blades with Green Table Tennis Rubber
Stiga Ehrlich blades with Green Table Tennis Rubber

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

Why Chinese players choose black rubber on their forehand
Why Chinese players choose black rubber on their forehand


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, 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 play against his tricky “combination” rubbers with the same color.

Which side of 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 forbidden you to choose the racket color.

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)

Red side versus Black side rubber

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

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

table tennis rubber fabrication process
table tennis rubber fabrication process

Some expert 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
  • 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 lest spin, (the red pigment makes the topsheet harder, bouncier, hence less dwell-time)
Chinese rubber cutter process
Chinese rubber cutter process

Why Chinese players prefer black rubber on their forehand?

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. 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 the 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 the black rubber as their forehand rubber.

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

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 the black rubber.

Why always red Tenergy rubber on backhand side?

Since top players select the black rubber on their forehand, so the backhand rubber is always red. Normally, on the backhand side, you can’t hit hard. 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 gears 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 looking at the equipment of the top players like Ma Long, Zhang Jike, Wang Hao, Fan Zhendong, they get the habit to always get 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 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 the beginners.
  • 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 insists new players to 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 you and give you some best bat combination in another post.

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

Should you buy Chinese Personal rubber?

This is the so-called Chen Meng personal Hurricane 3 DHS rubber (National version) on the market. The prize is $118. Do you think that Chen Meng really wants to sell her personal rubber to earn only a hundred dollars?

Please remember: Top National Team players are not allowed to sell their rubbers.

Be careful of these commercial “fake national rubbers”. They can stamp any of the top player’s name on the sponge. It’s easy to fake this stamp. It’s better just buy a normal version cheaper, and tune it yourself.

ChenMeng Hurricane 3 Personal Rubber
ChenMeng Hurricane 3 Personal Rubber
Chen Meng Personal Hurricane 3 National Version
Chen Meng Personal National Version Hurricane 3 rubber


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3 thoughts on “Difference Between Red and Black Table Tennis Rubbers?”

  1. 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!


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