Most people know that ping pong paddles usually have a red and a black side, but not nearly as many know the differences between the two.
In this article, I’ll compare red and black table tennis rubbers in terms of their physical characteristics, how this impacts spin and speed, and which side is best for forehand and backhand.
Black vs Red Table Tennis Rubber
Black table tennis rubber is softer and tackier than red rubber due to differences in the dyeing process. Black rubber offers more spin but less speed than red rubber. The difference between red and black rubber is noticeable with tacky Chinese rubber but is barely noticeable with European rubber.
|Red Rubber||Black Rubber|
|Feels faster and bouncier||Feels slower and spongier|
|Less tacky feeling||Tackier feeling|
|Offers less spin||Offers more spin|
|Better for defensive play||Better for offensive play|
|Preferred for backhand||Preferred for forehand|
Why are Table Tennis Rubbers Black and Red?
In 1985 the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) ruled that either side of the paddle rubber must be different colours. This rule was introduced because it made it easier for the opponent to see which side of the paddle the ball was hit with, as otherwise the player hitting the ball had too much of an advantage.
Before 1983, the regulatory body stated that both sides of the paddle should be the same colour. However, this made it difficult for the opponent to see which side of the paddle the ball was hit with, and turning or “twiddling” the paddle to confuse players became popular.
Red and black ping pong rubbers were chosen as they provided the most contrast against the white and orange ball, and against either side of the paddle.
However, from the 1st October 2021, it was ruled that table tennis rubbers could use pink, purple, green and blue instead of red on one side of the paddle, however one side must still be black. The new rule was decided because the ITTF understood that some players would like to use coloured rubbers to customise their paddles and give them a more unique look compared to the standardised colours of red and black.
The Differences Between Black and Red Rubber?
As well as being a different colour, red and black table tennis rubbers have different properties due to differences in the dyeing process.
Black table tennis paddle rubber is softer and tackier than red rubber. The red rubber is faster and offers less spin compared to the black rubber. Many Chinese players prefer the black rubber for forehand because it is tackier and offers more spin for looping and serving. However, European players often use black rubber on the backhand.
The colour of the rubber impacts two main factors when playing:
This is caused by differences in the hardness and tackiness of red and black rubbers. Red rubber is harder than black rubber. This means that red rubber feels faster as the ball springs off the ball more quickly. Black rubber is tackier than red rubber. The additional tackiness means that the ball dwells for longer on the paddle, allowing you to apply more spin using the black rubber.
Since red rubber offers less spin, it is also less sensitive to incoming spin. This means it is better for defensive play because it can help to deaden the spin of the opponents shot and make the ball easier to control. This is why many players like to use red rubber on the backhand as it is more “forgiving”.
|Red Rubber||Black Rubber|
|Less tacky||More tacky|
|Less spin||More spin|
Forehand and Backhand Sides
Most table tennis players use red rubber on the backhand side and black rubber on the forehand side. The black rubber offers more spin than the red rubber, so using black rubber on the forehand allows the player to generate more spin for looping and serving. Black rubber is also more durable so some players prefer to use it on the forehand because it will last longer than red rubber.
There are no rules over which colour side of the paddle a ping pong player can use for their forehand or backhand, it is a personal preference. If you favour power over spin on the forehand, choose the red side for the forehand. If you favour spin over power, use black rubber on the forehand.
Examples of Professional Table Tennis Players
- Fan Zhendong (China): uses black rubber on forehand
- Ma Long (China): uses black rubber on forehand
- Xu Xin (China): uses black rubber on forehand
- Hugo Calderano (Brazil): uses black rubber on forehand
- Tomokazu Harimoto (Japan): uses black rubber on forehand
- Timo Boll (Germany): uses black rubber on forehand
- Lin Yun-Ju (Taiwan): uses black rubber on forehand
- Mattias Falck (Sweden): uses black rubber on forehand
- Liam Pitchford (England): uses red rubber on forehand
- Patrick Franziska (Germany): uses red rubber on forehand
The Types of Rubber Also Makes an Impact
The extent of the differences between red and black rubbers varies depending on the type of rubber in question.
- Tacky inverted (smooth rubber): this is also known as Chinese rubber and the differences between the red and black rubbers is the most significant. E.g. DHS Hurricane.
- Tensor inverted (smooth rubber): this is also known as European/ Japanese style rubber and the differences between black and red rubber here is very negligible and almost impossible to notice for most players. E.g. Butterfly Tenergy.
- Short pimple: negligible difference between black and red rubber.
- Long pimple: slightly noticeable difference between black and red rubber.
- Anti-spin: slightly noticeable difference between black and red rubber.
You can also get non-tacky Chinese rubber and the differences between black and red rubber here will be slightly noticeable, but not as much as with tacky rubber.
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