Is There a Difference Between Red and Black Table Tennis Rubbers?

Spinny vs. Tacky Paddle Rubbers

What is the difference between the black and the red rubber on the bat (racket)? This is a question that table tennis players have been talking about for many years.

The rubber might feel different When you hit the ball with the red rubber, the ball jumps more (vertically) than the hit with the black side.

The Difference Between Red and Black Table Tennis Rubbers

Many players feel that red rubbers are usually a bit faster and less spinny than black rubbers, since slightly different materials (pigments and dyes) are used to give the rubbers their red and black colors. You might notice that black rubbers tend to be opaque (not see-through), while many red rubbers are a bit translucent (see-through).

Some manufacturers go to great lengths to try and make both red and black rubbers play in the same way, while with other manufacturers, the differences are quite noticeable. Of course, sometimes players tend to exaggerate the differences as well. Speaking for myself, most of the rubbers that I have used didn't have any noticeable difference between the red and black versions. However, there are a few (such as the old Friendship 729 rubbers back in the 1990's) where the black and red versions were very different. (I liked the Friendship black rubber, and didn't like the red.) Other players claim to notice differences between red and black rubbers in brands that I couldn't tell apart, so perhaps I'm just not very good at noticing the differences!

Since the red will be faster and a bit less spinny, many players point out that this is why you often see professionals using a red rubber on their forehand and black on their backhand. However, others say that black rubbers are often slightly tackier than red rubbers in the same model as a result of the pigment that is used in black rubbers. The top Chinese players use a black tacky rubber on their forehand.

Other Elements to Consider With Color

If you wear a shirt that’s the same color as your rubber, there's a real advantage if you serve close to your body because the receiver will have more difficulty seeing your serve swing before contact. To be legal, though,  the receiver has to be able to see the contact.

Another visual strategy involves the ball color. White and orange balls show less contrast against a red rubber. A white ball on a black rubber is high contrast like night and day, but on red it’s less noticeable. If you want to seriously hide your spin, wear a red jersey and use your red rubber to serve.