Table Tennis Rubber Selection Guideline

Choosing table tennis rubbers are equally important to select a table tennis blade. This is because when you hit the ball, the rubber surface will contact the ball directly which will have a direct impact on speed, spin, and direction. Unfortunately, there is no such magic rubber that is perfect for everyone and every situation but the best rubber for you must complement your play style.

There are a couple of factors to consider before choosing your table tennis rubbers:

1. Colour of table tennis rubber

According to ITTF regulation, the table tennis rackets must have red color on one side with black color on another. This is because nowadays, it is very common to use a different type of rubbers for forehand and backhand. So if both sides of your racket has the same color, it would be very difficult for your opponent to distinguish the type of rubber that is hitting the ball.

table tennis rubber selection

This two-color rule was announced in the mid of 1986 by ITTF to help table tennis players quickly identify an incoming ball. Usually, the red side is used for a forehand, while the black side is used for a backhand (but not compulsory).

  1. Types of table tennis rubber

There are three main types of table tennis rubbers:

2.1 Inverted rubber

It is the most common and most popular special for pre-assembled table tennis rackets. The pips will face toward the blade. So the smooth side of the rubber will be on the surface, which will touch the ball directly.

The level of the surface’s tackiness has an impact on the sensitivity of the spin ball. It means that a tacky rubber can generate a more significant amount of spin power. However, the tacky rubber will be susceptible to an incoming spin ball from your opponent as well. On the other hand, the anti-spin rubber is entirely non-tacky and will not sensitive to an incoming spin ball at all.

This kind of rubber always comes with a sponge underneath its surface. The thickness of the sponge will have a significant impact on speed and control.

2.2 Short-pips rubber

Regarding short-pips rubber, the pip will point outward from the surface, meaning that the pimple will directly contact the ball. It is commonly used by players who want to cut the spin strategy out of the game. It could be excellent for non-topspin smash technique and great for defense because the pimple will reduce the incoming spin ball’s impact. This type of rubber may or may not come with the sponge underneath its surface.

2.3 Long-pips rubber

The long pips rubber is likely to be used by a defensive player along with a defensive blade. Physically, it has a long pip pointing outward from the surface, which will contact the ball directly. Unlike short-pips rubber that will nullify the spin effect, the long pip one will generate an unpredictable spin back to the opponent. As a result, this blade can screw your opponent well since your opponent cannot predict an incoming spin ball from your gesture, but they have to determine from the actual spin of the ball.

  1. The thickness of the rubber

The thickness of the rubber has excellent impacts on the speed and control of the contacted ball. The rule of thumb is that the thicker rubber will have more incredible speed and less control. However, the maximum thickness that ITTF allows is 2.5mm. The range of sponges could be classified into three main categories.

1.0 – 1.5mm > It is mainly used by all-round and defensive players to maximize their control and touch. It is more suitable for the one who loves to play close to the table due to a relative lack of power. This type of thickness is also great for chopping the ball by a defensive player.

2.0mm > The most popular and standard thickness. It offers you an outstanding balance between speed, power, and control. All-round offensive players use it.

2.5mm > Some manufacturers refer to it as “maximum thickness” because 2.5 mm is the maximum limit allowed by ITTF. It is generally used by offensive players who prefer very fast speed and powerful topspin (loop).

  1. Forehand or backhand side

The advanced players will commonly use a different type of rubbers for forehand and backhand. There is no exact rule about choosing rubber for each side. It all depends on your style. However, the forehand side will generally require more speed and power to make a killer short, while the backhand side may need more control to block.

  1. Your table tennis blade

The surface of your blade is another important factor. For instance, using a hard surface blade with hard surface rubber will make the ball go very fast but difficult to control. On the other hand, using the soft blade with soft rubber may have too low power and very difficult to play at a far distance.

The general concept is trying to make the combination that offers you a balance between power, control, and spin. Nevertheless, some advanced players may want to play with extreme style.

Recommended Table Tennis Rubbers for A Beginner

A beginner should focus on control with a reasonable amount of spin power. Try to avoid the fast rubber with crazy spin since most beginners cannot handle it. To make your game more enjoyable soft and flexible rubber is the way to go. Your rubber price should not be too high since you are likely to alter your rubbers when you have higher skill. I would recommend DHS Hurricane 3, DHS G666, or Yasaka Mark V as beginner rubbers.

Trying Different Rubber

There is almost no way to pick the perfect rubber unless you have tried all of them. But, you can narrow down your options.

Experimenting with various rubbers will make you aware of the different spins and speeds between you and your opponent. There is a wide variety to choose from in each skill level and style of play, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to stay in your element.

As most players say to beginners, you do not want to get a table tennis rubber past your play level. But at the same time, you also do not want to get one that will not allow you to improve.

If you have not grasped the basic strokes with the rubber you are using (and it is a reasonably decent rubber, with some grip), then it is probably not time to upgrade. When you feel your game is improving and require more speed and spin, then (and only then) should you try some various rubbers.

It can be from the same brand or different brands. Realize some brands are more expensive than others and have fewer beginner and intermediate options available.

The bottom line is that you want to improve your game, not drown it. You want to get a rubber a bit faster and with more spin than you had, but not too much.

Initially, the ball should be bouncing off your rubber like you’re playing on the moon. Although after a few strokes, you should get a feel for it and be able to do some light topspins, then carry on with your game after a few practices.

The Friendship 729 rubbers are a popular beginner sheet. The JUIC 999 line has some great intermediate and more advanced rubbers that are probably some of the cheapest out there.

friendship 729 rubber
friendship 729 rubber

Generally, you want a thicker sponge (2.2, Max) on your forehand and one or two less (1.9, 2.0, 2.1) on your backhand. Rubbers also play very differently on different blades, but I’ll leave blades for another post.

However, I will say that a middleweight blade (about 78-87) is the most promising. A decent blade, probably with a Balsa wood core for better control, is good; and medium speed. It allows you to really feel the upgraded rubbers.

The Importance of Choosing The Right Table Tennis Rubber

After some time, many players look to other types of table tennis rubbers for their rackets. These players want to take their game to the next level. A new table tennis rubber can help the transition. New table tennis rubbers can create more spin or more speed depending on the rubber. However, there are several key elements to changing table tennis rubbers.

glue rubber sheet

First, get another opinion from someone who knows table tennis and the best table tennis rubber. Talk to your local table tennis club or ask a player that’s been playing the game for a long time to help you evaluate other table tennis rubber.

The player should watch the types of strokes you use and help suggest which table tennis rubber suits your play style.

Style of play makes a huge difference in choosing the suitable table tennis rubber. In many cases, a forehand stroke is hit differently than a backhand stroke. The decision to select an appropriate table tennis rubber can difficult. 

Some players prefer that the same table tennis rubbers are applied to both sides. Others want a variety of table tennis rubbers to compliment their style of play.

Table tennis rubbers can differ between the thickness and hardness. The thicker the table tennis rubber is, the faster the ball bounces off. If you prefer attacking, then this is the table tennis rubber for you—the thinner the table tennis rubber, the more control over the ball you have.

Similarly, the same thing goes for the hardness of the table tennis rubber. The harder the table tennis rubber is, the faster your return shot will be. If you tend to smash the ball or like to drive the ball deep on the table, this would be the table tennis rubber for you. However, players who rely on spin should invest in a softer table tennis rubber.

Your style of play

Before you go into buying a custom paddle, you needed to know your style of play.

As you might expect, a different style of play will require various rubbers. But think of how you use your forehand and backhand. Chances are, they will be different.

Therefore, you will want to buy various rubbers for your forehand and backhand. The above doesn’t always necessarily hold as well. So if you feel like your stokes are pretty similar on both sides, you can use the same rubbers.

But ultimately, your style of play will most likely decide the rubbers that you need. Now let’s take a look at the different component of table tennis rubbers and see how they would affect your paddle:

Butterfly Spin Art Table Tennis Rubber
The sponge

The sponge of your table tennis has a different aspect that needs consideration. It includes the sponge thickness, hardness, and density and whether it should be bought with the top sheet or not at all.

Sponge thickness

The thickness of the sponge determines how fast and how much control your rubber is going to have. A thicker sponge will be quicker, but it will produce less control than a thinner sponge in return.

So it’s easy to understand that offensive players will use thicker sponges in general, at least 1.9mm or more. Most professional table tennis players also tend to use thicker sponge rubber as they re-glue the rubber every time they play for a competitive match. A thicker sponge will absorb more glue than the thinner one and therefore increases the speed glue effect.

Sponge hardness

The hardness of a sponge also plays an essential factor in the speed of the table tennis rubber. So the harder the sponge, the less the ball will sink into the table tennis rubber. Consequently, it will produce less spin than its softer counterpart.

If we look into the control aspect, it depends more on the type of strokes being used. Ball smashers tend to like harder sponges, whereas loopers prefer the softer sponges for their table tennis rubber.

What if I want to buy the sponge separately from the top sheets?

Some players might look for the perfect combination and look for any way to customize their table tennis paddles perfectly. If you are on these players, be warned that not all combinations are legal for competition. But the majority of players will find a rubber-suited to their needs by buying the usual table tennis rubber that has the sponge, and top sheets joined together.

Play without a table tennis sponge

Yes, this a possibility, but you will need to play with pimple-out table tennis rubber. However, it is illegal to use a smooth or inverted rubber without a sponge. Players who choose that route tend to be played defensively. Generally speaking, pimple-out rubbers without sponges can be an effective way of counter-attacking spins.

Let’s move on to the top sheets.

It is the top surface of your table tennis paddle that sits on the blade. The top sheet is the part that comes in contact with the ball. Just like the sponge, the top sheet will have various factors affecting its performance.

Killerspin Nitrx-4z Table Tennis Rubber
Beginners usually start with pimple-in table tennis rubber. It allows new players to develop their strokes and techniques as they learn the game. Once they acquire and develop their style of play, which usually takes up to 6 months (this, of course, also depends on the amount of practice).

The player can choose to stick with regular table tennis rubber or pimples-out rubber. But to reinforce that, it’s quite rare to see new table tennis players starting with pimples-out table tennis rubber.


The tackiness of table tennis rubber is a measure of its grip when the ball is struck. Some rubbers will grip the ball a lot, which usually requires the defending player to adjust accordingly with varying degrees of difficulty. An excellent example of a table tennis rubber with a lot of grips would be the Friendship 729.

Other table tennis rubber, such as the Sriver or Mark-V, allows the ball to slide across the top sheet’s surface. We have also discussed previously that pimples-out or anti-spin rubbers will have virtually no resistance when the ball is hit.

Generally, the tackier the rubber, the more spin you can generate. However, it suffers from being affected by the opponent’s spin too.

In today’s modern game, most professionals use speed glue to increase the speed and spin produced by their table tennis rubbers. They also prefer using less tacky since it is less affected by the opponent’s spin while the speed glue increases the speed and spin produced. If you think about it carefully, this sort of combination gives a player the best of both worlds.

So what is speed glue?

Generally used by advanced players for competitive tournaments, speed glue increases the paddle’s spin and control. However, beginners are advised to avoid speed glue as they risk not developing their technique and play style.

Another point-needed consideration is the price of speed glue. It’s pretty expensive as a matter of fact! Gluing up your table tennis rubber all the time is costly, and it reduces the rubber‘s life span. So unless you are competing at a high level, it’s probably not worth it.

Top sheets thickness

The top sheet thickness also varies; however, it only applies to players who buy their sponge and rubbers separately. If you are going this route, then the combination of the sponge and table tennis rubber is only 4mm. Otherwise, the paddle will be considered illegal for competition if you want to use it for the purpose, of course.

Top sheet hardness

Just like the other factors, this will affect the spin and control of the ball. A hardtop sheet will reduce the dwell time and hence give less spin than a softer top sheet.


It is also crucial as you don’t want to end up with a paddle too heavy or too light. As you might already be aware, table tennis rubbers come in different weights also!! So rubbers with very thin or no sponge will tend to be lighter than those with sponges.

If you use speed glue, it will add to the overall weight of the bat as well. It would help if you remembered that some of the solvent found in the glue would build up as residue over time.

Any other advice I should know before buying my table tennis rubbers?

I think your best bet would be to ask your coach or an expert in table tennis to watch you play. They will be able to assess your strength better and whether you are an offensive or defensive player. If you play for a club, get your friend’s opinion too.

Once you have something to work with, check if you can try out some rubbers. It’s easier if you play for a club as you have lots of different players with varying play styles. You could politely ask to borrow their bat and see how to feel playing with it.

But make sure you try all types of strokes and play a few matches before you make your mind up. Check whether you like the feel of them and how they compare to your old rubbers. Always remember you want rubbers that match your style of play.

Finally, once you have your new table tennis rubbers, give yourself enough time to adjust to them. It can take a few weeks before you adjust properly to the rubber‘s characteristics. Hopefully, you will have made the right choice and will play better than ever before!!

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Warren Davies

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