For table tennis players, the racket is the most important piece of equipment in the game. Also, there are thousands or even millions of colors in the world, so you might wonder why the paddles are always the same red and black?
In this article, I will teach you everything there is to know about the coloring of ping pong paddles, why they are nearly always red and black, the difference between the two, and some more interesting and useful information about the table tennis rackets that you really should know. But first, why are TT rackets always red and black?
Table tennis rackets are red and black because it is required by the ITTF for game transparency and fairness. Red and black rubbers hold different characteristics which need to be clear for the opponent, judge, and audience. One rubber is ofter for speed and power, whereas one is for spin and control.
As you can see, there is more the one reason for the color difference of the table tennis racket. Now, if you want to understand everything about this subject fully, stick with me a while longer when I explain it to you.
Required by the rules
The first reason why table tennis rackets rubber must be red and black is that the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) makes it so. However, this isn’t just because of nothing, and there is actually a valid reason behind it all. This takes us back to the 1970s and 1980s.
It all began in the 1970s when table tennis players noticed that they could trick and deceive their opponents by using a rubber with the same color but different characteristics in their rackets.
This would really confuse the opponent because, in the middle of a heated contest, one would quickly switch the paddle’s side from speed to spin and vice versa, which would make their strokes so unpredictable that real skill hardly mattered.
This is why the ITTF made a rule in 1986 that one side of the racket must be red and one black. This was only 2 years before the first Olympics that table tennis was included, so the TT community really dodged a bullet because now the first Olympic medalist earned their victories with skill, not tricking.
The surface of the covering material on the side of the blade shall be matt, bright red on one side, and black on the other.International Table Tennis Federation
After the rule was approved, all paddle rubbers used in competitive matches, international level, or the Olympics must have the ITTF approval logo.
Read more about the rules of TT paddles or Table Tennis as a sport from the ITTF Handbook.
Game transparency and fairness are important in all sports, table tennis included. After the 70s-80s mess, it’s good that you, your opponent, the judge, and the audience can clearly see the two sides of the paddle, so the game is transparent and settled with real skill and who fared better in the game, not by tricking the opponent.
It must be clear what side of the paddle both players are using so that both can anticipate and know what kind of strokes they can expect. This is why the opponent can inspect your paddle before every game and always if you changed it during the game. But, of course, the same advantage is also permitted to you.
In competition and tournaments, it is also required that the player’s shirts aren’t the same color as their paddle because of contrast and transparency once again. However, if you play for fun with friends, it might be interesting to try the deceiving and wearing the same colored shirt as your paddle and see how confused your opponents would get.
Finally, the ping pong ball’s contrast is taken into consideration as well, given the balls are either orange or white and always white in competitive games. This way, you can easily see the white ball in red and black rubber sides and the usually blue tabletop and red floors.
Coming up with rules that make the game transparent and fair for everyone usually takes time, but in my and many others’ opinions, it’s important that they are made. Why would you want to win by tricking anyways?
More options with the rubbers
Rules and transparency are other things, but there is a third reason for the colors and characteristics! Usually, red and black rubbers have different perks that the player can use and switch in the middle of the game, giving much more options in the game.
This will allow the players to choose which side to use when serving the ball, receiving a strike, add more power, or spin. Different sides also have different ball control perks.
For the reasons above, it is understandable that the players can examine each other’s paddles and rubbers before the match starts, so they know what to expect when the opponent is using the red side and when he or she is using the black.
For recreational players playing for fun and aren’t super trained in table tennis, the rubber sides make a little difference, and they probably don’t even notice a difference. They might not even know that there is a difference. However, for competitive athletes, the differences are drastic, which is why each side needs to be black or red.
What is the difference between red and black sides
Now, let’s take a look at red and black rubbers, and what are the common differences between the two. Let’s start off with the red side.
Red rubber is usually far less tacky than the black one and has a thicker sponge layer between the paddle’s blade and rubber. This will result in more powerful strikes with more speed. However, the ball control and spin possibilities are lesser than in black rubber.
Black rubber, on the other hand, is usually really tacky and sticky, with only a thin foam layer between the rubber and blade. This gives the side better ball control. Also, tackier rubber will give out far more spin than the red side. However, black rubbers don’t usually give out such power and speed as a red one does.
However, these perks aren’t always so and you can quite easily change your paddles rubber yourself, which allows you to choose a black rubber meant for speed and power and the red one for spin and control. But usually, the characteristics are these that I explained above.
Another difference between the rubbers is the sound. If they have different thicknesses, tackiness, and other perks, red and black rubbers produce different sounds. You can imagine that a professional table tennis player knows exactly what a rubber meant for power sounds and what a rubber meant for spin sounds.
Whether the rubber is placed on the side of the forehand or backhand, there are common similarities there as well. The red side is usually in the forehand and black in the backhand. However, Chinese black rubber is usually in the forehand because black rubber is tackier with more spin and control, which is better for their playing style, usually.
All in all, it really comes down to the manufacturer’s construction style, so in some cases, red and black rubbers don’t have such drastic differences. In contrast, rubbers from other manufacturers have major differences. So before getting a new rubber for your paddle, whether red or black, you should read the characteristics and reviews about the rubber.
Are there other colors in table tennis paddles
In addition to the red and black rubber colors, there are Green, Yellow, Rose, Blue, and even White ones. However, after the 1986 rule made by the ITTF, other colors have been harder to find. Nonetheless, there are still old ones out there, and some new ones are made, but they are for fun play only because, in competitions, the paddle needs to be red and black.
Usually, you can find professional red and black rackets that are really expensive; however, they are nearly always quite cheap when it comes to other colors because they are for recreational use only. If you are interested, you can see example rackets below from Amazon.
Are there any other rules that the racket must comply
The rubber’s colors aren’t the only rules for the racket, and there certainly are more. When reading the ITTF Handbook, you can find all table tennis rules there, but that can be a drag; therefore, you can find other important rules for the paddle below.
- The racket may be of any size, shape, or weight, but the blade shall be flat and rigid.
- 85% of the racket must be natural wood.
- The covering material shall extend up to but not beyond the limits of the blade.
- The part nearest the handle and gripped by the fingers may be left uncovered or covered with any material.
- Blade, layer within the blade, covering material, adhesive on a side used for striking shall be continuous and even.
- The racket’s covering shall be used without any physical, chemical, or other treatment.
- Before the start of a match or whenever either player changes the paddle shall examine it.
These are the essentials, but there is much more, so if you are eager to see all of them, I highly suggest that you read down from page 32 in the ITTF handbook.
My Favorite Table Tennis Equipment
Thanks for reading this article. I hope it brought you great value that you can implement into your own life! Here you can find my preferred table tennis equipment that I believe you could benefit too!
- Racket: My favorite racket choice is the beautiful Killerspin Jet800 because it fits my offensive and speed-focused playstyle. The two carbon layers, 2.1mm sponge, and 190g weight makes this racket powerful.
- Ping Pong Balls: New technology and design have made the JOOLA Flash Seamless 3-Star Balls stand out from the other balls. These balls are seamless, meaning they are more durable than any ball with a seam! Even when these balls come at a higher price, they will pay themselves quickly. As a bonus, the design makes me excited!
- Table Tennis shoes: The famous Butterfly Lezoline Rifones is my choice as it is for many others because they are designed specifically for table tennis standards. I like the excellent support, comfortable cushioning, and lightweight sole with great traction, which gets you exploding fast to whatever direction you need to.
- Fan Equipment: If you’re a fan more than a player, you don’t want to miss Fan Equipment by Fanatics. You can find items from various sports that bear your favorite team’s logo, such as jerseys, gift ideas, or other surprising things.
There you have it, the many reasons why the vast majority of ping pong rackets are red and black in color. ITTF rules, transparency, fairness, and different perks are why the paddle is always red and black in competitive games and tournaments.
I hope that this article gave you answers and value that you can implement into your life or know more about table tennis rackets and their history. Quick tip; if you are looking for a paddle for competitive games, make sure it’s red and black!