Why Are Ping Pong Paddles Red and Black: Understanding the Difference

After reading this article, you will definitely understand why ping-pong paddles are colored black and red.
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Last updatedLast updated: September 01, 2023
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If you are a beginner at ping-pong and you’ve been watching a lot of professional matches, you may have noticed that the bats or paddles used in games are usually colored red and black. You might even notice the same in games between amateurs. 

Now that you are here, you won’t have to ask, “Why are ping-pong paddles red and black” anymore because we are going to be shedding light on the reasoning behind the colors and what they mean for the game as a whole.

So, strap yourself in as we run through how the coloring requirement came about and what it means for this high-paced game.

Origin of ping-pong color difference

Back in the 1980s, when tennis competitions were really starting to grow in popularity, players usually utilized a variety of rubber types on both sides of their bats, and these rubbers provided different types and levels of performances. Such problems do not exist with the balls that are used because all balls would need ITTF approval before they could be used in a competition.

During games, players could switch bat’s sides during returns and serve to produce different shots of varying speeds and spins. However, there was no way for opposing players to differentiate between the rubber types. The spin of the ball might be unnoticeable to a beginner, but using this JOOLA Colorato Set and its multicolored balls can help monitor spins.

This strategy of using two rubbers would cause a lot of unpredictability to creep into the gameplay, granting some players certain advantages over other players. A specific player that benefited from this deceptive and unpredictable play was a Chinese player by the name of Cai Zhenhua. 

Cai usually used bats with the same color but different rubbers on both sides. This combined with his ability to switch his bat from side to side, quickly made him very difficult to compete against.

However, just like in other games where players had been deemed to have unfair advantages over opponents, the governing federation (in this case, the ITTF) had to step in to restore parity to the game of table tennis, and their way of doing this was to introduce the color-coding system for the bats; the chosen colors were red and black. It should be noted that these colors would not be important if the game being played is ping-pong, as they use a standard sandpaper paddle in such games. This is one of the differences between table tennis and ping-pong.

What is the difference between red and black paddles?

You might be wondering how simply introducing colors could have solved the problem. The strategy was simple; one side of the bat must be colored black, and the other side should be colored red.

The two colors would then represent two types of rubber that would be identifiable by opposing players, thus retaining the unpredictability of opponents but ensuring that players would realize the type of shots that they would be having to return just by the side of the bat that their opponents used.

Advantages of red and black paddles 

Advantages of Red and Black Paddles

Since generally the red is faster and spins a bit less, professionals tend to use a red rubber on their forehand and black on their backhand.

The major advantage that this rule change brought to the game was increased transparency. Thanks to the requirements of colors, players could easily come to terms with what types of rubbers were present on their opponent’s bats. The same went for spectators watching such games.

The ITTF also has specifications for the thickness of the rubber used to control the speed of the game and make it easy for spectators to follow matches. Beyond that, the choice of the rubber would be one for individual players to make.

Players can choose to use different rubbers on both sides or the same rubber on both sides; it’s their choice. A highly recommended bat with the same rubber on both sides is the JOOLA Infinity Edge Racket.

Red side vs. Black side: Two-color rule

The two-color rule has we have stated earlier would allow opponents to know which kind of shot is to be expected. For instance, if a player is using an inverted rubber on one side and a long pimple rubber on the other side, thanks to the color difference, opponents would be able to tell which is which and play as needed. 

The necessity of this knowledge to fair competition lies in the advantages or characteristics that these rubbers would provide in a player’s shot. The inverted rubber would make balls faster and more challenging to control, while the long pimple can increase friction with the ball and change the spin.

The understanding of what the rubbers could mean for your game and how to counter their effects is critical for players with plans of competing at a high level. If you are a beginner aiming for such levels, the following ideas on practicing and improving your game could also come in handy.

Which color to choose: red or black?

Red and Black Paddles: Which Color to Choose

Due to the soft sponge, this rubber dampens speed of the ball and returns the ball at a low speed.

As implied earlier, it doesn’t really matter what color is chosen, provided both are on the sides of your bat. What really matters to your play or your opponent’s play is the type of rubber that the color would represent. Typically, there are four major types of rubber favored by players, and they are:

1. The inverted rubber: This type of rubber is used for offensive shots due to its ability to increase the speed of the ball. To help players navigate through varying speeds, manufacturers of bats and paddles usually provide speed ratings for inverted rubbers on their products.

2. Short pips rubber: This type of rubber reduces the spin on a ball. Players can use it to counter-attack or block shots with heavy spins.

3. Long pips rubber: Where the short pips reduce spin and simply hit the ball back, the long pips rubber could lead to spin reversals that could put opponents off.

4. Anti-spin rubber: this is also a defensive rubber type. Such rubber is usually used with a very soft sponge underneath it. As such, when receiving shots from opponents, the receive would be slower than the shot. Additionally, when used against shots with heavy spins, the ball would be returned with a reverse spin.

These are the four types of rubbers used as regards their functions. However, there are other types of rubbers with different in-game characteristics. These are not quite as popular and two of such rubbers are:

  • Medium rubber
  • Tensioned rubber

Final thoughts

A lot of emphasis has been placed on the effect that the type of rubber used could have on the characteristic of the shot. However, the rubber is not the only material on the bat that could influence the shot of players; the sponge underneath would have an effect Trusted Source Guide to Choosing Table Tennis Rubber Lowest prices on table tennis tables, table tennis robots, and table tennis equipment. www.megaspin.net  as well.

Having said that, we have answered the asked question of “why are ping pong paddles red and black,” but simply knowing is one thing; you would need the practice to take advantage of your knowledge.

 In summary, the type of rubber is a factor to consider when playing, and the colors help to identify them and minimize the damage to your game. However, if you really want to grow as a table tennis player, the key is to know your rubbers, practice playing against them, and stay active during games.

Good luck with your table tennis journey.


Guide to Choosing Table Tennis Rubber
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