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Are you sure you're drawing on the LAYER WINDOW and not the comp window?
Also - be sure that the attributes of the erase tool are set the way you need it to work (there are a few ways to "erase")
What do you mean LAYER WINDOW?
I'm pretty sure I'm drawing on the comp window. How do I get to the layer window?
Oh I found it but how do I make something appear on the layer window?
Oh ok I figured it out.
1. Either double click the layer you want to paint (or if selected, just press "Enter")
2. Make sure you're on Eraser (cmd+B / ctrl+B ) toggles both paint and erase.
You can choose whether the eraser paints an alpha channel (making it look like the layer gets erased), or the eraser only erases previously drawn paint strokes (I think there's a third, but I can't remember it right now).
Then just use the tool.
You'll notice that you're in a different window (the top of the panel should say "LAYER" window not "COMP", and you'll notice different icons at the bottom of the window, indicating your trim (in/out/duration) and some other options unique to this window.
A terminology clarification that will help a lot when searching for help on this matter:
The various windows (Layer, Composition, etc.) are now _panels_. Since After Effects 7, there is a "Layer panel", not a "Layer window".
This matters when you're searching, since you're going to get fewer relevant results searching for "Layer window" than for "Layer panel".
"Work with the Layer panel"
The Eraser tool is one of the paint tools. Read about using the paint tools here:
"Work with paint tools and paint strokes"
Read about the Eraser tool itself here:
"Use the Eraser tool"