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Reference Library: Scratchboard

'Scratchboard' or 'scraperboard' is a technique where drawings are scratched into ink painted over a thin layer of white clay which has been laid over posterboard or another stiff paper. These boards are also called scratchboard or scraperboard after the technique. Rarely, scratchboards are made with several layers of multi-colored clay, so the pressure exerted on the instrument used determines the color that is revealed. Using scratchboard is said to yield a highly detailed and textured piece of work far beyond that of traditional paintings.


Modern scratchboard as we know it originated in the 19th century. Originally, cardboard was coated with chalk, but this quickly progressed to the use of India ink in parts of Europe which prevails to this day. Scratchboard became popular for its "finer" line appearance, and could be photographically reduced for reproduction easily without losing quality. Up until the 1950s it was used mainly for advertising and editorial illustrations. In more recent years it has made a comeback as an appealing medium.

The technique

Using a sharp, angled blade, an outline is made on the surface of the scratchboard. Depending on the intent of the artist, several areas may be cleared out for layering with watercolors or acrylics. These layers are then scratched off one by one to create different shades of color that blend into and highlight certain parts of the image. It can then be retouched with more paint as necessary. This technique can yield an image that appears remarkably lifelike.
Alternatively, the cleared portions of the scratchboard may be left blank for a stark black-and-white image. Various techniques such as hatching or stippling can be used to texture and detail the image further.
Scratchboard may be either all black or all white. Artists using the white scratchboard paint and/or draw black areas onto it and then proceed to scratch into the black portions to create their drawing. India ink is typically used for creating the black areas.
"Scratchboard for Illustration" by Ruth Lozner is an excellent book about scratchboard.

Notable scratchboard artists

John Schoenherr has been famous for his scratchboard work since the 1960s and has been successful commercially in this respect. Carol Biberstein, while better recognized for her use of watercolor, has also utilized scratchboard in her art.

External links

* [ A how-to page about scratchboard]
* [ One artist's view of the technique.]
* [ Introduction to Scratchboard]
* [ Another how-to page including the artist's thoughts on Scratchboard]
Category:Art materials
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Scratchboard".