About Scratchboard

What is Scratchboard?

Scratchboard is a board coated with white clay, then coated with a thin layer of black ink. The ink is scratched away to reveal the white underneath. Some boards are left white so the artist can add inks of different colors, then that ink is scratched.

The International Society of Scratchboard Artists

The ISSA has three levels of membership, Active, Signature, and Master. After just over one year of doing scratchboard, I applied for and was accepted to Signature status. I plan to apply for Master status in the spring. There are currently only 28 Signature and 15 Master members in the world.

How do you care for a scratchboard drawing?

Scratchboard is surprisingly durable. I have dropped them on the tile floor without so much as a mark or chip (not that I would recommend doing that). I spray each drawing with several coats of UV-protecting finish. With this coating, scratchboards may be framed with or without glass. Keep them out of direct sunlight, and wipe with a very lightly damp cloth to remove dust.

What tools are used?

One of the primary scratch tools is the knife. I use an Olfa brand knife with two different blades: straight and curved. These are used for lines, hatching, stippling (tiny dots), or scraping out large areas. Another well-used implement is the fiberglass brush. This tool is used for soft areas like short or fluffy fur. I use flexible sandpaper for large, nebulous areas, including clouds, and to smooth out knife marks in light areas. Tattoo needles may seem like an odd tool for scratchboard, but they are indispensable for getting tiny areas or very fine, even marks. And finally, a paintbrush is needed for applying ink in black, wash (diluted black), or color. Other tools that I use less frequently include oil-free steel wool and a wire brush.