Scratchbord (and a Giveaway!)

I don’t remember too many of the art projects I did in grade school, but I do have fond memories of a project where the teacher had us color randomly, with as many colors as we wanted, to fill a sheet of paper. We then colored over the entire sheet with a black crayon, which seemed very pointless after all of the hard work laying the colors down. But then I remember the excitement at the magic of scratching off the black crayon as I wrote into the heavy layers of wax and revealing the bright colors underneath. Did you ever do that? Scratchbord is kind of like that.

As a huge fan of white lines against a black background, this substrate seems custom made for me. Yet, until I was reminded of its existence at a recent trade show, I had yet to ever try it. But now I have and I really had a lot of fun with it.

Ampersand makes Scratchbord panels, which consists of an absorbent white clay ground that is coated with black India ink. When you scratch the surface, voila, white is revealed. As friends who know me know, I am happy with black, white and perhaps a smidge of red, but Ampersand also sells inks that allow you to add more color to your scratched areas. The inks mix really well and you can create an endless number of colors on your mixing palette.

The people at Ampersand Art have also taken into account that artists sometime mess up (they had me in mind for sure) and they even sell a “Black Repair” ink that mimics the original board surface, should you make a scratch where you don’t want one.

And here’s a tip for you: If you do try using the inks, remember that the clay on the boards is absorbent, meaning it stays wet for a period and you should avoid adding new scratches over the colored areas until it’s dry, unless you want to create a small crumbly situation. (Yes I found out the hard way.)

While I’m not an illustrator and my drawing/shading skills are minimal, you can achieve a lot of fine detail on these boards using a variety of tools. There’s a tool kit available by Ampersand that includes a scratch knife (with two nibs—fine point and curved), a line tool that makes five parallel lines at once (great for cross-hatching), a fiber brush that actually softens hard lines and creates subtle shading, a wire brush (nice for fine hair-like textures) and steel wool (completely removes the ink layer to reveal solid white).

So there you have a synopsis of my take on it. Does it sound like something you’d like to try, too? Well I know you probably noticed the word, “Giveaway” in the title of this post, so I suspect there’s a good chance you quickly scrolled to this final paragraph to see exactly what that was all about (though I just know you’re going to go back and read the rest of what I had to say). So here are the details!


The cool folks at Ampersand Art have offered up a little prize package for one lucky winner here on! Some lucky duck—no, wait . . .this just in—two lucky ducks are going to win not one, but four individual Scratchbord Kits that each include a different suggested project, instructions, a knife and a 5″ x 7″ Scratchbord panel. Just leave a comment here on this post (tell me if you’ve ever tried Scratchbord before, or just tell me what other creative project you’re currently engrossed in) by 11:59 pm EST on Thursday, June 16. On Friday, June 17 we’ll randomly pick two winners and notify the winners via e-mail.

Good luck!


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12 Responses to Scratchbord (and a Giveaway!)

  1. DycheDesigns says:

    I’ve never tried it myself but I have purchased a print of a gorilla scratchbord by an incredible artist in Canada. The level of detail in her work is amazing.

  2. Jeannie says:

    I have never even seen scratchboard, but it looks like fun!

  3. CarolineA says:

    I’ve never actually seen scratchboard, but came across the technique years ago and tried to create my own with wax crayons scribbled on paper then covered up with black acrylic paint, and was very impressed with the result, although it was rather fragile – it would be nice to try the real thing as its great fun!

  4. patsypat says:

    I don’t think scratchboards are available in the Philippines! What I have done is color an illustration with crayons, then cover it with black or dark pastel, then scratched out the details. Patsy from HeARTworks

  5. leslieb says:

    This looks wonderful. Would love to try it. Thanks for the giveaway!

  6. beulahmom says:

    I would love to try my hand at scratchboard! I remember the projects my children brought home using a scratch off type art. Actually, my daughter still has a squirrel that she did over 25 years ago when she was in high school. :o) I am currently doing some work on saw blades using oil paint for the first time.

    Thanks for the opportunity to win this giveaway!

  7. kitturah says:

    I’ve never heard of scratchboard, but it looks like something I’d love to try! I’m always interested in techniques and materials I’ve not used yet.

  8. LissaLissa says:

    Egg shapes scratchboard kits were part of the fun at the church Easter Egg Hunt Party my son went to this year!

  9. magpie says:

    in art school we used to make our own scratchboard –
    ink on chalky board – there was no handy pre-ink board available
    in the old days. i really love the technique and the varieties of texture and
    contrast that you can achieve in the medium.

  10. Lisa says:

    I haven’t used scratchbord as an adult, but I have similar fond memories of making my own with crayons. I have used other Ampersand products, though, and have always been impressed with their quality. Thanks for having a giveaway!

  11. marlene1955 says:

    This is all new to me and it is so cool I would love to have an chance to experiment with this project Hope I win what a great giveaway,,,

  12. cdamm says:

    I actually have a piece of scratchboard sitting upstairs in my workroom and have never used it. But your post about this new product got me interested again! There’s something very intriguing about the negative– white lines on black– emotionally, I think. It’s always night on scratchboard, as the ground color is black and small details really stand out.