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Project Sheet

Scratch Art with Color Accents

Try our tips for making this bold format even more vibrant.

  • Difficulty Level: Beginner/Intermediate
  • Completion Time: 1-3 hours

Watch a video overview:

Scratch art techniques are great for creating imagery with a variety of textures and values. Add depth to your composition by using different tools and accenting with colored ink.

What You'll Need

Before you begin, make sure you have all the supplies you'll need. The list below contains all the products we used to create the example shown in this demo. Materials are optional based upon your own design.

1. Lay Down Your Foundation

Choose your subject matter and consider your light source. For this project, we combined two photos with Creative Commons licenses and converted them into a black and white image. We printed the image to the size of our scratch board and laid it on top of our board, taping it to the back to secure it.

After it is secured, trace the contour lines of the objects with a pen or dull point pencil. This creates a faint, recessed outline on the soft scratch board surface. This transfer method may also be used with an original sketch. 

2. Scratch to Sketch

Using the fine nib scratch art knife, begin lightly scratching away the black top layer to reveal the white clay underneath. Focus on the brightest highlights first and move around the image instead of completing one area at a time. This helps to slowly develop the lighting and contrast across the entire image. Avoid the urge to scratch away a solid white outline, but rather pull out the lightest areas and allow the darker edges of the object to be implied. 

3. Pull vs. Push

Always pull the knife and lift the blade to produce individual scratches. Pushing may bend the knife tip and gouge the scratch board. Use hatching and cross-hatching techniques to expose the white areas. Follow the shape of the objects and/or direction of any fur or other textures. The direction and quality of linework play a key part in creating the image.

4. Vary Your Tools for Different Light Effects


Once the main highlights have been formed, flow into the middle values across the image.  Rotate the scratch board as needed while you work to maintain the pulling motion and directional shading.  As the mid-tones fall into place, the highlights may be further lightened where needed to keep the contrast. We used the curved nib to further whiten these brightest areas.

Use the line tool to scratch 5 parallel lines with one pull. This worked well for quickly creating some of our bunny’s shortest fur. The fiber brush may be applied to soften edges and create gradual tones.

The wire brush adds multiple and less predictable linework to textures such as fur and grass. It also speeds up the process and covers more area. We used this brush for patterns in the bunny’s fur – mostly on the longer strands.

The steel wool may be used to gradually buff away the black ink for softer edges and larger areas. We applied it to the inside of the bunny’s ears. The steel wool doesn’t leave a residue, but it does create a bit of shine that can be visible from different angles.

Each of these tools plays a different role and may be applied according to your design and textural layout.

5. Enhance Your Work with Color

The exposed white layer of clay is fairly absorbent, and ink may be applied back into it. We diluted some cherry red India ink to add a touch of color to the center of the lilies. We blotted the ink with a tissue to keep the color subtle and blended. Black ink may also be applied to reduce highlights and/or cover minor mistakes.

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