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All Things Ampersand

Tips and Techniques for Using Ampersand’s Claybord

Part two of our Claybord 101 article offers up some tips and techniques for working with various mediums on Ampersand Claybord.  Have any tips of your own?  Leave them in the comments section!

Tips and Techniques

  • To remove a mark, gentle strokes with Ampersand’s oil-free steel wool may be used.
  • Claybord’s coating is thick enough to use a razor blade or scratch tool to reveal the white clay beneath a layer of painted color to give detail and definition to a painting.
  • If you are interested in sealing your work in watercolor, ink or scratchbord for glass-free presentation, we recommend using the Krylon® UV Archival line of spray varnishes.

India and colored inks

  • Apply India ink in layers of diluted washes for soft charcoal-style effects. Then, after the surface is dry, use Ampersand’s oil-free steel wool to create a wide range of soft tonal values or to completely remove the ink without damaging the clay surface. Using Ampersand Scratchbord tools, remove the ink as if you are drawing fine white lines.
  •  Some inks and dyes will permanently stain the clay surface and should be tested first on a small area.
  • Scratchbord-Claybord Inks are formulated for Claybord– they will not stain the surface and are easy to manipulate and scratch through.
  • Claybord works well with pen and ink as fine lines do not smudge and the ink dries rapidly; however, take heed to prepare the board by dusting and wiping down to prevent clogging of pens

watercolor and gouache

  • Painting on Claybord with watercolor or gouache is like working on hot-press paper or illustration board.
  • When using these mediums for clean calligraphic lines, use less water or a dryer brush.
  • After the surface is completely dry, watercolor can be lifted or scratched off with the Scratchbord Tools, an X-acto™ knife, oil-free steel wool or with a wet brush.
  • Make sure the surface is dry before scraping or you might remove too much clay.
  • Many watercolorists prefer Ampersand Aquabord over Claybord because it is more like using a cold press watercolor paper.


  • Acrylics can be applied on Claybord in both washes thinned with up to 25% water and heavy impasto made with gel and texturing mediums.
  • When planning to scratch into or remove acrylics, apply them sparingly because heavier acrylics dry to a very hard plastic film.


  • Claybord is the ultimate surface for airbrush. Colors absorb quickly and remain bright.
  • Instead of using frisket, scratch out fine details back to the white surface underneath.

Casein and egg tempera

  • Claybord is ideal for casein and egg tempera, considering the fragility of these ancient mediums. Both are prone to cracking when dry and need the stability and absorbency that only for good adhesion, apply several thin washes of paint first, allowing each layer to dry completely in between. Then begin painting fine details, gradually working your way down to smaller and smaller brushes as the painting progresses.


  • First layers of oil paint will dry rapidly to a matte finish, due to the absorbency of Claybord. Subsequent layers will dry more slowly and keep their luster.
  • To keep the oils from absorbing into the panel’s coating, consider using Gessobord or following these steps to prepare the Claybord for oil paints.

Dry Media

  • Softer leads with high pigment content work best on Claybord when using pencil or graphite. Claybord tolerates repeated erasing without marring the surface and can be sealed and framed without glass.

Artists Tips and Projects:

2017 Fall Back to School Sale!

The Fall Back-to-School sale on Ampersand panels is going on now and runs through the end of September. Gessobord, Claybord, Scratchbord, our Artist Panel Series (Primed Smooth, Canvas Texture and Unprimed Basswood) and more on sale for up to 50% off at select retailers across the country.


10 comments on “Tips and Techniques for Using Ampersand’s Claybord”

  1. Avatar Justin - Dancing Hawk says:

    This article is really not helpful. You merely state the obvious! I’m trying to find video demos on how to use this interesting surface & apparently in all of the Virtual world, there aren’t any! I’m a member is the ISSA – International Scratchboard Society, so I am seeking to use Clayboard as an extension of my BLACK surfaced – Scratchboard work. I am a Wildlife – Raptor Artist. A demo creating a Wildlife scene on Clayboard would be great! Especially on YouTube!

  2. Avatar DANA BROWN says:

    Hi Justin!
    Thank you for checking out our articles and for your interest in Claybord! It sounds like you’re looking for an online demo where the artist is making and completing a wildlife artwork. I don’t know if that exists, but I will look around online.
    While we weren’t trying to state the obvious, this article was intended to be a “101” primer or introduction to the surface. Thanks for your request for something more advanced, focusing on the creation of an actual artwork. We may end up making a video like that ourselves.
    In the meantime, is there anything in particular that you’d like to know about using Claybord like a scratchboard? Please email me at dana@ampersandart.com with any questions at all.
    Thanks again! Dana Brown

  3. Avatar Defiant Potato says:

    How does one protect a finished claybord painting? I’ve used aquabord, but hesitated to use claybord out of concern regarding unintentional scratching on a finished piece. I’m a watercolor artist (hence the aquabord), if that factors into the method you would recommend.

    1. Avatar Dana Brown says:

      Hi! The process that you would use to finish/varnish a watercolor painting on Claybord would be the same as for Aquabord. Once the work is completed, use a spray fixative to “lock” it in place. We recommend either Krylon UV Archival Varnish or UV Resistant Clear. Then, use Golden Artist Colors’ Polymer Varnish with UVLS as a final, brush on application. We recommend 3-4 coats. Please feel free to email me at bords@ampersandart.com if you have any questions. Thank you! – Dana Brown

  4. Avatar Pete Sintes says:

    Is there a way to repair chips and nicks on claybord? Recently at an outdoor show my work was blown off of the display and the works received various nicks and chips to the edges and surface close to the edges. The finished pieces did have automotive 2-part urethane clear coats applied for protection of the surface and painting. the largest chip is down to the substrate surface and is about 3/8” in diameter.

    1. Avatar Dana Brown says:

      Hello – IF the damage is minor (small chips and nicks) you can repair the panels by reapplying the Claybord coating to the damaged area. Please email us at bords@ampersandart.com to request this “patch kit.” If there is damage to a corner on one of your panels, you can rebuild it using wood filler or acrylic modeling paste. Place tape around the damaged corner creating a square support edge, fill the space with the filler, allow it dry, remove the tape and sand it square and flat. Apply the Clay Mix (from us) over the patch so you can reapply and repair the painting if necessary. If a corner has “spread” after being dropped, you can iron it down using a household iron on high setting with plenty of pressure. Cover the surface of the corner with a heat resistant paper or fabric so that the surface of the panel does not scorch. Again, please contact us by phone or email for the patch kit. Thank you!

  5. Avatar Jorain says:

    Please how to make a smooth consistent wash in watercolor on textured clay board. I love vibrant colors but find it hard to do a background wash without it looking splotchie.

    1. Avatar Dana Brown says:

      Hello – If using Claybord (the smooth surface) it is tricky with watercolor because wetter applications will pool and then dry, resulting in organic forms. With Aquabord (called Claybord Textured until 2007) the secret is painting “damp on damp.” Flush the Aquabord surface with water to allow any air that is trapped in the mineral coating to rise to the surface as bubbles and pop. When the bubbles have stopped, allow the surface to dry slightly, back to a damp state (not dripping wet). Then, load a wide brush with your color of choice and blot it once or twice on a studio cloth or paper towel to prevent applying the paint too wet. Brush the color across the dampened surface and this will achieve even wash for a background or a broad area of color. Thank you, Dana

  6. Avatar Michelle Dubé says:

    Comment puis-je protéger mon encre à l’alcool sur le claybord? Merci

    1. Avatar Dana Brown says:

      L’encre d’alcool fonctionne très bien sur Claybord. Vous pouvez le sceller avec du vernis Kamar pour protéger l’œuvre d’art finie. Merci

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