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All Things Ampersand

Graphic Media: Pen and Ink on Claybord™

Many illustrators and graphic artists prefer Claybord™ over paper because of its smooth forgiving surface. Use with Rapidograph and technical pens, calligraphy pens, and markers without fear of mistakes. Claybord‘s smooth surface can be erased and sanded to its original surface if you need to correct or change an area. This will save you valuable time and money on all your design projects.

Technical Pens
Claybord is an ideal surface for fine pen drawings using technical pens. The smooth absorbent surface will faithfully reproduce the desired line width without any feathering or bleeding. Inks are quickly absorbed and dry almost immediately. This reduces smudging, allowing you to work rapidly over the entire surface. If smudging does occur or if you wish to rework an area of the composition, a fine steel wool or an electric eraser and eraser shield can be used to remove the ink. You can also replace the eraser stick in your electric eraser with a tight wad of fine steel wool. This works great!

Begin by preparing the surface of Claybord. The clay surface makes an excellent ground for most inks but does create some dust which may clog very fine technical pens. Clean your pen point frequently when using Claybord. The following tips can be used to reduce the incidence of clogging:

1. Begin by dusting off the board with a fine brush to remove any existing surface dust.

2. Take a damp rag and wipe down the surface. Allow the board to dry completely before working on it.

3. Some smaller nibs have a sharp pen point. This point cuts into the Claybord surface and can create the clogging dust. Use a fine (600 grit) sandpaper to round off the edges of the pen point.
Can It Happen?  Ink on Claybord by Nancy Wolitzer

You can use with both dip and pre-filled calligraphy pens. Claybord’s absorbent surface reduces feathering and smudging resulting in crisp clean lines and enhanced control. Scratchboard tools can be used to cut in detail and enhance or clean up letters. Steel wool or other abrasives can be used to remove inks and rework areas. Because inks lie on top of the Claybord surface, they can be easily removed with an eraser or abrasive. If you pre-sketch your letters before inking, use a hard lead pencil and leave faint lines. For a mixed media approach, add color and detail to your calligraphy using other types of paint knowing that Claybord will accept any media. When finished, seal your work with spray fixative like Krylon® UV Resistant Clear Coating #1309 (Matte) or #1305 (Gloss) so it can be framed without glass.

Claybord can be used with all types of markers. Its smooth, absorbent surface makes for excellent line control without smudging or feathering. Sand paper or oil free steel wool can be used to vary the tonal values or to erase unwanted lines. Knives can also be used to create white highlights.

Markers are produced by a wide variety of manufacturers for many different purposes. Choose a style of pen that will accomplish the effects you need. Most markers work well and can easily be removed from the Claybord surface. Please be aware that the pigments in some markers can penetrate the Claybord surface making complete erasure difficult. Test any marker, for erasability, on a small piece of Claybord before using.

All things Ampersand, 
Karyn Meyer-Berthel 
Artist & Social Media Specialist 
Ampersand Art Supply 

Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.

Featured Artist: Ann Ranlett

“Boston Style” on Claybord with India Ink


Ann Ranlett is an illustrator and artist, specializing in pet and animal artworks.  She uses a variety of mediums, including pen and ink, colored pencil, watercolors and Ampersand Scratchbord™.  Working from photos that she takes herself, Ann gets to know her subjects personally so that she can create portraits emphasizing the nuances of each subject.
With a degree in biology, a background in scientific illustration and a lifelong interest in nature, conservancy and animal rescue, Ann is at home painting animal portraits.  Her portfolio and clientele list are extensive as seen on her website, but her persona and presence with animals is down to earth.  
Ann’s work in scratchboard began back in 1999, when she discovered working on boards at a Guild of Natural Science Illustrator’s conference.  Before that she had been working with pen and ink on paper for years, but she particularly loved the forgiving nature of the scratchboard medium which gave her flexible options for her work in black and white. 

“Rommel” on Scratchbord tinted with Derwent Inktense


In particular, Ann began working on Ampersand’s Scratchbord™ because she was familiar with the Aquabord™ for her mixed media pet portraits.  She actually began using the white Claybords™ first for her scratch work because she was familiar using the white grounds, but found inspiration using Scratchbord™ from other artists’ success.

Ann is drawn to her range of mediums depending on her subject matter, some of which call for color and others that need to be grayscale, “some looser in style and others in tight details,” Ann explains.  “In the case of a commission, it’s what the client prefers.”  She likes using a range of mediums as an artist because it gives her a chance to stretch her style; creating in watercolor, colored pencil, pencil, mixed media and scratchboard helps Ann push her work to new levels.

I’m really in my element when working  on Scratchbord™; it’s quite forgiving and I like the challenge of creating intricate detail and texture with black, white and shades of grey. I also enjoy working in graphite pencil for the same reasons,” says Ann.  Ann encourages beginners to try Scratchbord™ because it is so much more forgiving than traditional scratchboard paper.  “People seem to think that it’s really difficult, but they don’t realize that good quality boards can be re-worked quite a bit and that a mistake is not permanent.  It’s a portable medium, too; all you need is a board and a knife to get going.”

“Baby Cottontail” on Stampbord with ink, watercolor and colored pencil


To see more of Ann’s work or learn about her events and her process, check out her blog at:  http://annran.blogspot.com/ or her website:  http://www.annran.com

To learn more about other artists using Scratchbord, check out the newly formed International Society of Scratchboard Artists and the WetCanvas! Scratchboard Forum.