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All Things Ampersand

Scratchbord Basics

Ampersand Scratchbord has a smooth, absorbent kaolin clay ground evenly coated with black India ink. Scratch the black ink away with ease and control to crisp white fluid lines.
Backed with Ampersand’s true artist hardboard, Scratchbord will not tear, crack or bend like other paper scratchboards and can be sealed with spray fixative to eliminate fingerprints for perfect glass-free presentation.  Continue Reading >>

Featured Artist: Lynnette Shelley

Pennsylvania artist, Lynnette Shelley’s unusual and culturally charged artwork has won numerous awards and found its way into collections across the world.  Her mixed media pieces are a conglomeration of her drawing passion and the collection of interests she has pulled from Celtic art, wildlife, archetypal symbology and art nouveau.  Lynnette explains, I’ve been fascinated by artwork from native cultures from all around the world, and also by the folklore and mythology from those cultures. This was natural as when I was a child, Greek mythology and fairytales were some of my favorite reading material. So, my current style is an amalgam of things I have picked up over the years as well as my love for patterns and stylized shapes. These sort of all meld into the pictures I am creating now.”  Continue Reading >>

Featured Gallery Artist: Jan Lowe

Feeding Frenzy, Scratchbord with watercolor & ink, 2015

Melbourne artist, Jan Lowe shares the story of her Scratchbord work, Feeding Frenzy.
Feeding Frenzy is perhaps more appropriate to what was happening this day.  The bears were franticly searching for the honey berries hidden under logs and stones by the Rangers.  The Crows looked on for any leftovers.I wonder though if any of the crows end up on the meal table, the second bear looked pretty keen to explore this! This event was just amazing, a beautiful experience for all visitors, as the children were taken into the enclosure to place the food for the bears with help of the rangers – this is a unique experience that took part that Sunday.  What a great appreciation the children had, their faces lit up on their return to the parents anxiously waiting.”  

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.

Scratchbord-Claybord Inks

Scratchbord-Claybord inks are specially formulated for adding color to Ampersand’s Scratchbord, Claybord and other paper scratchboards.  These transparent inks leave vibrant color in only the white areas of scratchboard drawings and can easily be scratched through back to white when adding fine details and highlights.  When painting over back areas, these remarkable inks do not leave a heavy ink residue.



Our inks are pigmented, permanent, and water-based with a bit of shellac to prevent dissolving. For best results, build up the color in diluted washes following the directional lines in the drawing. Other brands of ink can leave heavy residue on the black surface and can be difficult to scratch if not quickly wiped off.  It’s easy to mix a wide range of colors with only the six base colors in this set.  Each bottle allows the ink to be measured out by the drop.

For final touch up, apply Ampersand Black Repair ink around the edges of the subject matter to cover any left over residue and over-painting. Once all the color is in, go back and scratch out the highlights. This will give the forms in your drawing volume and dimension. Add more color where needed and repeat this process until you are totally satisfied with the results.

Group of Columbines by Lisa Goesling

“Everything is about value when I draw with Scratchbords. Ampersand’s boards are created so well that I am able to develop nuances that I could never accomplish with any other variety of scratchboard. Their inks are water based, I mix them just like I would mix paint. Two steps make the color really pop off the boards, painting with colored inks at full strength, (not mixed with water), and scratching away enough black ink from the Scratchbord, making a pure white surface to accept the inks.” ~Lisa Goesling

Top Ten Ideas for Finishing Cradled Edges

Thinking both about the versatility of wood and the creativity of art materials, here are the top ten ways to finish the cradled edges of our panels.  Some of these techniques can be applied before painting and some should be applied after, depending on the rest of the work and mediums used.

Blocking off edges pre-painting; Staining edges after completed painting

Consider taping off the edges before completing the painting to keep the cradles clear of paint.  Painters’ tape works very well.  After completing the painting, remove the tape and apply a finish to the cradle.

If you have some other ideas or techniques, please share them with us in the comments below.

1.  Stain:  Wood stain shows the beauty of the natural wood grain through brilliant, lasting color.  Stains are available in opaque and transparent ranges with a huge variety of application styles, hues and outcome.  Consider finishing on top with a shellac or polyurethane to protect the integrity of the wood and prevent moisture damage.

2.  Texture gels:  Acrylic gels come in many viscosities and are extremely versatile; color via acrylic paint can also be added.  For collage or mixed media works, applying texture gels like a glass bead gel or molding paste will add a sculptural touch to a piece.

3.  Ink:  For brilliant color and staying power, ink can be applied to the natural wood before or after sealing with a polyurethane.  Inks can be acrylic or shellac based in a range of hues.  Shellac can also be colored with universal tints or aniline dye.

4.  Cold Wax:  Cold wax is an oil painting medium used to make oil paints thicker and more matte.  It can be applied with oil paint as a colorant, or used alone as a matte varnish.

5.  Polyurethane:  It is recommended to seal cradled edges to prevent minimum moisture damage over time for a completely archival piece of artwork.  However, polyurethane whether water or oil based may be tinted with colorant.  It can also be used in a satin, semi-gloss or gloss finish to get a range of effects.  Paint over a polyurethane to achieve a different finish or hue. 

Airbrush acrylic applied before sealing the cradled edges
Ultramarine blue and Transparent Brown Oxide GAC

6.  Acrylic paint:  Acrylic might be the single most versatile medium to apply to cradles.  A soft bodied or fluid acrylic can cover opaquely, finishing the edges in a solid color.  However, an airbrush paint covers with a translucent effect, showing the natural wood grain and giving brilliant color.  Sealing with a polyurethane can occur before or after using acrylics, depending on the desired effect.

7.  Furniture wax:  Since the cradled edges are high quality wood with a beautiful grain, they can be finished with a high grade furniture wax, either over stain or polyurethane or on bare wood.  Wax takes time to apply, but leaves a silky smooth finish that is easy to clean and protects the wood beautifully.

8.  Gilding:  Gilding is sensitive work, but stunning in effect as the metallic edges of a panel reflects the appearance of a traditional frame.  Take time to practice with metallic leaf on a flat surface before attempting a cradled edge, and be sure to seal the surface after gilding.  

9.  Danish Oil:  Danish oil is easy to apply, as beautiful as stain, and there is no need to seal.  Danish oil penetrates wood beautifully and comes in a range of hues or natural.  Since it is a mineral spirits base, it is vital to protect the surface of the work before applying.

Edges wrapped and collaged with old encyclopedia pages

10.  Collage:  The beauty of the cradled edge is that the artwork can be wrapped around the edge of the painting, treating the piece as three dimensional artwork.  Collage works well for this type of treatment and is intriguing from the side view.  

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.