Scratchbord overview

Originally developed as an alternative to scratchboard paper, it is the surface of choice for most professional scratchboard artists today. Learn what makes Ampersand Scratchbord considerably more durable and easier to scratch into than traditional paper-based scratchboards.

Linda Lunnon, Ningaloo Dreaming, 24x36, Ampersand Scratchbord


Scratchboard Art


Scratchboard is a form of direct engraving where the artist uses sharp knives and tools to scratch off dark ink to reveal a white or colored layer beneath. Scratchboard can be used to yield highly detailed, precise and evenly textured artwork. These works can be left black and white. However, on Ampersand's Scratchbord panels, color can be added to the scratched-in white lines to create amazingly vivid artwork.

Ampersand Scratchbord

Scratchbord is the name of Ampersand’s panel that is specifically designed for scratchboard art. Originally developed as an alternative to scratchboard paper, it is the surface of choice for most professional scratchboard artists today. Scratchbord is considerably more durable and easier to scratch into than traditional paper-based scratchboards. It will not tear, crack, or bend. Its rigid structure allows artists to create lasting artwork and makes it possible to create cleaner, sharper details, and precise line work. When your artwork is complete, you can apply a fixative and display your artwork without the glare of glass.

Scratchbord has all the features and benefits of Claybord, including its archival properties. Under its India ink layer, Scratchbord has a smooth, absorbent kaolin clay ground applied to a sealed, 1/8" True Artist Hardbord™. Simply put, Scratchbord is Ampersand’s Claybord panel, sprayed with an even coat of high-quality, deep black India Ink.


Scratchbord Tools


For professional results, use Ampersand Scratchbord Tools. Each tool allows you to make a range of textures and marks. Tools are sold individually as well as in a set.

  • Scratchbord Knife: Drawing and fine details. The Scratch Knife is the best tool to select when trying scratchboard for the first time. It works great for drawing and scratching fine details. Comes with one nib each: point and curved.
  • Scratchbord Line Tool: Easy cross-hatching: Use the Line Tool for cross-hatching, adding highlights and for softening sharp details. It makes five parallel lines at once.
  • Scratchbord Wire Brush: Hair, grass, and fur. The curved stainless-steel wires of the Wire Brush tool are perfect for creating random textures like grass and fur.
  • Scratchbord Fiber Brush Soft tonal values. Use the Fiber Brush as you would an eraser on the Claybord and Scratchbord surfaces to soften crisp edges and create gradual tonal values or to remove large areas of ink.


Adding Color


Not only can you create exquisite white-on-black art, you can add color to create amazing colorful scratchboard works. Colored inks can be applied to the white areas and then scratched again for to create additional highlights and volume. Ampersand offers a collection of Scratchbord/Claybord Inks that are specially formulated for use on Scratchbord. These inks are lightfast, waterproof, and transparent and absorb into the inked surface of the Scratchbord leaving clean, vibrant color in only the scratched white areas. These areas can be easily scratched back to white to add fine details and highlights. Unlike regular inks, they don’t leave a glossy residue around the cutting areas.

It’s easy to mix a wide range of colors using the six bright, base colors. Each bottle allows the ink to be measured out by the drop for accurate color mixes. The Ink Set includes Black Repair Ink, a perfect match to the Scratchbord surface which makes it ideal for touch-ups and repairs! We recommend using a dry brush technique when adding inks to Scratchbord. After you load your brush with ink, blot it onto a paper towel. This prevents accidentally applying too much ink at once, and ensures that the ink only shows over the scratched white areas.


If You Make a Mistake, Repair It

Although the repaired surface won’t be completely the same as the surface you began with, there are a couple of ways to repair areas that need to be changed. For best results, use Ampersand Black Repair ink or Sumi India ink diluted 1/2 with water and gently apply with a cotton swab or small brush over the area to be repaired. Repeat thin applications until the area is completely covered. An airbrush can also be used for larger areas.


Seal and Frame Without Glass

Lisa Harbidge, Major, 8x8, Ampersand Scratchbord


Seal Scratchbord with an acrylic spray fixative. It will dissolve fingerprints and even out smudges while also protecting the surface from dirt and water. First, remove all loose dust and debris from the surface with a soft brush or cloth being careful not to scuff the surface. Spray with 2-3 coats of fixative (as directed on the can) in low humidity, warmer temperatures, and in a well-ventilated area. Then, you can frame your finished Scratchbord art without glass.


Fun Fact: In April 2012, an episode of Spike TV’s popular show, Ink Masters, featured Scratchbord in a flash challenge. Ampersand custom-built ten, 7ft x 7ft Scratchbord panels supported with 2" deep cradles, specifically for the show. These are the largest custom-built scratchboards that have ever been created in Ampersand’s history.


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