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How to Create Black Fur on Scratchboard | Tips + Techniques

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

Scratchboard Wildlife Artwork - black panther, dog, chimpanzee, bison

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Scratchboard Tips and Techniques - Take One!

I get asked all the time if and how it is possible to draw a black animal on a scratchboard that is already completely black. Well, today I am going to dive into that very topic and explain how to scratch into the board to create black fur, hair, or feathers.

The key to creating the illusion of black fur and still retaining the realistic quality and details is to focus on the LIGHT! Think about a black dog or cat, especially if you have one of your own...when you look at an animal with black fur you don't just see a big black blob - you see the individual hairs, the curvature of the animal's face or body, and the areas of reflected light.

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You see the full animal because you're not focused solely on it's color. Creating three dimensional images in any two dimensional medium (drawing, painting, etc.) requires the ability to see light and shadow and manipulate that particular medium to represent the light in a realistic way - if realism is what you're going for.

In this image of a black panther eye, you can see the individual hairs and how the direction in which they were scratched creates shape and form. There are areas in this image that are actually fairly light - meaning I scratched off more of the black and if you focus only on that area, it would appear white or gray - but when observed as a whole, the image still 'reads' as black fur because of the balance between the lighter areas and the black areas.

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Parts of the animal will protrude outward or curve toward the light and those are the areas reflecting the most light, which is, in turn, why those areas have more scratches and are much brighter than the surrounding spaces. Even though the individual hairs may still be black (in reality), they must be drawn lighter to create the illusion of form. Even in dark areas of the image (refer back to the right side of the panther eye), there are individually scratched hairs. These hairs are also reflecting the light and are important for a fully balanced image.

Depending on the 'mood' you are trying to create with your work, some areas of a scratchboard piece may be left completely black where there is heavy shadow. Large spaces of untouched board may be effective for certain techniques, but with my wildlife artwork, I find that most large black areas still need some scratching to achieve the realistic results.

Light is everywhere and will be the key to achieving most realistic effects in scratchboard. If you are working on wildlife artwork on scratchboard, study where the light reflects off the fur, the direction in which each of the hairs grows, and where there are curvatures in the face or body. All of these things will help in creating realistic, three dimensional black fur on a two dimensional scratchboard.

Let me know if there are any other questions that you have about creating black fur - comment on the Facebook or Instagram post about this blog post!

Thanks so much for coming by to learn a little about scratchboard!

Find your joy!


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