Scratchboard Lesson in Techniques and Strokes | Melissa Helene
Updated: Feb 23, 2021
Basic Scratchboard Drawing Techniques
Scratchboard artwork requires a lot of patience and time, but also experimentation with the tools to achieve the textures that you desire. Some techniques also combine two or more of the strokes I'll discuss in this post to accomplish.
The first graphic in this post shows the same stroke with different tools - the fiberglass brush in the first column and the X-Acto knife in the middle column - the third column highlights a little of both tools.
> First, we have hatching which uses parallel lines to create even textures.
> The second row is cross hatching which consists of intersecting strokes in a grid-like pattern.
> Third is stippling - which can be used for many different textures depending on how uniform the dots are or are not and how large the individual dots are. The third column here highlights a random texture created by circular motions with the fiberglass brush.
> The fourth row is a varied hatching technique - similar to hatching; the strokes overlap one another but are still relatively straight and parallel.
> The last row is an example of the fur textures that I use - a slight variation on the varied hatching because the strokes have a curve and overlap much more. The third column here shows how I layer the fur texture with the X-Acto knife over the texture created with the fiberglass brush (how I create 99.9% of the fur on my scratchboard wildlife artwork).
One Step Further
This second graphic shows a few more ways to use the basic scratchboard drawing techniques from above and how to utilize them to achieve form and value in your work.
Numbers 1, 2, and 3 demonstrate how to use stippling to create form by shading (some areas are lighter than others) and creating mass (creating the illusion of three dimensional form through realistic light). Number 1 is stippling with the fiberglass brush, #2 is stippling with the X-Acto knife, and #3 is a combination of them both.
Number 4, 5, and 6 show how to create different textures by spacing the individual dots in different ways. Number 4 is a varied stippling pattern and can be used for rough textures. Number 5 is a uniform, consistent pattern of stippling for smoother textures. Number 6 shows how the stippling can vary if each individual dot is larger - I typically use this technique to add highlight details to animal noses and eyes.
Number 7 demonstrates how the space between each dot in the stippling technique can create different values.
Number 8 is a combination of stippling and hatching - stippling an area first and then using hatching to fill in the desired space.
Number 9 shows how hatching can also be used to create different values - the more black ink left between the strokes, the darker the value is 'read' by your brain. FAQ - one of the questions I get asked frequently is how the grey values are achieved and if there is a gradient from black to white under the ink (i.e. the amount of pressure used determines how light it is). The layer of black ink is very very thin, so each individual scratch is indeed white. The pressure used will determine how thick it is, but not how white it is. Grey values are created by leaving more or less space between your tool strokes.
Number 10 demonstrates hatching with an X-Acto knife - very fine lines used to create smooth textures and/or darker values, thick lines for detailed or rough textures, and varied lines for a less uniform look and/or fur textures.
Number 11 highlights thick hatching strokes created by using the side edge of the X-Acto blade, varied hatching gradient from light to dark to show how a blade can be used to create thicker and thinner fur, cross hatching that can be used to create both smooth textures and form by creating mass.
I hope this helps as you start to work in scratchboard or continue to master the medium. It takes a lot of practice to create your own stylized techniques, so keep going and keep scratching!
Find your joy!
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