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Scratchboard Tool Feature: The X-Acto Blade

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

[Join the waitlist for my online scratchboard course, coming Fall 2023!]

The X-Acto blade is the second most important tool in my kit. This tool is very easy to get your hands on - you can find it in any arts and craft store and many other places because it serves so many different functions.

I use the x-acto knife in many different ways - the first of which is to create the striking and individual details in each of my scratchboard wildlife portraits. Unlike the fiberglass brush that creates many very fine strokes within one pull of the tool, the x-acto knife creates just one single scratch with each stroke. The scratches are crisp and clean with distinct edges - perfect for making single hairs, emphasizing specific details in an area, and "highlighting" special sections - more on that a little later!

The x-acto blade can also be used to help smooth out areas scratched by the fiberglass brush. Sometimes the fiberglass brush isn't as smooth as I'd like it to be, so I use the knife to scratch or 'fill in' certain areas. The single scratch of the x-acto blade is easier to control than the multi-scratches of the brush. Certain textures require a combination of both the fiberglass brush and the x-acto blade.

My favorite function of the x-acto knife is creating all the wonderful highlights in the eyes of my portraits - you know, those bright spots that everything has in their eyes where the light source is reflected back at you!

In future posts I will be showcasing how I use this tool and my others to create the photo-realistic eyes, nose, fur, feathers, etc.

In this time lapse video, I am demonstrating how to use the x-acto knife to create different marks - hatching, hatching with more pressure to create bolder strokes, cross hatching, irregular fur strokes, stippling, scribbling, hatching over a fiberglass brush strokes, and fur pattern over fiberglass brush strokes.

These are all the basic drawing techniques that I use within my scratchboard work to create different values and textures.

Combining two or more of them will help create realistic textures. Just like with the fiberglass brush, it will take some experimenting and practice to learn how the tool works best for you.

If you missed my feature of the small fiberglass brush, you can find that post here.

Find more information about my scratchboard processes and practice in my Frequently Asked Questions blog series - edition #1, edition #2, edition #3.

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