From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Scratchboard or scraperboard is a form of direct engraving where the artist scratches off dark ink to reveal a white or colored layer beneath. The technique uses sharp knives and tools for engraving into the scratchboard, which is usually cardboard covered in a thin layer of white China clay coated with black India ink. Scratchboard can yield highly detailed, precise and evenly textured artwork. Works can be left black and white, or colored.


Modern scraperboard originated in the 19th century[1] in Britain and France. As printing methods developed, scraperboard became a popular medium for reproduction replacing wood engraving, metal engraving, and linocut. It allowed for a fine line appearance that could be photographically reduced for reproduction without losing quality. It was most effective and expeditious for use in single-color book and newspaper printing. From the 1930s to 1950s, it was a preferred technique for medical, scientific and product illustration. During that period, Virgil Finlay made detailed illustrations, often combining scraperboard methods with traditional pen & ink technique. More recently, it has been used for editorial illustrators of magazines, ads, graphic novels, and one of a kind pieces of fine art.[citation needed]


Cross section of scratchboard. By removing the black ink with a sharp tool, the artist exposes the white clay.

Unlike many drawing media, where the artist adds in the mid-tones and shadows, with scratchboard the artist is working by adding in the highlights.[2]

The artist can use a variety of tools to scratch away the black ink from the board and reveal more or less of the white clay that is underneath.[3] Effects include stippling by poking the board with a needle or blade; and scratching or cross-hatching using a sharp blade.[4]


Illustrators who have worked in the scratchboard medium include Michael McCurdy,[5] Peter Blake,[6] Virgil Finlay,[7] John Schoenherr,[8] Jos Sances,[9] and Scott McKowen.[10][11] The comics artist Jacques Tardi used scratchboard to illustrate Jules Verne's science fiction in the style of 19th century woodcuts.[12]

In 2011, the International Society of Scratchboard Artists was launched to help promote scratchboard art, and to educate the public about the medium. The organization holds an annual exhibition of scratchboard art.[13]


  1. ^ "Scratchboard: art tool". Retrieved 12 September 2023.
  2. ^ Sibley, David Allen (11 February 2011). "Ink on scratchboard technique". Sibley Guides. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  3. ^ "Online Exhibits: Scratchboard". University of Minnesota Libraries. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  4. ^ Agnew, John N. "Scratchboard Strokes: 12 Critical Effects". Artists Network. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  5. ^ "Michael McCurdy obituary". Publishers Weekly. 21 June 2016. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  6. ^ "The 12 cartoons of Christmas – by Quentin Blake, Judith Kerr, Posy Simmonds and more". The Guardian. 21 December 2015.
  7. ^ "Virgil Finlay: Master of Dark Fantasy Illustration". These Fantastic Worlds. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  8. ^ "Remembering John Schoenherr". Slice of SciFi. 12 April 2010. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  9. ^ Desmarais, Charles (May 3, 2019). "'The Whale' is an immense topic at Richmond Art Center". San Francisco Arts & Entertainment Guide. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  10. ^ "Scott McKowen - Illustrator . Scott McKowen". Archived from the original on 2013-10-05. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  11. ^ "A Fine Line: Scratchboard Illustrations by Scott McKowen". Quill and Quire. 17 December 2009. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  12. ^ Weldon, Glen (6 April 2011). "'The Arctic Marauder': A Mystery Wrapped In An Enigma Wrapped In ICY DEATH". NPR. Retrieved 12 September 2023.
  13. ^ "Home".

Further reading[edit]

  • Bateman, John Yunge (1947). How to Draw on Scraper Board. Young Britain Art Series. Daily Mail School-Aid. OCLC 35306961.
  • Billin, Edward Stanley (1952). Drawing on Scraper-Board. [With illustrations.] London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons. OCLC 558077353.
  • Curtis, Cécile (1988). The Art of Scraperboard Engraving. B. T. Batsford Limited. ISBN 978-0-7134-5696-7.
  • Cutler, Merritt Dana, Scratchboard Drawing, 1949, Watson-Guptill Publications.
  • Cutler, Merritt Dana, "How to Cut Drawings on Scratchboard", 1960, Watson-Guptill Publications, ISBN 0-8230-2350-8
  • Lozner, Ruth, Scratchboard for Illustration, 1990, Watson-Guptill Publications, ISBN 0-8230-4662-1