January 1, 2011

What is Scratchboard?

(skrāch'bôrd', -bōrd')

n. A drawing board consisting of a support that is coated with a layer of kaolin clay covered in ink that is then scratched away to produce an effect similar to engraving.

Scratchboard is a medium that involves the use of abrasive tools to directly remove areas of a surface layer of one value (typically black ink) to expose a secondary layer of a contrasting value (typically white kaolin clay). The majority of the values within the artwork should be achieved by varying the amount of surface layer removed. 

Scratchboard is different from traditional drawing in the sense that the artist renders the light cast on their subject rather than the shadow.

Scratchboard was developed in Europe in the late 1800’s and then introduced to the United States in 1880 by a lithographer named Charles J. Ross. The original purpose of the medium was for advertising art because of its excellent reproduction qualities but as of the late 1900’s it has been experiencing a renaissance as a fine art medium.