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My love affair with scratchboard

Rikki Fisher says that scratchboard is the perfect medium for dramatic effects and very fine detail, as she demonstrates here

I am always seeking new ways to make my artwork look dramatic. I have tried using charcoal, but it is a messy medium and I couldn’t achieve the detail I desired. That is when I discovered scratchboard – it is a terrific medium to work on if you want very fine detail.


I use Ampersand Scratchbord*. It has a smooth, black inked surface over a thin, durable layer of clay. You can scratch and re-scratch the surface without cutting through to the board underneath. If a mistake is made you paint over it with Indian ink, wait for it to dry and start scratching again.

The most common tool used on scratchboard is an X-Acto knife with a No.11 blade for very fine lines. I largely use one of two tools: a fibreglass brush, which acts like a pencil, or a nib. You vary the pressure on the board to achieve a variety of tones similar to graphite. As the subjects I choose are often wildlife, the brush tool is perfect for creating fur effects while the nib, which is broader than an X-Acto blade, is perfect for whiskers and pulling out highlights. Other tools you can use include emery board for rock textures, tattoo needles for soft light areas such as the muzzle of a horse, or steel wool to scratch back larger areas. The variety is limited only by your imagination.

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July 2018
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About The Artist

Let this month's issue of The Artist inspire and guide your next steps in drawing and painting a range of figurative subject matter in all media. From realistic still lifes in acrylics, watercolour landscape challenges suggested by Amanda Hyatt, David Parfitt and Paul Talbot-Greaves, through to portraits in oils and mixed media, our fantastic team of practising artist-contributors aim to help you develop your knowledge and skills based on their own experiences as professional artists and tutors. Check out the list of contents for more details of all the great articles in this issue, and look out for our latest sketching competition to enter on page 66, plus win £500 worth of gift vouchers to spend on art materials with Great Art in our PaintersOnline competition on page 6. See also pages 12 to 13 for the latest news on the Patchings Art, Craft & Design Festival (July 12-15). We will be celebrating the opening of our annual The Artist open exhibition there on July 12. We look forward to meeting our successful selected artists and visitors to the festival.