Mediums & Methods

What is the History of Scratchboard?

Scratchboard or scraper board (as it is known as in Europe) is a direct form of engraving/etching which originated in the UK and Europe in the 19th century prior to the introduction of modern photographic techniques and was used as a less expensive alternative to other engraving/etching substrates such as metal – copper and steel plating; woodcuts, linocuts, etc; and could be photographically reproduced in smaller formats without losing too much detail. Scratchboard was originally invented for the purpose of reproduction in printing. It has been used for over a century reproducing images for books, magazines, and newspapers and as an advertising means.  It is a more practical and cheaper method of reproduction than woodcut.  Fine artists re-discovered scratchboard during the late 1970’s/1980’s when it became popular as a direct engraving medium, where the original engraving is used as the finished artwork.  The very first scraper board originally consisted of cardboard or other stiff paper coated with no ink coating.

Scratch Board Diagram

The first version of scratchboard was introduce around 1880 by clockmakers in Milan, Paris and Vienna. It was a simply piece of cardboard with hard wax and specially- prepared chalk. The cardboard was embossed with a grained pattern, which was then painted in or rolled with black indian ink in specific area where to be shaded . then lines were engraved .this could be easily photograph onto a metal plate and made into a line block for the printer.(The line block technique, refined in the 1870’s is a hybrid of intaglio and relief printing. It begins with a negative of a line drawing being contact printed onto a photosensitized metal plate. Light hardens this emulsion into an acid resist while non-exposed areas are washed away in warm water. When etched in a bath of acid the metal surrounding the emulsion protected lines is eaten away forming a low relief. The plate is then rolled with ink, which will only adhere to its surface but not in the incised lines as with traditional intaglio, and then it is printed in the same manner as a woodblock.)

Clayboad- exposed very crisp edges, similar to a woodblock or a etching. these new scratchboard reproduce very well on a commercial press. day black and white were popular.(Clay- kaolin,Chosen for whiteness, small particles, non abrasiveness. not firer, archival quality.)

Scratchboard remained popular  into the 1950s, when photographic illustrations became the industry standard.Scratchboard always been used as an illustrative means.You’ve seen it in magazines and books countless of places were we  hadn’t realize that it was scratchboard.

Scratchboard was “re-discovered” by artists in the 1980s.

Scratchboard is made from clay and glue that has been compressed together on paper or hardboard . Then the surface has been painted with Indian ink. When I am done scratching. I paint them with water colour ink.

Introduction to intaglio.

The team intaglio meaning “to engrave” or to “cut into” refers to the process by which an image is created by gouging,biting or incising lines into the surface of a metal plate. The print is produce by filling the recessed marks and lines with ink in order to transfer the image to  damp paper. In the final piece ,the image will print in reverse from the design on the plate and the ink will stand around of the surface of paper.


With etching ,acid is used to incise the line into the metal. The plate surface is covered  with an acid -resistance surface and a needle is drawn through to expose the metal beneath . it is the acid that that creates the depth of line by reacting to the exposer of the metal .the longer the bite the deeper the line.


A metal engraving image is generally produce by the use of a burin. The tool is a eased into the surface  exerting gentle pressure at a slow pace. As the tool cuts sprites of metal will appear . The burr is removed before the print is taken from incised line.


Dry point is a form of engraving   A hard needle is forced across  the plate surface to create a scratch. this action creates a burr.  Flange of metal folded back from the edge of the scratch.tis these flecks of metal that hold the ink.  the chartist of drypoint this burr is not removed before the printing process. The drypoint technique typically produces prints with irregular, more fuzzy lines. compared to the controlled clarity of the engrave line. Drypoint etching are very fragile and are good for about 20 prints unless steel-faced.

I tend to do most of my etching on Claybord.

What is Relief?

Printmaking is more popular than ever, yet so many people make and/or enjoy the finished pieces without much thought. Printmaking includes any creation of images or patterns that can be transferred from a medium, like a woodblock . And more specifically, relief printmaking uses the raised surface of a matrix to create an image (by removing the negative spaces.)