Scratch Art

The Scratch Art Project

This project begins with picture resource selection. I have developed the project to be beginner friendly by using Trace It paper and actual pictures to draw inspiration from. Students will select an image which will be resized and changed into black and white by me. In some cases I may need to alter the contrast of the picture to optimize it for use in the project. Students will have a choice of using the Gold scratchboard pictured here or Silver scratchboard. The board is covered with a layer of India ink and the next layer is foil which is reflective in nature. 

Trace-It paper is a white carbon paper. In order to use it and be able to look at the results before you are finished the source photo will need to be taped onto the scratchboard as a cover. This cover will also protect the scratchboard from being accidentally scratched as it is handed out each day or when you finally take the piece home to show your parents. Trace-It paper is a wonderful tool, but there is one major draw back to the paper. It leaves finger prints all over your page. Do not worry about this print making as it can be removed in the final stage of the art work using water. Please see me for guidance. Because of this major draw back, I recommend that you transfer all line work at one time and then immediately remove the carbon paper to minimize the amount of cleaning you will have to do at the end of the project.

Original reference and converting

The original resource

I selected this version of Iron Man mainly due to his gold nature, because I wanted to use the gold foil scratchboard. When selecting images its helpful if the image has a lot of black in it. Everything that is black represents work that you will not need to do in the image. In the case of this photo the entire background will be black.

Conversion to B&W

After selecting the image, see me. We will be converting the image into black and white. In some cases we may need to change the contrast settings in order to optimize the image for use in scratchboard art. This image will be tapped onto the front of your scratchboard as a protective cover and hinged with tape so you can open and close it to see your transfer lines.

Inking over the B&W

After you have the image tapped on, you will need the Trace It paper. That paper is placed under the original before you begin transfer. I recommend using a pen to transfer so that you can see your work more clearly and know what is done versus what still needs to be done. Look at your transferal often. If it doesn't appear to be transferring then your Trace It paper is upside down! If you do not like the look of the transfer, you will not like the final product any better.

Transferred Image

Here you can see my final transfer for the Iron Man. I decided to use a lot of hatch lines to portray most of this character. Alternatively, I could have colored in solid the areas that were the lightest. Coloring something in solid just means that you plan to remove all of the black ink from that area when you start using the scratch knives. You may have to change some things as you go in order to get an image to look the way you want it, in my case I invented a few light areas that did not exist to help with the definition in the character. The smudging you see on the outside edges of the paper is from my fingers and the pressure I applied to the paper as I was inking. This can be cleaned off after the entire project is finished with a water and a paper towel. See me before you attempt to clean anything. You will want to remove the Trace It paper as soon as the inking is done. Do not leave it in the project longer than you have to. The longer it is in place the more smudging and cleaning you will have to do.

Scratching end of day one

Be careful. Any scratching you make cannot be erased or corrected. A very minor mistake could be covered with a black sharpie, but you will always be able to tell the difference between the two black tones. As I went along today, I had to make a few adjustments. The eye and mouth area needed more definition than I originally had planned. Also the residue of the ink will always be in your way. Gently blow it off of the board every chance you get. The last thing I wanted to make note of is that the transfer white still appears between some of my lines. In the final cleaning stage that will be removed and the image will look a lot better. Until then, I have to put up with it. All of the work I did this day is with the flat sided scratch art knife. It basically works just like a pencil. I found that I had to hold it more up and down and less sideways.

End of Day 2 Scratching

I did make several small errors during this day. All of them have been corrected with a fine tip sharpie. The errors are very small and hard to detect, which is a good thing! As I worked my way into the page, I discovered that I needed the round sided scratch art knife to create a flat gleam for the shiniest spots on the image. I also seems to gain a rhythm for doing the hatch lines. I also noticed that I did not do well when distracted. I did most of this work during the morning before school and conference. Once the questions started rolling in it was hard to find a rhythm, and I tended to make small errors. 

The Final

Be sure to sign your work with the scratch art knives. I used the Trace It Paper and a sticky note to move my signature around the page until I was happy with were it was going to sit. A good record of when you created your artwork (a date) is also nice. Years from now, you will probably not know when you did it and you may like to know!

Iron Man is a trademarked and copyrighted character belonging to Marvel Comics. This artwork was produced by Scotty Wilhelm, art instructor 2019.

The Tools (Scratchboard knives)

The straight edge

Use this tool like a pencil. The older tools have the tapped up gray handles, they are in fact sharper than the newer tools. So be careful when using them because they will scratch threw your ink, foil and into the paper.

The Curved Edge

This tool is ideal for taking off large areas. You will want to use the side of this tool and either push away or pull toward yourself. Everyone uses these tools slightly different, so try until you find your fit. Please use one direction when using this tool. The foil shows every change of direction!

The Fur/Hair Tool

This tool is used for doing hair or fur. It makes doing animals a snap, but it can also be used on things like grass. Short strokes are best for short haired animals or usually in the facial areas of animals. Long strokes should be used for long hair like a lion's mane. The tool on the left is tight and good for control, the tool on the left has been spread and works well on shaggy haired animals.

Student Examples

Step 1- Select a source

Raven is a copyrighted and trademarked character belonging to DC Comics.

Step 2- Convert to black and white

Step 3 - Use Trace It paper and Ink

All work done by Abigail Dominquez 2019

Completed Scratch Art

Abigail Dominquez completed this piece in 2019, and I was fortunate to capture all the steps on camera. So I am providing it as a student reference for steps. 

Joker by Madison Hubbard 2019

The Joker is trademarked and copyrighted by DC Comics

Gohan by Aiden Burris 2019

Gohan is a trademareked and copyrighted character form Dragonball Z.

Tiger by Zyrah Cashaw 2019

Rose by Hector Jimenez 2019

love the hatching on this rose, the shadows are created by the lighting in the room and the reflective material.

The Flash by Edgar Andrade


The flash is a copyright and trademark of DC Comics.

Wonder Woman by Abigail Dominquez 


Wonder Woman is trademarked and copyrighted by DC comics

Yoda by Carlos Ramos 2019

Yoda is a trademark, copyright by Lucas Film and Disney

Madara by Miguel Valencia Sosa 


Black Panther by Anthony Jimenez 


A fine example of Cross Hatching used to create the armor effects. Black Panther is a copyright trademark of Marvel Comics.

Ronaldo & Messi by Francisco Castro


Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are professional soccer players of great skill.

Skull Love by Luke Martinez