Did someone say scraper board?

Have you ever thought of exploring a new technique? SCBWI member Heather Chapman takes us through the art of scraper board as a beginner.

I can’t believe the New Year has come and gone and we’re already rushing into February 2015. You know what that means?  It means my New Year’s resolution - from 2014 - to break out of my illustrating comfort zones and work with a new media is due. Now. 

With that in mind, I thought I would write a post about the experimentation of scraper board.

1. Tools.

I’m sure there are many options out there for tools. It just so happens that I accidentally bought carving bits for clay board and what do you know: they work a treat on scraper board!
There are a few different types of board available nowadays. I’ve started with your basic black board that scratches away to white. This was a bit tricky because I had to think in an opposite fashion, i.e. creating lights, not shadows. I don’t know about you but this isn’t something I am used to doing! Of course, you can also get white board that scratches away to black or a more fun option is the coloured board and the multi-coloured board. I like to think of that as advanced.

Here’s what you’ll need:

• Your board
• Scraping tools – an all-around handle and different size fittings that you can easily change around
• A sketchpad or piece of sketch paper
• Pencils (one or two)
• Tracing pad or a couple of pieces of tracing paper

2. Getting the basics down.

Here is how to get started with your scraper board in five easy steps:

Step 1: sketch out your scene and keep sketching until you’re happy with the composition.

Step 2: Trace the final sketch onto a sheet of tracing paper, making sure you have nice clean lines and that the lines will be clear to trace over again.
Step 3: Grab your piece of scraper/scratch board and get it nice and clean for use.

Step 4: Put your tracing paper over the scraper board and, with a blunt pencil, trace over your drawing. You want to put enough pressure on the paper for the lines to come through on the scraper board, but not so much that you make any scratch marks on it. *Definitely do not do this on a stressful day! 

Step 5: Give it one final glance over and make sure you are happy with how the drawing has traced on to the board. Then get your scraper tools ready!


3. Scratching the board, not your brain

First, do a few practice sheets so you can feel how each scraping tool size works in your hand and what type of line it makes. This is important. You wouldn’t sketch out your painting or ink drawing on that gorgeous final sheet of expensive paper would you? No. Cut a small sheet of scraper board and make that your ‘sketch’ paper. Make sure you try out a few different pressures and movements. You want to be sure of how things might work when you get to the real thing.

Now this is the fun part but it can also be extremely nerve racking. Keep your tools close by and your practice sheets in sight – you’ll need these to remember which tool creates what type of line. Trust me.

I’ve found that with the lighter tools that create thin lines, it’s OK to use a loose sketching technique with your hand as opposed to carefully ‘tracing’ the faint lines you traced earlier from the tracing sheet, from the sketch (there’s a whole lot of tracing going on here!).

Remember to also keep referring to your sketch so you can note how your lights and darks fall across the whole of the image – scraper boards give a fantastic contrast between light and dark but you need to keep a steady eye on it so as not to let one overtake the other. Don’t be scared… this is meant to be fun.

4. Final touches

This is something you need to be careful of. Unlike a painting or a drawing, it’s not so easy to erase and add and erase and re-add. You must think of your image as a whole and remember that too much work on it or too many ‘final touches’ could actually leave you with a blank board – you’ve scraped it all away!
Pay close attention to how you work the lights and shadows. I’ve found scraper board to be designed to give a dramatic look but if you can create a soft effect please share with other members. I’m still learning how to experiment with scraper board and have an inkling there’s quite a bit more to learn. And I love every minute of it!

5. Examples.

Before I leave you to experiment with your own scratching and scraping, I want to share pictures of what I ended up with. Now go and be brave – scrape something!

If you’ve tried scraper board I’d love to share tips and tricks so do let me know!


Heather Chapman is an illustrator and SCBWI member.
See her work at chapman-illustration.co.uk
Twitter: @HAC_illustrated

1 comment:

  1. I love these 'how to' posts Heather - thank you. I love all your examples but particularly the second to last of the light - it works so well and so brave and clever knowing when to stop!


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