Friday, March 22, 2013

DIY Scratchboard Art

Earlier this week, the Story Time activity was scratchboard art using store bought black scratchboard paper. Logan loved doing this, and it made me think about creating our own. I was sure that I had done this at some point in elementary school and thought that it involved liquid soap and black paint. Our story time lady, however, had no idea what I was talking about and responded with something about crayons and watercolors. No, I said, that would be crayon resists, which we have done before. This is not at all like that. I decided to check in one of my kids' art activity books, but it only suggested doing this with crayons: first a layer of colors on the paper, followed by a thick layer of black crayon. While I knew this would work since it was confirmed by Kristin, my sister-in-law who happens to be an elementary art teacher, this was not what I had in mind. It sounded too time-consuming to do it this way, and I knew Logan wouldn't stick with it. So, I consulted the internet to find a recipe for what I seemed to remember from long ago.

This is the closest I came, although this blogger said to use oil pastels, and I was really hoping that we could get away with crayons, which are less expensive, and something I already have in the house. I am so thrilled to say that it worked! The other blogger said to use heavyweight paper, but she did not say why, so I decided to test this out with the four different types of paper that we had: 1) regular white printer paper 2) white cardstock 3) finger paint paper 4) construction paper. It turns out that the thicker paper just yields better results for the simple reason that it doesn't tear as readily when you get the stage of actually scratching it up plus it seems to hold a good thick layer of black scratchboard stuff better than thin paper. So, now we know the why. Also, the finger print paper worked miserably, not just because it was thin, but I think because it has a shiny surface, which made the colors quite dull. The clear winner in our tests was the cardstock, which not only was tough enough to hold up to some serious scratching, but it also had some of the most vibrant colors peeking through the scratch art. The runner up was construction paper. Printer paper was too flimsy to yield good results. I am assuming that watercolor paper or a nice heavyweight drawing paper would also work well, but I have not tested these since I didn't have them on hand.

This project requires a few steps and some wait time in between, therefore, we completed in stages over a two day period. It was totally worth the wait, though, so I would encourage others to try this at home. I am sure we will be doing this again. Some ideas I want to try out in the future include using white shirt cardboard in place of paper, keeping the background white (possibly for snowy scenes), and seeing what sort of difference oil pastels make. We have some Cray-Pas, which are like a mix between crayons and oil pastels around somewhere, too, so I don't see why we couldn't use those as well. I also think we should try this with some colored cardstock at some point, and again, we could leave the background plain.

{Our Scratchboard Art Family by Mia, Age 6}

  • 1/4 cup dish soap (I used blue Dawn.)
  • 1/4 cup black tempera paint
  • bowl
  • heavy weight paper such as cardstock
  • paintbrush
  • cookie sheets (for drying space, and also for collecting scratch art messes)
  • wax paper or similar (optional)
  • scratch art tools
{Either end of the spoon will work!}
  1. Color over your entire paper using crayons, unless you want to leave it plain white. Remember to use a heavyweight paper such as cardstock for best results. Kids can do this part. I don't think you need to color heavily, just get the surface covered.
  2. In a bowl, mix together equal parts dish soap and black tempera paint. I think you can make any size batch you would like, but I started with 1/4 cup of each because that is the directions I found on the other blog. This turned out to be enough to cover 5 pieces of paper.
  3. Spread your paper/s onto a flat surface. Tip: I used cookie sheets covered with re-used cereal box liners for "wax paper." This was so that I could easily move them during the drying process if I needed the counter space.
  4. The next step is more for parents. Using a paintbrush, cover the entire surface of the paper/s with the dish soap/paint mixture and allow them to dry completely. This took about 1 to 1 1/2 hours depending on the paper used. Tip: A foam paintbrush worked well for this. It provided good coverage without leaving brush marks.
  5. Once the first coat is dry, you will need to apply a second, heavier coat of the dish soap/paint mixture and allow it to dry. Tip: This takes longer so depending on when you started, you may not be able to do the whole project in one day. We left ours to dry overnight.
  6. Now that you have made your own scratchboard art paper, you are ready to do some scratchboard art. If you want, you can cut the paper in half. We did hamburger folds and then cut the paper so that we ended up with 10 pieces instead of 5, which meant twice as many works of art could be created. Gather some tools for making marks. We tested out several household items including a pencil, fork, butter knife, spoon, paper clip, wooden skewer, toothpick, coin, ruler, and corn holder, but I am sure there are other things that I did not think to try. Obviously, you should not give sharp objects to very young children, so use your judgment here. Tip: Making the scratch art was a bit messy due to the flakes of black soap/paint mixture rubbing off. We had first taken our same pieces of cereal box "wax paper," folded over to the reverse side, and lined them on the cookie sheet to try to contain some of the mess. It didn't work perfectly, but it did keep it somewhat under control. Notes on Scratchboard Art Tools: One of the most effective tools we tried was the corn holder. Pencil worked decently provided it was on the thick paper. On the thinner paper, it just left pencil marks instead of scratch marks revealing color. A wooden skewer was a good scratch art tool. The toothpick broke, and thus was ineffective. The ruler was plastic, so it did not work well, but the edge of a metal ruler, should work. The eating utensils, fork, spoon, and butter knife, were all good tools and make very different kinds of marks. I liked the tiny wave pattern produced by scraping the blade of the knife along the paper. The paper clip did work, as well. You can make broader swipes with the curved tip, or separate it to make finer lines with one end of the metal.
{Here is a sampling of the tools used and types of marks created by them. Top: corn holder hash marks, spoon lines made with both ends of the spoon, paper clip squiggles. Center: pencil swirls and butter knife waves. Bottom: fork wavy lines and wooden skewer writing.}

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