I love using scratchboard to create crisp black-and-white illustrations of wildlife.

I’ve used this medium in several books including One Very Tired Wombat and Roo Knows Blue. I also use it to create original artwork like Tea Cosy Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) and Wombat and Koala. I think the effects are amazing.

I start with a piece of kaolin-coated masonite board (made by Ampersand). Using brush ink pens and fine liners, I lay down the ink washes. It never looks good at this stage as it’s essentially a very textured silhouette. Then with a sharp craft knife, I scratch into the black and the details pop immediately (see the progress pieces below for TEA COSY Ozraptor).

Looks fun, right? Unfortunately, the process isn’t ideal for my books. The boards are expensive and only come in set sizes, scratching creates a lot of dust, and the boards require scanning. I now have boxes full of scratch art from several books in my garage that I don’t know what to do with.

Over the years I’ve been working on recreating the effects digitally, and I reckon I’ve done a pretty good job. I still paint the underlayer with digital ink before using a fine pen tool to scratch away at the surface. I use digital scratchboard for books where I often layer the scratchart over watercolour washes (Let’s Go, Little Roo and Wombat Big, Puggle Small). I also create final artwork digitally such as Tea Cosy Hairy-Nosed Wombat (in progress) on the left.

I can use almost any colour media too. I created this demonstration piece at the StoryArts Festival from Otter-ly Ridiculous: The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea. I used Copic markers and fine liners with my sharp kraft knife.