My goal was to figure out the simplest and most inexpensive recipe to make your own scratch boards. This will probably not hold up to the professional grade ones, to those veterans out there, but it does give you a pretty decent result for a fraction of the cost. Also this recipe does not contain animal products like most high-grade art materials do. Please enjoy, experiment and share this concoction.



Step #1: Mix glue and water.

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  • Gather your ingredients.
  • First, and as always, protect your work area. In a mixing container, combine 3 parts glue and 1 part water. Mix with fork until glue is completely disolved in water. Water should be white.

Step #2: Mix in plaster of Paris.

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  • Add in 3 parts plaster of Paris.
  • Mix very well until there is no more dry plaster and mixture is a similar consistancy to pancake batter.

Step #3: Apply thin coat.

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Apply one thin coat to wood board using a brush to act as a binding agent and wait a few minutes to dry.

Step #4: Apply thick coat #1.

DIY Scratch Art

Apply a thick layer going in one direction and wait about 10 minutes to dry.

Step #5: Apply thick coat #2.

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Apply another thick layer going the other way and let sit to dry completely for 4-8 hours depending on how thick your coats are. If the batter's consistancy was right, it should paint on pretty smooth but expect to see some grooves from the brush strokes.

Step #6: Sand.

DIY Scratch Art

Once dry, sand down the plaster until smooth, using a medium-grit sandpaper (electric sanders work the best), and brush off all loose dust.

Step #7: Apply black mixture.

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  • Mix together 3 parts black acrylic paint and 1 part dishsoap.
  • Apply paint/soap mixture using a foam roll brush or just a foam brush. You can use black ink instead but the paint mixture seems to scrape off the easiest.
  • Let dry for 8–24 hours before trying to scratch. The paint will moisten the plaster a little so it will take a long time to dry.
Natalie McKean

Natalie McKean

Artist Natalie McKean creates striking and gorgeous works of art that often focus on the intersection of the natural world and machines/robots. She actually started out working in pen and ink, but found that she was filling in all the negative space with black anyway, so scratch art was a natural next step. She and her dog Rowan live in her northern California hometown of Cloverdale, where she works out of her live/work studio. She makes a living off of her art, which she admits is “hard, but worth every bit of it.”

  • terre

    Hi- If I have plaster walls could I paint them black and then scratch into that, do you think? Also, if walls are drywall, would that work? Have you ever tried just black paint overt different surfaces that are existing- like scraps of wall board….I have an empty house that I want to develop into a makerspace, studio but have so many ideas crashing around it’s been hard to get any done. thanks

    • I haven’t tried that myself but if the walls are smooth then that might work. But it also might crumble away too easily without the glue in the mix, which is it’s binding agent. The paint on it’s own will adhere to the plaster and you won’t be able to scrape it off so easily, so the soap helps with that. That would be a gorgeous idea though. I am actually in the process of making a very large piece using this recipe and I will update you with the results on using this on a large scale!

  • chuck

    Thanks for the post. This looks fun. Why do you use the dish soap in the black coat? The pieces in your picture have color instead of white in the scratched parts. Is the color added after or do you tint the plaster?

    • Ross

      Same. I need closure on the dish soap issue:-)

    • Adding the soap to the paint allows you to scrape it off easier. The plaster will absorb the paint on it’s own and it won’t be easy to get off. Once I have scraped off all the black I want I use colored ink on top. Another idea (that I have not tried yet), is to add a dye into the plaster mix and then cover it with the black paint/soap mixture.

  • savannah

    I’m looking to make a sort of sketch book from bound scratchboard paper for practice before doing some prints. I know you typically use wood for scratchboard but since I’m going to bound them and they won’t be the actually finished piece – do you think a heavy / durable paper would work with your recipe? Thanks!

  • Marcus Murphy

    Hi, I’m looking to make some scraper boards, using thin copper sheets, with a white ground. Would you think just coarse sanding it, before a white acrylic/soap mix? What does adding the soap to the mix achieve? On metal, might straight-up acrylic do the trick?


  • Measure and cut one particular 18 ¾-inch as a result of 31 ¼-inch element from one section of ¾-inch plywood to build the front basic piece. Change the element so that the 20 ¾-inch side may be the height additionally, the 31 ¼-inch section is the wider.