Sunday, 5 November 2006

Scraperboard Art

Michael Halbert - Dog plus Detail © Michael Halbert (with kind permission)Scraperboard (scratchboard in the US) is something of a rarity nowadays, so I was chuffed to come across the website of a professional scraperboard artist producing top-flight work: Michael Halbert. Never heard of scraperboard? It's a thin layer of white clay (originally chalk) on cardboard, with a coating of Indian ink (india ink in the US). Small blades are used to scratch through the Indian ink to reveal the white clay. Varying cuts are used to create different textures, all in the brilliant contrast of black and white. The work is finer and crisper than Indian ink drawings.
Before the 1960's, scraperboard was extensively used by the advertising industry in newspaper ads. In those days, black and white photos reproduced poorly in newspapers, and the advertisers wanted crisp, clear images for their products. This was what the scraperboard artist gave them. Most people looking at a newspaper ad. for the latest vacuum cleaner had no idea they were looking at a work of art; they thought it was a particularly good photo! Improvements in newspaper printing led to a decline in the use of scraperboard.
Michael was kind enough to e-mail me some of his scraperboard pictures to illustrate this blog. I've combined a quarter-sized graphic of his image of a dog - created to grace a dog food bag for Ralston Purina - with a detail taken from the original work, to show the different cuts required for nose and fur. Do visit Michael's website (title link) to view his work at an appropriate size. You'll also find a Tutorial section which includes an animated GIF of a fire-breathing dragon: Creating a monster with Photoshop. Even if you have no interest in scraperboard, read Michael's tutorials, which tell you how he uses models, props and drawings to begin a project.


At 6/11/06, Blogger weggis said...

The "undo" or "quit" button is the curse of "modern" culture.
John Lyall describes the 3 fundamental laws of Thermo-Dynamics as:-
1. you can't win.
2. you must lose.
3. there's no way out of the game.

At 7/11/06, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Just to confuse everyone, I'm cutting out the bit you're referring to! (The artist tells me his soldiers were only 18" high. These images were then printed at life-size for the museum display.)
Another Coxsoft whoopsie!

At 14/1/09, Blogger Muso said...

Could someone at Coxsoft check out the scraperboard art of W.John Thorpe at and give me an honest opinion, Thanx

At 15/1/09, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Muso

Will do so with pleasure, but bear with me for a day or so: very busy.

At 18/1/09, Anonymous Derek said...

Hi all at Coxsoft
Would love you to feature Jon's blog. How do I go about it? I'm like a horse on a surfboard on a computer.

At 18/1/09, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Derek

Usually I just go the the website and select a graphic, but you have watermarked "Specimen" on your graphics, so I can't do that.

Blogger doesn't seem to allow graphics to be sent, so CLICK to go to my website home page and scroll down till you find EMAIL. Click on that to bring up Outlook Express. You can add a graphic (without a watermark!) as a JPG or GIF file by clicking on the paperclip or you can select FORMAT and select HTML, then click on the little INSERT PICTURE icon to put it into the email.

The email address is already set to reach me. Please use a fairly small file: maxiumum screen size 400 pixels and max file size 50KB. I can reformat the graphic to get a smaller size. (I try to keep graphics on my blog below 10Kb, but I know scraperboard can be a pain to compress.)


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