Art With Grandma 9/3/2020 – Scratch Art

Everyone was having a busy week so I looked for a project this week that required minimal preparation. I sent prepared scratch art paper to Finn a few weeks ago to be ready for just such an occasion. Some of you may remember scratch art from elementary school. You color heavily on paper and then put a layer of black crayon or tempera paint on top. When you scratch through the black layer, the color underneath shows through. Above is my example, inspired by Hokusai’s Under the Wave off Kanagawa.

Needed Materials:

As mentioned above, I used the prepared paper. Usually I like to try and make things myself, but frankly making scratch art paper – to me – is a tedious, messy and usually not terribly successful process (my daughter described her elementary school experience with it as “miserable”). I did try it out again in preparation for this project and once again wasn’t happy with the results. I’ll include photos of my failed experiment below so you can judge for yourself. To be fair, I probably didn’t put the oil pastel layer on thickly enough. You can find plenty of Youtube videos of people happily creating their own scratch art paper (couldn’t you just smack them?), so this is probably just a personal failing on my part : )

  • Prepared scratch art paper – I bought ZMLM Scratch Paper Art Set. It was 50 pieces for $9.99 on and included wooden tools.
  • Wooden stick or other tool to use as a scratcher/scraper if there is not one in your kit
  • Cover for your work surface

If you choose to make your own paper, you’ll need:

  • Paper
  • Crayons or oil pastels (oil pastels go on a bit thicker and more easily)
  • Black tempera paint
  • Dish soap
  • Brush
  • Cover for your work surface
  • Wooden stick or other tool to use as a scratcher/scraper


If you use the prepared paper, you just take a stick and start scratching! The result is a lovely velvety black background with rainbow-colored line work. You can scratch densely or even scrape off bits of the black layer to reveal larger patches of color.

One advantage to making your own paper is that you can choose your colors. For example, a warm analogous color scheme of yellows, oranges and reds would be lovely right now for seasonal drawings. To make your own paper, you use crayons or oil pastels to heavily cover a piece of paper with color. For the top black coat, I used tempera paint with about a Tablespoon of dish soap added to it, which is supposed to give it a waxier consistency.

I think the color needed to be applied more heavily than this.
I used 3 coats of black tempera to get even coverage.
Here’s an example of how this turned out. Not great.


This project is really all about drawing, so I would recommend Keith Haring, The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing written by Kay A. Haring (who is the younger sister of artist Keith Haring), illustrated by Robert Neubecker (Penguin, 2017). Haring’s distinctive pop art works are integrated into Neubecker’s excellent original illustrations throughout the book and I think children will identify with his bold, dynamic style.


This turned out to be one of the most age appropriate projects for a 4-year-old that we have done. There’s a transition small children make when they acquire enough fine motor skill development to go from the pure joy of scribbling to making drawings that are recognizable as something. Finn has recently made that transition and we are all enjoying his whimsical, vastly imaginative drawings so much. The minute he made his first scratch on the prepared paper, his face lit up and he exclaimed, “It’s a rainbow!” He drew and drew and drew, until Jessa kept back a few pieces of the paper to save for a rainy day.

Finn’s excellent drawing of a ladybug
This is Finn’s drawing of a Cheezit. Minimalism at its finest.

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