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acrylic oil pastel scratch art example with plants and striped background

Acrylic Paint and Oil Pastel Scratch Art: A New Technique!

Oil Pastel Acrylic Paint Scratch Art Technique Example - art with plants

I have a fun new art technique to show you today! Oil Pastel Scratch Art!  This is the type of artwork that I’ve been doing personally over the last year and a half.  So, I’ve learned from my own trial and error on many, many artworks.  I’ve probably done at least 25 of these.  I’ve also done quite of few of this process with my 7 year old son.   It can definitely be modified for older or younger students.  Oil Pastel scratch art is also be really fun for adults.  It’s a fairly quick process too, which makes it even better!

Have you ever made your own homemade scratch art paper?  I’ve done it a lot with my high school art students.  You just color a sheet of tagboard with heavy oil pastels (crayon works too.), coat it with black acrylic paint, and scratch to create designs, etc.  My Art 2 students used to do this to create animals using these (because its great for fur texture!) each semester.  

This is a very similar process with a few minor changes.

Here’s what you’ll need for Oil Pastel Scratch Art:

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  1. Substrate (For this I’ve used a variety of items; watercolor paper, tagboard, canvas, canvasette paper, canvas panels,  and even wood,  like these panels).
  2. Oil Pastels (I prefer the Craypas brand. I love these Junior artist sets.  Super affordable and I honestly can’t tell much difference between the Juniors and the Professional (Expressionist) sets for this technique!)
  3. Black Acrylic Paint. (I use Blickrylic or Blick Matte Acrylic which I really like!)
  4. A Scratching Tool ( an etching tool,  wood scratch sticks, wood scratch styluses, etc.  A push pin taped to a pencil works, too!)
  5.  A Sharpie or other permanent black marker. 
  6. A large flat paint brush (I like these!) (for the black paint). 
  7. Optional: Large clean paint brush or a small broom
  8. Optional: a tiny blob of dish soap. 
  9. Optional:  Spray Fix, Spray Clear Coat or Varnish. 

Select your substrate for your oil pastel scratch art.  My favorite for this technique is canvas panels, but tagboard works great and is a lot cheaper for larger groups!

Decide what to draw.  I usually sketch my design out with a pencil first.  Then, go over all the lines with a Sharpie marker. 

Oil Pastel Scratch Art - Process Image of sketch

Begin to color with oil pastel.  Apply the pastel rather thickly.  I like to use light colors.  I never use black oil pastel.   You can add some shadows, but overall, keep it lighter and brighter than you would for a normal oil pastel drawing. 

Oil Pastel Scratch Art - Process Image
Oil Pastel Scratch Art - Process Image

Cover the WHOLE paper or canvas panel with oil pastel.  You want to press hard and burnish, covering everything.  Any area uncovered will remain black.  If you want an area to stay white, you have to color it white with oil pastel. 

Use the black acrylic paint.  Coat the whole oil pastel drawing with the paint.  You can add a little drop of dish soap to the paint to make it slightly easier to remove, but it’s not really necessary.  I coat my whole artwork with a VERY, VERY THIN coat of black.  You want to still be able to see the drawing through the thin layer.  This is super helpful.  If the paint is too thick, add a little splash of water.  Allow this to dry.  If you are impatient, like me, pull out the blow dryer.  :)

Find your scratch tool.  I use the metal etching tool.  However, if you are using tagboard, the etching tool is a little sharp.  The wood tools work best for that and for younger students.  Since you can see through the black paint, you can see where to scratch!  I like to leave some areas black. I use hatching lines, cross-hatching, scumbling, etc. based on the items I’m drawing. I even have removed the black paint to create wood texture.  Experiment with this and you’ll find a lot of cool textures can be created with the scratching tool!  Leave more black paint in the shadowed areas.  

acrylic oil pastel scratch art example with a skeleton key and wood texture.

From time to time, you’ll probably want to remove the black paint dust from the artwork.  Dump it over a trash can.  I use a large, clean, flat paintbrush as a little broom.  Finalize with a good dusting and voila!   You can coat with a layer or two of spray fixative, spray varnish or a brush-on varnish.  I prefer the spray fixative. 


3 Responses

  1. Hi! Do you have any photos of what these look like after you put the black paint on, before you scratch? I just tried one today for my kids, and it’s not looking like I thought it should. Thanks!

  2. I’ve been experimenting with this using cheap Apple Barrel acrylic, watered down acrylic, and tempera paint. Even when the paint was applied thinly enough to see that there was oil pastel underneath, unless there was a ton of contrast in color, it was hard to distinguish between the different colors within the picture. With watered down acrylic (about 1/2 and 1/2), I could get a sheer enough coat to see the image underneath without compromising too much on degree of contrast with the black. When I did a regular undiluted coat of paint, I was just very cautious when I thought I was getting close to a spot where I wanted to make a different type of scratching mark, and used the change in revealed color as a guide to change it up. I did the first method with an 8 year old and it worked well, but I think method two would only work for older kids. I’ve seen a bunch of good pinterest pages on this technique, in addition to this one, that might give you some more tips.

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Hi, I’m Erin!

I’ve been a high school art teacher at a rural school in WV for the past 14 years. I teach Art 1, AP Art + Design, Art 2 and 3. 
I’m a little obsessed with my sweet husband. Together we have FOUR kids and a rescue dog named Boomer! 
I love a bad pun and terrible dad jokes. I spend time looking at MBTI memes, cooking, listening to serial killer podcasts and Harry Potter audiobooks on repeat. I also teach yoga and indoor cycling. Click the button below to learn more about me. 

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