Sgraffito technique



30 min

What you need:

Coloured Pencil Goldfaber, Craft knife
Sgraffito is the technique in which an underlying layer is revealed by scratching or scraping the top one away. It works particularly well when the media is soft and easily removed, coloured pencils tend to mesh together when overlaid and impregnate the surface of the paper rather than sit on the top, so care should be taken to avoid damaging it. However, Sgraffito is reasonably successful when the pigment is compacted and on smooth or primed paper. Use the point for fine lines or scrape lightly with the side of the blade for broken areas.
Try representing the flicker of light penetrating dark foliage, the sky through tangled branches, a complex textured surface, or a distinctive linear structure, such as basket weave, waving corn, or the fragile veins of a leaf skeleton.
Use a coloured pencil to build up an area of compacted colour.  Here a second hue is added to deepen the colour and to increase its density. Use a craft knife to carefully scrape away fine lines or patches of colour, so the white of the paper or the pigment underneath is revealed. Use the flat part of the blade rather than digging into the paper with the point.
Here fine lines are scratched into compacted pigment to emulate delicate leaf veins. The effect is reinforced with further gentle shading over the scratch marks; anything too heavy and they would fill in.

Artist's Tip

For good results, prime the stretched paper with an acrylic or gesso primer or a layer of acrylic paint. This acts as a barrier between the pencil and the paper, preventing it from absorbing the pencil colour. The top colour can be scraped away with a craft knife to reveal white or coloured marks.

Merriscourt Farm—High Summer has been worked on primed paper, with Sgraffito used to take out some of the dark tree mass on the extreme left to reveal the yellows and pinks beneath. Fine scratched hatching adds variety and detail to the straw bales and the barley field.

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Excerpt from “The Colored Pencil Artist’s Drawing Bible,” published by Chartwell Books, a division of Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc. All rights reserved. Artwork © Jane Strother. Visit