Thank you Karen, Geoff, Bruce, Gail, Heather, and Linda, for all your input.

I have compiled all your links and will look through them and forward them to my student. As far as I know, the student has looked no further than Australia and the US, so he may do better from Europe. Bruce, I know they have ink nibs and holders in Bangkok. Sasivimon took me to a fun art supply store crammed with stuff. For scaper blades, they sent one of their members to gather those in Japan while he was there on business. Karen, I use the Strathmore 400 series smooth for ink. It has the brown cover with an airbrush image. I like the 500 too, but 400 is easier to find. I've never had trouble with bleeding. Illustration board, or any smooth or plate finsh paper will work. Geoff, I'll look into Amazon UK.

A few notes on scratchboard, from my experience:
-By far, the best is the old ESSDEE, which, of course, is no longer made. There is a new ESSDEE that is pretty good. Trudy Nicholson sent me a sample to try last year and I was happy with it. It has a tinge of yellow, which can be corrected to white for print. I don't mind the tinge. It's similar to the tinge on Arches watercolor paper. Trudy still uses the old; she has a personal stock left. I do too, so that's what I have for personal use. For students, I look for less expensive, but good, options.
-I have a large stock of Canson scratchboard; alas, that is no longer made. (But if anyone near me wants some, let me know)
-I chose Ampersand Claybord for my distance students because it's easy to find, order, and WAS reliable. They seem to have changed the processing. Without treatment, the board may bleed (75% of my students had problems with bleeding). I suggested they polish the board like we did with the old ESSDEE (pink pearl eraer, alcohol, chamois--as outlined in the GNSI Handbook) and that worked. I contacted Ampersand, sent them images, and they did their own tests. While they have not changed their formula, they got the same result--bleeding of ink while using crowquill and ink. They were surprised. Their suggestion was to purchase an oil free steel wool they sell and prep the board, so that's another option.
-Scratch-Art. Okay, this is a thin scratchboard that comes a dozen sheets to a pack, and WAS ideal for learning scratchboard. It was very inexpensive, needed no prep, and was not mounted on board, so light and easy to ship. You couldn't make a lot of corrections due to the thin coating of clay, but for learning, it was great. I used it for professional illustrations as well, when the project did not warrant the thicker clay coating of ESSDEE. After twenty odd years, they changed the manufacturing and/or the formula. It is worthless now. Totally worthless. I was never able to reach the company.

FYI. My quotes for shipping a 5lb box to AU ranged from $89 (USPS) to $200+ (UPS, FedEx)



Gretchen Halpert
Scientific Illustration Distance Program


Need to leave or subscribe to the Sciart-L listserv? Follow the instructions at