Tutorial- Digital Scratchboard Reverse Engineered

I was looking at a copy of “There’s Nothing to Do on Mars” by Chris Gall. It’s a fun sci-fi children’s book with great hand drawn scratchboard illustrations colorized digitally. There’s something about the graphic qualities of woodblock printing and scratchboard (a la Scott McKowen and Mark Summers )  that appeals to my design sensibility.

Looking at the artwork in Gall’s book, I wanted to try to approximate the aesthetic, but 100% digitally. Over a gradient background I freehand drew a series of plateau shapes with the “Lasso” tool and filled it with a linear gradient. On a new layer I drew large blocks of solid red which I then “scratched out” with the eraser tool. By holding the shift key after setting down my Wacom stylus, I constrained my erasure strokes to straight lines. Since this was a quick demo, I didn’t spend a lot of time trying for consistency, but with care and practice (and the pressure sensitivity of my Wacom tablet) I could create nice, tapered “cuts”. I could also see the benefit of making customized brush/scratchboard tools.

Below is an animated GIF of the layers. I based the sample artwork on the Martian landscape from the book’s opening spread. I included pre and post slides of any layer that incorporates transparency. The last step was to create a gray layer, then select Filter–>Noise –> Add Noise with the layer blend modes set to Overlay at 35%.



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