Getting ready to try an airbrush on scratchboard

With the exception of the compressor, this is my setup so far. I got it all put together last night, and fixed a leak with teflon tape and a tighter connection. I’m just about ready to start putting ink through the brush.


Here is an explanation of my configuration from left to right:

Air hose – 1/4″
It has 1/4″ female connections. I’m not sure how long it is, but this type of hose is easy to find at just about any hardware store. I’ve had this for years so I’m not sure what I paid for it.
male-to-male adapter – 1/4″ – $3
This is the type of item you end up making an extra trip to the store for. I didn’t think I needed one until I ended up needing one.
Quick disconnect – 1/4″ – $5
In case you are wondering how all of these fittings are 1/4″, it refers to the inside diameter, not the outside. It consists of a plug and a socket. The quick disconnect isn’t required, but it will make life easier when it comes time to put everything away. These are common items and can be found near the air hoses.
Air compressor regulator – $13
Because it’s more specialized to airbrushing, I wasn’t confident in finding this item locally. Art and hobby stores sometimes have them, but I opted for Amazon. If you search “airbrush regulator” on Amazon you will see what looks like the same design offered for different prices from different vendors. I picked one that had a 4.5-star rating. The main body has a control knob at the top to control air pressure. It has an arrow on the front to indicate the direction the air should flow. The pressure gauge is included, and attaches to the threaded hole on the front. The threaded holes on the sides of the regulator both accommodate 1/4″ air fittings. There are two 1/4″-to-1/8″ connectors also included. You may not need either of them. I needed one to fit my airbrush hose.
Airbrush hose – $10
I chose a brand called “Master Airbrush” because the price was right and it reviewed well on Amazon. It comes with 1/8″ connectors at the ends, regardless of what the picture on Amazon says. If I had purchased an offical Iwata airbrush hose I think I would have required a 1/4″-to-1/4″ connector to attach it to the regulator.
Moisture trap – $13
It’s hard to take a brand new airbrush hose and snip it in half, but that is how you install the Paasche moisture trap. The moisture trap comes with directions for installing it between the two sections of hose. There is a screw that can be removed to allow any condensed water to escape.
Iwata HP-CH – $241
There were cheaper sources for this model of airbrush, but I wanted to make sure I got it from a dealer I could trust. I ordered from Jerry’s Artarama. If I have any problems I know their store is about a half hour from my house.


Assembly wasn’t difficult. Before leaving the hardware store I picked up a roll of teflon tape. I wrapped the threads of each 1/4″ connection with a few wraps of teflon tape. I had to re-do the 1/4″-to-1/8″ connection at the regulator because I could hear it leaking. I wrapped it with some additional teflon tape and went a little tighter with the wrench. That fixed it. I used a couple of small adjustable wrenches to assemble everything for the 1/4″ fittings. The 1/8″ connections were as tight as I could make them by hand, but I didn’t use tools.

Everything is working now as far as air is concerned. I took the time to see how the adjustments work on the regulator. I also experimented with the MAC (micro air control?) valve that is built into the Iwata HP-CH. Instead of touching the regulator, adjustments can be made quickly on the airbrush itself. Now that I have it put together and I’m comfortable with the controls for making adjustments, the next step is to shoot some ink through it. That will be another post.

A list of supplies to get started with scratchboard

A few people have asked me if I could suggest a list of supplies for getting started with scratchboard. I think I will post the information here.

  1. 3-pack of 5×7 Ampersand Scratchbord
    These are less than $8 at These boards are inexpensive, with a really nice surface. The size is small enough that it won’t take forever to finish.
  2. 1 package of Super Chacopaper
    This is the best transfer paper I’ve used. The lines go down just right – not too heavy, not too light. And, extra lines can be removed with a small, damp paintbrush.  Michael’s usually has Chacopaper for about $7 – less if you use their 40% off coupon.
  3. 1 X-acto knife with a #11 blade and a #16 blade
    You will want to have more than one blade per size. How often you change them out depends on how you work. I tend to buy boxes of 100, although they come in packages of 5. I suggest the two different blades to get used to the marks they make. Both blades are fairly easy to find. I haven’t priced knives or blades for a while, but they aren’t terribly expensive.
  4. 1 cheap ball point pen
    I use a very basic blue Papermate medium point for making transfers.
  5. Masking tape
    I use the tape to attach my drawing to the top edge of the board, like a hinge. This keeps the drawing from shifting while I’m doing my transfer, and it allows me to lay the drawing back down in the same position if I need to transfer more lines. I use either white artists’ masking tape, or green 3M masking tape because they are easy to remove when I’m done.
  6. Faber Castell Pitt Pen
    Mistakes happen, and the brush pen and size S are very useful for making corrections. They are also useful for crosshatching dark lines over light lines to create textures. I’ve used other pigment pens with good results, but the Pitt pens seem to make the color of the Ampersand ink and they don’t leave very shiny lines. I pat the corrected area with my finger to take the shine off. The last time I priced these pens they were a few dollars apiece

This would give you enough to get started. At least one of the boards would be for playing around with different scratch patterns and getting used to the surface of the board. The patterns you make really depend on your own personality and what you want to do. If you are looking for highly realistic work, you would probably end up using the #11 blade and working with finer lines to hold the details. If you want to do more illustrative work, the #16 makes bolder strokes easily. I generally start with the brightest areas first and work into the dark.

I remember being nervous to try scratchboard the first time. I think my best advice would be to forge ahead and just plan on ruining the first one while you figure out how it works. The 5×7 boards aren’t expensive so it’s not a big loss if you have to start over.