Behind the Scenes Part 1: Scratchboard Video

By Jen Casson     |     August 13, 2013

I distinctly remember being scolded by my kindergarten teacher for making such a mess. I’d take a piece of paper and cover it in strips and blocks of color. Then I’d cover that with a thick layer of black crayon, find the sharpest pair of kids’ scissors, and start carving away. How cool it was to scrape off the black and reveal the color underneath, creating the most awesome martian landscape or unicorn infested rainbow jungle. Sure, the black crayon shards made quite the debris field but it was worth it.

That is what scratchboard is like…sort of. Of course when you trade the crayons and safety scissors for professional tools, and put them in the hands of a talented and accomplished scratchboard artist like Lisa Haney, the process and end result is uniquely amazing.

How does one even become a scratchboard artist? Well, here’s how it went for Lisa.

I tried the real thing in college, but painting and ink drawing seemed like more ‘serious’ mediums, so I focused on those for a few years. When I started doing illustrations for the University of Buffalo newspaper, the printing was so shoddy that halftones turned into washed-out mush. So I revisited scratchboard: the most high-contrast black and white medium available. Victory!

It didn’t hurt that the results were reminiscent of old MAD magazines, and Victorian engravings, since I have a soft spot for that sort of illustration. I began adding color with watercolor and dyes, and then scratchboard became more versatile. So I stuck with it.

You may have seen some of Lisa’s illustrations in the Wall Street Journal, or the New York Times. Lisa also happens to be one of Room 214‘s go-to-illustrators for its whiteboard video scribes. Her work in that medium is also impressive and has a quirky style all its own. Having seen some of her scratchboard work – we wanted to see if we could capture her magic using similar production techniques, and create a Scratchboard Scribe. So we picked a concept, set her up in our studio, got to work.



First, Lisa sketched out a few ideas for the scene. If you’re wondering – why the boy on the cow on the bike? Keep reading.

She then drew the selected scene on tracing paper, laid it over the scratchboard and used a tool to trace the outline. Removing the tracing paper, she had a barely noticeable outline of the scene on the board.


Sketch on tracing paper used to make outline on scratchboard.

Out came the shape tools, as Lisa scratched away the india ink from along the outline. Then came the razor, to remove all the black on the outside of the outline, leaving a big black blob.


Extra black is scratched away around the outline.

Next, Lisa got to work on the finer lines – reshaping the blob and carving out amazing and intricate details.


Lisa works her magic on the blob, reshaping and creating fine detail.

With that all done, the last step was to add the color, which Lisa hand-painted on.  She then did a final touch-up pass on the blacks and whites to really make everything pop.


Lisa hand-paints and touches it up the scene to create a completed piece.


Why not?  Actually, we do have a reason. Horizon Organic is one of Room 214’s clients.  They’ve been working with us for nearly three years and we wanted to do something special for them. So we framed Lisa’s final piece of artwork and gave it to them.  Hence the boy holding the glass of milk riding his cow riding his bike to school.


A very special thanks to Lisa Haney for her time, talent, and willingness to explore the Scratchboard Scribe with us.  We love working with her on whiteboard scribes and look forward to doing more videos in her preferred scratchboard medium.


Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog post.  We’ll be sharing what we learned creating this test Scratchboard Scribe and how it differs from our traditional whiteboard animations.

If you’re interested in doing a Scratchboard Scribe to help tell your story, we’d love to hear from you.  Please contact us at


About Jen Casson

Jen Casson is what you'd call a "Pi Person" – broad experience (top of the π) with depth in specific areas (the legs of the π). Her career began as an IT consultant, working on enterprise software projects as an analyst. She quickly moved into Business Consulting, specializing in Corporate Performance Scorecards, Program Management, Knowledge Management, and Systems Thinking. In her late 20s, she decided there wasn't enough creativity in her job, so she made the bold move and changed careers. Fast forward 8 years and you’ll find she's a video producer and award-winning editor, having worked on projects for the likes of the Discovery Channel, Sundance Channel, Science Channel, Ford, Dish, and others. In 2011, Jen joined Room 214 to create video content for digital campaigns. Here, she produces and edits video projects and provides leadership to the creative team and agency.

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