How to Do Clayboard Etching

Four Methods:Buy Fully Prepared Inked ClayboardsPurchase Clayboards and Ink Them YourselfCreate a Clayboard from ScratchRemove the Ink Coating to Create Unique Works of Art

Clayboard etching is an art technique that involves removing black ink from the surface of fine, white china clay. Before you do clayboard etching, the surface is completely black. Removing ink by etching reveals the pure white of the clay, creating a stark and striking contrast between the black of the ink and the white of the clay. Although clayboard art is traditionally black and white, some artists like adding color to clayboard to create unique works.

Method 1
Buy Fully Prepared Inked Clayboards

  1. 1
    Purchase pre-prepared clayboards that already have an ink and clay coating.
    • If you don’t want the trouble of coating a masonite board with china clay and ink, you can buy pre-prepared boards that are ready to use.

Method 2
Purchase Clayboards and Ink Them Yourself

  1. 1
    Buy un-inked clayboards in whatever size you desire. If you don’t want to coat masonite boards with clay but are comfortable using inks, you can purchase boards that come with a smooth clay surface which is ready to paint and etch.
    • Although large clayboards are available, it’s best to start small until you get the hang of the medium.
    • Coat the clayboard with the India ink color or colors you prefer. Once you get used to the medium, you may prefer inking your own boards in different color bases to create works that go beyond the black and white of classic clayboard etching.

Method 3
Create a Clayboard from Scratch

  1. 1
    Buy a masonite board.

  2. 2
    Coat the masonite board with a thin layer of fine, white china clay. If you’re not experienced with clay, it’s probably better to go with a pre-inked clayboard or a clayboard rather than trying to create your own from scratch.

  3. 3
    Apply india ink to the surface of the clay. Black is the usual color, but you can use whatever color you like to create the effect you want.

Method 4
Remove the Ink Coating to Create Unique Works of Art

  1. 1
    Plan your clayboard art.
    • Create a sketch or pattern for your clayboard art. If you’re using a pattern, you can apply chalk to the pattern then lay it on the clayboard and go over the pattern with a ballpoint pen to accurately transfer your design. If you’re working off of a sketch, you can lightly draw the sketch on top of the ink before you do clayboard etching.
  2. 2
    Remove the ink from the clayboard using traditional etching tools.
    • Use picks and etching tools to create whatever design you like. In addition to etching and sculpting tools, you may want to use sandpaper to remove broad swathes of ink or to create textures.
    • Once you’ve removed all the ink you want, paint or ink parts of the clay surface to create full-color works of art. Or, if you prefer the pure contrast of black and white, leave the clayboard etching alone.


  • Save money by buying masonite board or pre-prepared clayboards in multiple packs.

Things You'll Need

  • Clayboard (if inking yourself)
  • Inked clayboard
  • Masonite board (if creating your own clayboards)
  • Fine china clay (if creating your own clayboards)
  • India Ink (if adding color or creating your own clayboards)
  • Etching tools

Article Info

Categories: Clay Projects