March 15, 2017

Drawing With Corrina – Session 3 – Using An X-Acto Knife

by Corrina Thurston


As most of you know, I’ve created a new YouTube series called Drawing With Corrina. This is a series of videos that helps explain drawing techniques, with some sessions explaining just one technique and some showing how to draw specific things, like how to draw an eye, or how to draw fur, etc.

Session 1 and Session 2 were about how to layer and how to blend in colored pencil to create opaque, vibrant colors.

Session 3 was just uploaded to YouTube and it’s all about how to use an x-acto knife to create small details in your drawing. For those of you who want to watch Session 3, check it out below! For those who want to read about using an x-acto knife instead of watching, keep reading!

Drawing With Corrina – Session 3 – Using An X-Acto Knife

Making Your Own Scratchboard

Most people don’t realize that you can use an x-acto knife to etch away layers of colored pencil in order to help create finer details in a drawing.

When you want to etch away details with an x-acto knife, use a light color as the first layer of your drawing. That way, after you layer your other colors on top, you have a base layer that is light, which is what will show through as you etch.

This turns the drawing surface into something similar to a scratchboard. If you’ve never used a scratchboard, it’s a drawing surface that already has pigment on the surface, and you scratch it off to create your artwork.

Remember: DON’T put a medium or dark color as your base color because it won’t work without a lighter color as the base.

Different Angles Makes Different Strokes

X-acto knives come with a number of different blades. Some blades are flat, some are pointed like the one I use in the video. Different blades will create different etch marks. Also, with this type of blade, you can create thicker or thinner strokes depending on the angle of the blade. If you have the blade at a lower angle, it’ll create a thicker stroke. If the blade is at a higher angle, it’ll create thinner strokes.

I suggest getting a few different blades and experimenting with them on splotches of color like what I’ve done in the video. This will let you know what strokes you can make before you go and try it on an actual drawing.

I made the mistake of trying it on a drawing the first time and ripped right through my paper!

What You Can Use The X-Acto Knife For

What I use this technique for the most is when I’m drawing fur. You can use the x-acto knife to etch away individual strands of fur to create fine details.

In colored pencil

You can also use it to help in the same way with feathers, which is something I use it for a lot as well.

Another reason to use an x-acto knife is to create really well-defined edges, like in my Hermit Crab drawing.

Hermit Crab
In colored pencil

You can use this technique for a number of different textures, like helping to define wood, stone, edges, scales, fur, feathers, hair, clothing, etc.

Remember: Be gentle! You don’t want to cut or rip through your drawing paper!

4 thoughts on “Drawing With Corrina – Session 3 – Using An X-Acto Knife

  1. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us Corrina!

  2. I saw your work at Artists Mediums and thought it was beautiful. I have watched your videos and will buy you elephant tutorial. I have a cottage in Canada and love loons. I would like to see a tutorial on how you did your loon – especially the blending and detail in the water. Thank you

  3. Thank you Corina. Question: do you use the knife with a specific paper? I’ve tried it on watercolor paper and it didn’t work, maybe i didn’t have enough layers..

    1. Hi Sandra. Thanks for your question! Sorry for the delay in responding to you. I’ve used the knife on multiple types of papers, but you definitely have to have a number of layers down first for it to really work. Plus, you NEED to have that lighter underlayer down first because it won’t scrape it to the paper color, it will scrape it to whatever color you put down first. I hope that helps!

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