Grattage Art Technique

What is Grattage?

Grattage is a surrealist art technique that involves scraping or scratching layers of paint off a canvas to reveal the textures and colors underneath. This method can create intricate patterns and unexpected effects, adding depth and complexity to the artwork. The term “grattage” comes from the French word “gratter,” which means “to scratch.”

How to Create Grattage Art

Materials Needed:

  1. Canvas or thick paper
  2. Acrylic or oil paints
  3. Brushes or palette knives
  4. Textured objects (e.g., fabric, leaves, combs)
  5. Scraping tools (e.g., knives, credit cards, palette knives)
  6. Primer or gesso (optional)


  1. Prepare the Surface: If you’re using a canvas, you might want to apply a layer of gesso to prime the surface. This helps the paint adhere better and can enhance the texture.
  2. Apply the Base Layer: Paint the entire canvas with a base color. This will be the color that shows through when you scrape off the top layers. Allow this layer to dry completely.
  3. Add Textured Layers: Place textured objects on the canvas and paint over them with a different color. For example, you can lay a piece of fabric on the canvas and paint over it. Once you lift the fabric, the texture will be imprinted in the paint. Allow this layer to dry.
  4. Apply the Top Layer: Paint another layer over the entire canvas. You can use a single color or multiple colors, depending on the effect you want to achieve. This layer should be relatively thick but not too thick that it cracks when dry.
  5. Scraping and Scratching: Once the top layer is partially dry, start scraping and scratching the surface using various tools. You can use knives, palette knives, or even improvised tools like old credit cards or combs. Experiment with different pressures and angles to create unique patterns and textures.
  6. Refine Your Artwork: After you’ve achieved the desired textures, you can add more details with brushes or other tools. You might also want to touch up certain areas or add highlights and shadows.
  7. Final Touches: Allow the artwork to dry completely. You can seal it with a varnish or protective coating if desired.

Tips for Successful Grattage:

  • Experiment: Try using different textured objects and scraping tools to see what kinds of effects you can create.
  • Layering: Building up multiple layers of paint and texture can add depth and complexity to your artwork.
  • Patience: Allowing each layer to dry properly before adding the next is crucial for achieving clean, distinct textures.
  • Creativity: Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and use unconventional tools and materials.

Grattage is a versatile and exciting technique that can produce stunning, abstract results. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced artist, it’s a great way to explore texture and add a new dimension to your work.

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