A Cool Way to Create Animal Doodles

Have you ever tried your hand at doodling on scratch-art paper? In this fun tutorial from our fall 2016 issue of Zen Doodle Workshop magazine, artist and illustrator Dena Ann Adams shows you how to use scratch-art paper to create whimsical animal doodles. She also has a great way to make a quick-and-easy background with watercolor and crayons. Happy doodling!

animal doodles
Artwork by Dena Ann Adams (Photos by Sharon White Photography)

Scratch-Art Doodles: A Whimsical Animal Doodle by Dena Ann Adams

Making this project gave me a chance to think about doodling versus drawing. In my artwork, a doodle involves a soothing repetition. It’s about how that repetition feels versus how it looks. My shapes of choice tend to be hatch marks, teardrops, and interlaced wavy lines set close together. Whatever shapes you choose, contain them, repeat them, give them a context, and you’ll make some fantastic art. I chose Scratch Art paper for this project because I thought it would be fun to show the potential of this simple material that invites spontaneity and fun. Scratch Art paper is a black-coated paper that, when scratched with a stylus or other tool, reveals white or a contrasting color in the marks. I framed my piece with a doodled and painted watercolor paper.


  • Watercolor paper, 140-lb., several sheets
  • Wax-based crayons (I used Triangular Crayons by Melissa and Doug®.)
  • Paintbrush(es) (I used a Zen #12 round water media brush and a soft wide brush from Royal & Langnickel®.)
  • Container with water
  • Watercolors (I used Sakura® Koi® Water Colors™ in tubes.)
  • Skewers (Wood or bamboo, and a little rough is best.)
    • NOTE: Skewers have a smaller diameter, providing better detail than other scratch-art tools, and a rough edge furnishes enough friction to remove the scratch-art coating. Smoother tools can sometimes slip over the surface without removing the coating.
  • Scratch-art paper, white (I used Scratch Art® paper by Melissa and Doug. Use the paper for this project, not the 10-point board.)
  • Facial tissue or paper napkins, 2–3
  • Acrylic pen, black (I used a uni POSCA pen.)
  • Matte medium (I use Liquitex® matte medium or Mod Podge®.)
  • Scissors
  • Glue (I used PVA.)
  • Markers (I used Tombow brush markers. Light colors are best.)

Prepare the background

1. Cover the watercolor page with a repeating doodled design in crayon. I recommend making the crayon doodles as simple as possible, because crayons can be difficult to control if you’re normally a controlled doodler. Choose shapes that are your easiest and go-to doodles. I chose wavy lines that I knew would look good even if each repetition wasn’t perfect. Use strong pressure on the crayons; you want a waxy line to create a resist. (Figure 1) Don’t worry about perfection. Cover the page with doodles.


NOTE: If you want an overall medium-to-dark background, use light-colored crayons, even white. If you want a lighter background or a very colorful contrast, you may want to use darker colors.

2. Brush water and diluted watercolor onto the watercolor paper. I tend to brush water over the page and then add areas of concentrated color, which will run into the water. You can also dilute watercolor paints and brush them over the doodling. Experiment with bleeds, drips, wet and dry areas, and color contrasts. I used Viridian Hue, Carmine, Yellow Ochre, and Burnt Sienna in this step. The crayon lines will show through the paint, as long as you drew them with enough pressure. The doodles add texture to the background. (Figure 2) Let dry.


TIP: Create a few different backgrounds and choose your favorite to work with.

Create the scratch-art doodles

1. Use the skewer to draw on the scratch-art paper. Create anything you like. I enjoy drawing whimsical animals, images that look like woodcuts, and making lots of little hatch marks. (Figure 3) Create the outline, and then go back in and add the doodling.


TIP: Scratch Art paper has a slick surface, and any amount of oil from your hands will make scratching almost impossible. I always work with a tissue or napkin under my hand as it rests on the page.

2. Fill in the spaces in your drawing. I used a typical doodle strategy by dividing the space, making repeating motifs such as hearts, stripes, and dots, and generally having fun. (Figure 4) For my animal faces, I start with the eyes, add the nose for spacing, and then let the direction of the fur create the dimension and shape of the head. I rotate my paper often and find ways to incorporate shapes like circles, spirals, and ellipses to indicate the direction of the fur. I chose the doodles on the hat by picking designs I could repeat in a curved pattern easily. The wavy vertical designs on the outfit were made more complex with leaves, hearts, and stripes of their own. (See last image.)


NOTE: You’ll notice that you have less control with a skewer than you do with a pen. Let your mistakes and raw lines be part of the fun. Mishaps can be corrected with a black acrylic marker.

3. Once your drawing is complete, paint a light coat of Mod Podge or matte medium over the top of the scratch-art paper with a soft brush. This creates a uniform matte surface and allows you to add color over the doodled surface. It will also keep the paper from buckling when you glue it to the background. Let dry completely.

Assemble the piece

1. Cut the figure from the scratch-art paper. I like to leave an uneven border around the figure, leaving about 1/4″ at the most. I often go with 1/8″.

2. Glue the cut figure into place on the watercolor background. (Figure 5) Add color as desired. I used Tombow markers to color the doodles, but any water-based marker with sheer coverage will work. (See opening image.) Lighter colors work best, because even jewel-toned markers in blue, red, and green can often disappear against the black of the scratch-art paper, while a medium toned berry color or green will show up well. I generally want to keep the contrast between the black and the color very strong.


NOTE: I would not use alcohol-based markers for this step. I’ve had issues with ruining alcohol markers when I use them over matte medium, while my Tombow markers have held up perfectly, as long as the matte medium is dry when they‘re applied.

animal doodles
Finished! (Artwork by Dena Ann Adams)

Dena Ann Adams is an illustrator and maker from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her work is self-generated collage, which she makes from experimental decorated papers, watercolor illustrations, cut-up digital prints, scratchboard, and drawn elements. Her motto is “Throw nothing out; that perfect missing element is always somewhere in that pile.” Visit her website at dena-ann-adams.com.

Interested in doodling a mixed-media landscape? Don’t miss this tutorial from artists Peri-Laine Nilan and Valerie McRae.

For more inspiring doodle art projects, tips, and ideas, check out our fall 2016 issue of Zen Doodle Workshop magazine.

animal doodles


Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques, Paper Art and Zen Doodle

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