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Drawings In Pen And Ink

Drawings In Pen And Ink Drawings In Pen And Ink

There are many types of paper that are suitable for pen and ink. But a little foresight about what you intend to do with your piece can be helpful in determining the best type of paper for the project.

Problem: Maybe you thought your ink was waterproof and it really wasn’t, or perhaps an errant drop of water hit your pen and ink drawing and now it’s looking worse for wear.

These days, you can find countless types of pens that fall somewhere between your everyday office pen and a fountain pen. These pens have a reservoir of high-quality ink but don’t necessarily use a steel nib for the tip.

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To draw in ink, you need a pen, nibs, and ink. I like using Higgins Black Magic ink, which is waterproof when dry, so I can paint over it and the ink won’t run. Remember to only pull or drag a nib to make marks; pushing will cause splatters and ruin your work. Also, slight change in pressure will change the thickness of your lines. These are things you need to get used to at the outset.  

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Hatching can have a flattening effect, as all the lines are straight and not necessarily following the contour of the subject you’re drawing.

Don’t be too quick to throw away your dried up pens! Pens on their last breath can deliver a very dry, almost brush-like stroke, which has a completely different look from other tools. Also, by putting dry pens away with the cap tightly fixed, you may resurrect them for a few more minutes’ use. Try it the next time your pen dies.  

There are many pens on the market, and it’s important to decide what kind of pen you like and what you’re comfortable with using.

Problem: If you don’t let the pen ink set for a few minutes before erasing any pencil lines, it could smear. The pen can also smear if you let your hand rest on an inked area while drawing another portion and pull it away too quickly.

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Wet the area of the paper that will receive the ink. Make it as big or as small as you want. Then, using your brush, drop ink onto the watered spot. It will have a mind of its own and pigment will feather in multiple directions. That’s OK — it’s the entire point! Alternatively, you can pick up the paper and guide the ink around the page.

When drawn with knowledge, a great ink drawing carries a certain evocative power that stems from the cleanliness of the finished work. However, that same cleanliness can also leave you vulnerable because high contrast line drawings give you nowhere to hide. Every line communicates knowledge and power or timidity and uncertainty. It’s a fine line between one and the other, no pun intended. Here are some of my techniques for making ink drawing more approachable and less nerve-racking. 

Art 10 pen and ink drawing techniques and tips 10 pen and ink drawing techniques and tips

Art should be fun. You can forget this when you worry too much about making mistakes or obsess over every line you draw and forget the joy of making art. Remember the bigger picture. Every journey every making is fraught with mistakes and missteps. That’s okay; it’s normal. Just remember that each line serves a greater whole and leads to your final image. If you make a mistake, chill out and move on – it might not even be noticeable in the end. Your lines WILL get better with time so enjoy the journey. 

Solution: This method can cause a lot of damage to a piece, especially if ink has spilled from a bottle. If the damage is too great, you may have to trace and re-do the drawing (sorry). However, if you think you can work with the error, you can paint over the unwanted areas using opaque paint.

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While the illustrations above feature strong lines, pen illustrations can gain texture and a distinct personality by using different pen strokes. A combination of stronger lines paired with smaller, delicate lines adds up to a greater whole: a more interesting image.

Solution: It can be pretty difficult to incorporate this “blooming” area into a piece, but you can take a look and consider the possibility. If it doesn’t seem like it can be incorporated, this is definitely a project suited to the paper method of correcting the error. By putting a “patch” of the same type of paper on top of the offending area, you have a clean slate to redraw the elements that have been damaged.

Are you just getting started with pen and ink? The media is an easily accessible way to get drawing and stay drawing. You don’t have to look farther than your office desk!

The random lines approach is great for building texture. I really like to use it when drawing leaves on trees — the scribble marks easily convey mass. Layer them in order to build depth in your drawing.

By Sara Barnes, Jessie Oleson Moore and Paul Heaston on May 14, 2018

The closer the marks are together, the darker they appear. These marks can be short or long, and you will typically make them all a similar length.

Dip or nib pens consist of a steel nib attached to a handle that can be made of almost any material. The steel nib is split down the middle, creating an ink channel. Once the nib is dipped in ink and makes contact with the writing surface, the ink flows down the channel leaving a very consistent and easily controllable line.

Remember how hatching can flatten your drawing? Cross contouring helps give it form. It works in much the same way as crosshatching, but the lines follow the contour of your subject. In doing this, your subject will look more rounded and three dimensional.

As you might tell from my previous tips, when working with ink, tones can become a puzzle. I’ve talked about hatching and line weight, here’s a trick that takes tones more literally: try rubbing a bit of water onto your fresh ink lines to create softer tones. In a pinch, I would do this with saliva and my finger! Softer tones alongside ink lines create a wonderful contrast and will make your drawings a little more lifelike. 

Ink wash is like a hybrid inking and painting technique done with a brush instead of a pen. Value is controlled by your ink to water ratio – the more ink or less water, the greater your value. Start with your brush dipped liberally in ink so it collects on your paper. Paint by pulling the “ink puddle” across the page. Re-dip your brush when needed, always keeping a puddle, and continue washing. Ink wash and watercolour techniques are similar.  

This pen and ink video is a tribute to one of my favourite artists, Chuck Close. If this inspires you to educate yourself further, head over to to discover courses (including two of mine!), workshops and more. It’s an amazing way to study with the pros!  

Different pen strokes such as cross-hatching or pointillism can create texture, contrast and dimension. Try out various types of pen strokes to see which one feels right for you.

Ink wash is similar to watercolor painting and uses a lot of the same principles, so if you’ve painted before, you’re in luck. But if you’re new to painting, not to worry!

Solution: Even though it might not seem so at first, the damage might be less severe if you add other elements, such as a background or color. 

Most pen and ink drawings use one, or a combination of, the following techniques. Looking how to shade with a pen? Or how to add texture to your favorite tree? These approaches will help you do both things (and more). Try them all and decide which approaches you like best — you can then incorporate them into your artwork. 

Fountain pens contain an internal reservoir of ink — often a refillable cartridge — that allows an artist to make a continuous line without stopping to “reload” the ink on the nib. But unlike most pens, fountain pens have a steel nib, too.

If you decide to use a dip pen, you’ll also need ink! When shopping for your supplies, you’ll want to start with blank ink. Sumi ink has a beautifully rich black tone.

Don’t discount the humble ballpoint pen! Many artists create stunning works with this basic office supply. Unlike many pens, you can layer ballpoint pen ink to build depth and three-dimensional form. 

Hopefully, you won’t make any mistakes as you draw — but if you do, there are some clever ways to hide your blunder. 

Again, if you plan to use a dip pen and ink, you can also add a paintbrush to your toolkit (we’ll show you the technique later in this post).For a paintbrush, look for one that is meant for water-based media. 

If you don’t have a bottle of ink, you can still achieve that wash-like look. All you need is cold-press watercolor paper, which tends to suck up the water quickly, a pen (we used a Pilot Fineliner), water and a paintbrush.

Crosshatching is the cousin to hatching. As the name implies, this approach involves you first making a series of straight lines in one direction, and then a series of lines in an intersecting direction (hence the “cross” in the name.) Like hatching, the closer the crosses are to one another, the darker they appear.

The general idea is to work light to dark, and large to small. Don’t start with the darkest shade. It will be hard to do anything with that, like add variation in tone, detail or even other colors. Instead, work in layers.

The unforgiving permanence of ink can stress some people out. But remember, just because you’re making an ink drawing doesn’t mean you have to use ink all the way through. I’m a firm believer that art should be fun and stress-free. So if launching straight into ink is too much pressure, try drawing your image in pencil first, then add ink over it. Either way works, just do what you’re comfortable with to set yourself up for the greatest joy. 

It’s a pretty simple concept: pencil can be erased and pen cannot. Using a pencil to make a light sketch before adding ink can help you get the composition, perspective and size just right.

The Crow Quill makes the thinnest lines I know of outside of a Rapidograph. It has a scratchy feel and allows great accuracy. I use the Crow Quill when I want to do a Rembrandt-esque drawing. However, because of the fineness of Crow Quill lines, this pen is really only suitable for smaller drawings; there are more efficient ways of doing a large drawing than with a Crow Quill. Once you’re finished inking, do a wash to add dimension to your drawing. 

Hatching is the most basic of the pen and ink techniques. It involves making a series of straight lines on your paper.

I like to use different pens for different things. I use thick markers for large shadows because they’re big and chunky and cover a lot of paper quickly. I like Sharpies for smaller shadows and thick continuous lines. A blue writing pen might be good for clouds, waves, or anything that might look cool in blue. Consider all characteristics of your pens, like colour, thickness, etc. Be creative and stay alert for any pen that can make your work distinct.  

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Start by creating a drawing in pen. Then, dip a paintbrush in water and touch the brush to the ink on your page. The ink should start to spread. Go over all of the parts where you want the pigment to move and transform them from lines to washes.

The splatter technique is fun, but beware — it’s a little messy! Hold a brush or nib that’s been dipped in ink in one hand. In the other, hold a pencil. Gently tap the inked utensil against the pencil, and let the drops fly onto the paper. Use different colors or washes to create a layered, complex effect.

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Solution: Often, mistakes of this nature can actually be incorporated into the piece with little difficulty.  Try altering the pattern of a solid element of the drawing to accommodate the errant line.

Above are my favourite techniques for creating the illusion of gradations in value using high contrast black ink on white paper. Look at thick and thins. Nib pens are great for this. Draw structures in shadows with thicker lines, and structures in light with thinner lines. Try it yourself: draw a circle, then go over the bottom of it with a heavier line and immediately it gains volume and looks like a ball.  

Pens come in a variety of tip sizes (from 0.03 mm to 0.8 mm). Those tips can be felt, fiber or rollerballs. The combinations of size, tip type, brand, ink quality and more are nearly endless — you just have to experiment to find what works for you.

For instance, a watercolor paper may look very cool, but if you’re using a quill pen, it can snag, break the tip of your pen and mess up your drawing. On the other hand, drawing paper may look fine for the pen and ink part, but if you decide to add watercolor, the non-porous paper will not let the paint spread in a pleasing way.

This technique works great if you’re doing something that allows for things to look a little crazy and free. It’s unpredictable, so have fun experimenting with what kind of splatters you create!

Problem: You dropped your pen in the middle of making a mark, and it went rogue on your piece, adding avant-garde marks where they are not welcome.

The chief advantage of a fountain pen is portability since you don’t need to carry a bottle of ink alongside your pens to do a sketch outdoors. They also reduce the chance of ink splashes landing on your drawing (though any fountain pen owner knows that accidents still happen).

Problem:  You made a mark where you didn’t mean to, rendering in ink a portion of a drawing that was part of your pencil sketch.

Before you put ink to paper, it’s a helpful exercise to create a “chart” on a scrap piece of paper.  Just a few quick marks will give you an idea of the types of lines that a pen will make.

Stippling is made for those with a lot of patience, as it involves creating a ton of tiny dots on the page.

Consider how you like the look of the lines made as well as the feel of the pen. Do you prefer the thick tip of a Copic marker or the ultra-fine point of .20mm Micron? There’s no right or wrong — it all depends on your personal drawing style.

By placing more or less pressure on the nib, you can control the width of the channel and thus the width of the line. Dip pens had numerous advantages over reed pens, most notably the durable steel nib and the fine line control.

Dots that are clustered tightly together will appear darker and give your drawing form. In addition, they can also bring an element of surface decoration to your work.

Start by painting the lightest shade you see. Wait for everything to dry before proceeding to the next layer, which is going to be slightly darker than the last. Mix the wash and apply it to the necessary areas. Again, wait for it to dry and mix again. Repeat the process until you’ve added all of the tones so you have a nice balance of contrast.

Generally, bristol board or illustration board are wonderful picks for pen and ink work. They’re both fairly flat, so neither will tear up the tip of your pen, and the image remains crisp. Yet they are both absorbent papers, making it ideal for watercolor, marker and acrylic in addition to your pen and ink.

This technique challenges you to channel your inner child! It may seem silly, but scribbling can be useful even in the most professional compositions.

Simply changing the way you hold your pen can add an extra dimension to your drawings and make them special and unique so that they stand out from other artists. I like to hold my pen at the back whenever possible because the looseness in my lines often present unexpected opportunities in my work. If your drawings are usually very tight and controlled, give this method a try, you might surprise yourself with the wonderful accidents that can happen. 

Here’s another way to approach ink washes. Let’s say you want to create some interesting, experimental washes that aren’t concerned with form. One way to do this is a “wet-on-wet” technique.

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