Pen And Ink Drawings

September 13, 2018 8:44 am by theundertown
Pen and ink drawing ideas eye in pen and ink by elizabethnixon on deviantart
Pen and ink landscape drawings by olivia kemp
Pen And Ink Drawings

There are many different types of art paper that you can use for your pen and ink drawings. In addition to the many varieties of drawing paper on the market, you can also use papers that are designed for painting as well as drawing. For instance, watercolor paper is great for pen and ink drawings, especially if you plan to do watercolor washes under or over the ink drawing. Printmaking papers, illustration board and bristol board also work well.

Several techniques of layering marks are used to create the necessary transitions in shading.  These techniques include hatching, cross hatching, random lines, and stippling.  (Each of these techniques are explored and demonstrated further down this page.)

Cross hatching is just like hatching except that the lines cross over each other. The more that the lines cross, the darker the value.  Cross hatching can be used with rigid straight lines or as cross contour lines to define the form of the object.

Lines going in various directions can also be used to create pen and ink drawings.  By changing the frequency of the crossing of the lines, you can control the range of value produced. Using this method can also create a variety of different textures.

Got a question about working in pen and ink? This handy FAQ about pen and ink techniques contains questions and answers from pen and ink artists like you. 

Check out the detailed pen & ink drawings of Eli Helman. In this exclusive interview, he discusses the process and inspiration behind his elaborate pen and ink art.

View the realistic pen and ink artwork of Sue Pownall, created on site as she travels the world!

Feel free to think outside the box. If you’re not concerned about longevity, you can create art on a variety of unconventional surfaces, such as the inside of a cereal box, cash register receipts, vintage book pages or postcards, etc. Traditionally, these types of surfaces were not recommended for making “fine art” – one reason being the high acidity levels of these papers, which means the paper would yellow and deteriorate over time. These days, anything goes in contemporary art, so these issues are less of a concern. However, if you do want to take the extra step to ensure longevity, there are archival sprays on the market that can neutralize the acidity in such papers.

Stippling is adding countless dots to create the value of the drawing. The higher the concentration of dots, the darker the value. The more space between the dots, the lighter the value. Stippling may be time consuming, but it allows the artist to have complete control the application of value, which can produce highly realistic results.

fountain pens graphic pens drafting pensreed pensand even ball point pens.

One appeal of drawing with pen and ink is the clean, finished appearance that can be created. Preliminary drawings can completed using graphite and then drawn over using ink.  When the ink has dried, the graphite can be erased, leaving a “controlled” high contrast image.

Check out these Frequently Asked Questions (and answers!) from readers interested in pen and ink artwork.

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. 

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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.  

Some pens used for pen and ink drawing techniques feature a brush tip.  A variety of marks can be made these pens that cannot be made with pens that have a defined nib or tip.

I’ve provided links below to the relevant products so that you can easily find them on Blick Art Materials, my favorite online art supplier. I’m a member of Blick’s affiliate program, which means if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links, I’ll receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you). Your purchase helps support this site and keeps it free of ads. Click here for more info.

There are many types of pens available for drawing, such as:

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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. 

Each type of pen will result in a different quality of line. The kind of pen you prefer will depend on the type of line you would like to create, bearing in mind such qualities as thickness or thinness of the line, and fluidity versus control. The kind of pen you choose will also depend upon the type of art you want to create, in terms of style and subject.

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. 

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Pen and ink drawings are mostly created on different types of paper. The tooth, or texture, of the paper can effect the marks that are made by the pen. Most artists prefer to work on smoother surfaces to create detailed ink drawings. Learn more about drawing papers here.

Learn about the best drawing pens for fine artists. Find out why you should use archival pens if you want your pen and ink art to last a long time!

Hatching is a technique used to add value in a linear fashion. The lines used in hatching mostly go in the same direction for a defined area. When hatching is used, the lines do not cross over each other. (Although cross hatching can be used in combination with hatching)  Hatching lines can be parallel or they can be used as cross contour lines to help define the form of the object. The closer the lines are to each other, the darker the value.  The more space between the lines, the lighter the value. 

Drawing techniques used with ink can be as varied as the artists that use them.  There are, of course, a few that are used with some frequency.  Let’s take a look at each technique in detail…

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.  

SPECIAL NOTE Although many may disagree with me, it is may opinion that you should never mix methods. Pick a technique and stick with it. It will make your artwork unified.

There are many different drawing papers available for creating pen and ink artwork. Learn about several different kinds of art paper that you can use to make your pen and ink drawings!

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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.  

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. 

Drawing with pen and ink allows the artist to create strong areas of contrast.  Most ink drawings are completed using black inks on white surfaces which leads to heavy contrast in value.  Many artists choose to exploit this contrast. Others, however find it difficult to create gradations in value for this reason. 

Ink wash is the application of ink with a brush. Ink wash is much like painting with watercolor paint. The more water, the less intense the application of ink. Therefore, value is controlled by the amount of water added to the ink prior to it’s application to the surface.

If you are using only one color ink on paper, you’ll basically be working in two colors: the color of your ink, and the color of your paper. Each will play off the other. In pen and ink drawings, the blank space is just as important as the markings you make with the pen. Therefore, you need to pay as much attention to what’s going on in the background as you are to what you’re doing with the pen. If you are more accustomed to working in color, this will require a different way of thinking and creating art than you might be used to.

Pen and ink drawing describes the process of using pens to apply ink to a surface.  There is an endless amount of pen and ink techniques.  On this page, we will cover the basics of pen and ink drawing techniques, tools, and materials. Some of the materials you may need to create an ink drawing include ink, drawing pens, various nibs, graphite pencil, eraser, paper towel, a paint brush, and a drawing surface.

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As mentioned before, there are an endless amount of pen and ink techniques. There are however, a few that are used more frequently and are considered to be the standard for drawing with pen and ink.  The following video demonstrates a few of these techniques.  The techniques are explained further down this page.

There are variety of different types of pens for pen and ink drawing.  Traditional ink pens consist of a shaft with an interchangeable nib.  These nibs serve as a temporary reservoir for the ink.  These pens are sometimes referred to as dip pens because the user will dip them into an ink well to retrieve the ink.  Different nibs make different widths of line.  When using dip pens, it is advisable to pull the pen to make marks as pushing the pen could result in splatters. Be sure to clean your nib after each session as dried India ink is hard to remove. Speedball 10 Pen Nib Assorted Set

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.  

Nearly everyone has doodled with a pen in the margins of their paper. Drawing with pens can be as fun and easy as that!

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. 

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. 

The following video features excerpts recorded from a 2 part Live Lesson series on drawing with pen and ink. The full lessons (1 hour each) are available to members.

Bristol paper is a smooth surfaced paper that is heavier than regular drawing paper. Bristol paper tends to be a popular choice for pen and ink drawings because of it’s characteristics. Another popular choice for ink drawings is cold press illustration board. Although the tooth of cold press illustration board is generally rougher than Bristol paper, the thickness of the board adds more stability.  Some artists combine pen and ink drawing with other media, such as watercolor.  In these cases, the second medium may influence the surface chosen. Want to Learn More?

Victim of accidental ink spillage? Learn how to remove ink stains!

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

So you’ve got your paper and pen. What else might come in handy for your ink drawings? There are a few other materials that you might consider keeping on hand whilst working on your pen and ink drawing:

“The Pen and Ink Experience” is a members only video course on drawing with ink.  Featuring over 2 hours of video instruction and 51 pages of eBooks, the goal of this course is to provide the student with a comprehensive experience with pen and ink. Designed for beginners, this course lays the foundation necessary for success with pen and ink. HD videos and Ebooks. (8 Modules)

pencil – Ink is a very unforgiving medium. Once you make a mistake, the best you can do is try to cover it up by integrating the mistake into the drawing. Worst case scenario, you’ll need to start over.

That’s why a pencil is handy for lightly sketching in your initial drawing. kneaded rubber – If you’ve sketched in your drawing with pencil first, you’ll need to erase it after you’ve applied the ink.

I would recommend using a kneaded rubber, because you can mold it to the shape you need and it won’t leave any ‘flakes’ like some erasers do. ruler – If you want to make straight lines, rulers are essential.

templates – If you want to make perfect circles, ovals, or other shapes, you don’t need to torture yourself by trying to draw them perfectly freehand. Use a template! archival sealant spray – After you’re drawing is finished, it’s a good idea to give it a coating of archival spray.

This will seal in the inks, ensuring that they are waterproof. A good spray will help to protect your drawing.

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.  

Another type of pen for pen and ink drawing is called a technical pen. Technical pens, unlike dip pens allow for movement in various directions without fear of splattering.  Some technical pens have a reservoir built into the pen that can be refilled with ink, while other technical pens are disposable.  Refillable pens are more expensive while disposable pens are logically less expensive. 

Pentel XFL2L Scientific Brush – Medium Size SURFACES for Pen and Ink Drawing

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!  

My four favorite pens are currently the Prismacolor Premier Illustration Markers, Sakura Pigma Micron Pens, Staedtler Pigment Liner Pens, and Spectrum Noir Artliner Pens. These are the pens that I use to create my ink drawings. They come in a variety of nib thicknesses. I especially love the super tiny nibs (.005), because they allow for lots of detail. However, it is really handy having the thicker ones for filling in lots of space! Therefore, I would recommend having a range of nib sizes.

Aside from pencil, pen and ink drawings are probably the most portable, convenient, and low-cost form of artmaking. All you need is a pen and a piece of paper, and you’re ready to make art!

Most people are somewhat familiar with the process of shading with a pencil, but not everyone knows how to do it with a pen. Learn the basic techniques for creating value in pen and ink drawings.

Some interesting papers you may want to experiment with are: Yupo, vellum, colored paper, metallic paper, papyrus, Nepalese Lokta papers, Japanese paper and/or handmade paper.

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