Techniques and Genres

Working with Ink

Working with Ink

One main difference between pen & ink and pencil drawing is shading. With a pencil, you can produce different shades depending on how much pressure you place on the pencil. Pens on the other hand don’t work that way. In order to get nice shading, you have to rely on texture.

Hatching is simply roughly straight lines. No need to use a ruler though. The lines don’t have to be perfectly straight or the same distance apart. You can take the parallel lines in your hatching technique and curve them with the shape of the object creating contour lines. This will give a 3D effect to the object and really make it stand out. A decorative effect can be achieved with angled lines going in one direction and then another set of short angled lines going in the opposite direction (not overlapping).

Stippling is basically a series of small dots, clustered ever closely the darker the shading should be. The further away the dots, the lighter the area. The closer they are together, the darker the shading. You can do the same with random squiggly lines and also overlap squiggly lines where the shading is darker and thin them out where it’s lighter. You are not limited to just one method of shading with a pen any more than you would be with a pencil. Combining pen work with ink washes is perhaps the easiest way to create an ink drawing image with some depth.

You can of course paint with ink and by watering it down create lighter tones but it’s best to water it down before applying it to the page. India ink is a standard staple for ink artists – it’s permanent and waterproof. Waterproof inks are best for line work while water-soluble ink should be used for washes. Wet ink must be handled with even more care once it has been applied to the paper. Always remember to watch your arm – you don’t want to swipe your sleeve across the wet ink. If you’re in a hurry to dry your ink, use a hairdryer.

Ink reacts differently if it is applied wet-in-wet rather than wet-on-dry. Working on a wet surface will give you much less control over how the ink behaves, If you want to try working in this way, opt for a ‘sized’ paper – paper with a resistant gelatine layer. Any paper that’s too absorbent will cause the ink to bleed. One of the most popular ink techniques is the line and wash method – mixing dark lines with washes of dilute colour (either ink or watercolour). Washing colour on top of black lines can often dull them so it helps to consider this when planning a drawing. In order to create a cohesive and balanced artwork, it can be best to work up line and wash in alternate layers on top of one another.

The familiar way of holding a paintbrush (leaning the brush into your hand at a diagonal angle to the paper) is actually the Western way. In the Far East, artists usually hold the brush completely vertically, away from the palm of the hand. If you’re still nervous about working with ink, you can always draw with a pencil first then go over it with ink and either rub out the pencil marks or build up your composition using both. Spontaneity and accepting mistakes often adds to an artwork so be bold and go for it!