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How can you let the viewer know what color the subject of your drawing is, when you're drawing only with black ink?

Why does an artist sometimes use brown ink or another color for pen-and-ink drawings?

What's stippling and what do you need plenty of when you start doing it?

In these pages, you will find the answers to these and many more questions about pen-and-ink drawing techniques.




Ink drawings are a fascinating form of art. Because of the limitations of the medium and the special ways in which effects must be achieved, ink drawings frequently have a uniqueness — a highly original view of the subject — that realistic art in other mediums does not have. Even people who know nothing at all about art become interested in examining the way in which the artist has created his drawing.

Because pen and ink can only make lines and the ink cannot be shaded as pencil can, everything in pen-and-ink drawings is accom-

FIGURE 1 — Pen and brush were both used ► to make this ink drawing. Both techniques are discussed in this lesson.

Pen And Ink Rendering Techniques

plished by different uses of lines. Lines may be put directly next to each other to form solid blocks of color. Inked lines quite close together create an overall dark area. The more the lines are spread apart, the lighter the area looks. Ink drawing relies on the eye of the viewer to "mix" the proportion of black lines to white paper to form gray values. Even though a person realizes he is looking at a series of black lines on white paper, the eye very cooperatively creates all the values in a pen-and-ink drawing. The artist has given the viewer's eye "instructions" by the spacing of the lines. Lines in different patterns create textures and when used properly, can even suggest color, as you'll discover later on. Light or white values are created simply by the absence of lines, letting the white paper represent all the lightest values. Perhaps one of the most intriguing things about pen-and-ink drawing is just how simply a few lines and a lot of white space can be made to convey so much to the viewer.


Now, before you try using pen and ink in your first Studio Study, let's take a look at the materials involved in this kind of artwork and find out how they're used.

Ink used for drawings should always be waterproof drawing ink. Ordinary writing ink should not be used. When done with the right materials, ink drawings are very long lasting.

Colored ink, although not as permanent as waterproof black ink, can also be used. Color can add interest to an ink rendering or can set a different mood. For example, a brown ink drawing can create a feeling that is entirely different from that of a black ink drawing. (In this lesson, we will use only black ink to simplify learning. After completing this Study Unit, you may want to experiment with colored inks. You'll find suggestions for their use at the end of this Study Unit.)

The paper used for ink drawings should be a drawing paper with a smooth or slightly textured surface. "Illustration board" and "bristol board" are also good for this purpose. Never use absorbent papers for ink drawings; not even for practice.

A penholder is used with assorted nibs to achieve lines of various thicknesses. (Nibs are the metal points inserted into the holder.) Thickness of the line is controlled both by the width of the nib selected and also, to some extent, by the pressure exerted when drawing the line.

Ink renderings can be made entirely with a pen. Many artists use pen and ink exclusively. Some artists also use brushes with ink, either in combination with pen drawing, or alone. Brush techniques will be described further on in these pages. We'll be concentrating on learning pen techniques in this lesson, however.

Other materials helpful to have around for ink work include cotton swabs, an art gum eraser, Chinese white opaque water-color, and a draftsman's ruling pen. If you get into doing a considerable amount of ink drawing, you'll probably want these and other materials and supplies. You can buy such materials from your local art supply store. Don't rush out to buy supplies right now, though. Pen and ink is just one of many exciting art techniques you'll learn to use as an artist. Learn to use all of them in your course before you invest in many additional supplies for any one medium. At this stage, you don't yet have any way of determining which medium will turn out to be your favorite. An artist will use whatever medium a particular project calls for, but invariably, he'll be inclined to favor using one or two in particular. So until you find out whether your own favorites are ink drawing or water-color, pastel or oil painting, don't stock up on supplies for any particular medium. There is a tendency to think that the art medium you're using at a particular moment is your favorite — until you go on to discover that the next one you use is your favorite — at least until you learn the next one!

Realistic Pen Sketching
FIGURE 2 — Notice how well the whites, solids and gray values work together to create a very real sense of daylight in this ink drawing.

(Pen-and-ink drawing by John Richard Rowe)

There are no hard-and-fast rules for arranging and using your materials when doing pen-and-ink rendering. The paper, ink and pens should be set up simply in the most convenient and natural way. You can draw at any table, or at a drawing table with a tilt top or use a drawing board. There is no need to attach the paper to the board. Unattached, the paper may be more easily turned ill many directions to render certain lines. A clean piece of paper should be placed under your hand at all times to prevent smudging or staining your drawing.

When you draw with ink, it's especially important not to move your hand over a wet part of your drawing or smudges will result. To avoid such smudges, start drawing at the appropriate corner of your paper.

If you are right handed, start at the top left of the drawing and work downward and toward the right.

If you are left handed, start at the top right and work down and toward the left.

The pen is held in the same way as in writing to provide the greatest freedom of movement for fingers, wrist and arm. Care must be taken not to spill the waterproof ink because it can cause permanent stains. If you're concerned about the possibility of spilling ink, you can tape the bottle of ink into a small open box or other container so that it won't spill as easily.

When dipping the pen into the inkwell, the pen should be dipped no further than halfway up the nib. Dipping the pen too far into the inkwell is the primary cause of depositing unwanted blobs of ink on a drawing. After each dip of the pen into the inkwell, a test stroke should be made on scrap paper before making a line on the drawing to see that the point is not clogged and that the ink does not blob.

(A) Hold the pen so that the point of the nib touches the paper without angling either to left or right.

How Hold Pen Correctly

(C) Never push the pen forward to draw a line. The point will dig into the paper and a ruined drawing will result.

FIGURE 3 — Handling the pen properly is easy. Just follow these few simple guidelines.

(A) Hold the pen so that the point of the nib touches the paper without angling either to left or right.

(B) Pull the pen awav from the line being drawn.

(C) Never push the pen forward to draw a line. The point will dig into the paper and a ruined drawing will result.

FIGURE 3 — Handling the pen properly is easy. Just follow these few simple guidelines.

Next, in the same way that you practiced the pen strokes, practice the hooked strokes, combined strokes and crosshatch strokes shown in the lower half of Figure 4. These strokes can be used to create textures and values in your ink drawings.

These exercises are the keys to all successful pen-and-ink rendering. You may be surprised to find that they are not as easy to do as they first appear. Repeat them until you can do them easily and feel comfortable doing so. This will give you a "basic vocabulary" of strokes and textures to use when you do ink rendering.


In the Studio Studies that follow in this lesson, you should always first draw lightly in pencil what you will later render in ink. Use an HB pencil. Then ink the drawing, let it dry and carefully erase the pencil lines.

Eventually, you may do some ink drawings directly without first making a pencil drawing. But for most complex subjects a preliminary pencil drawing is usually needed.

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Pencil Drawing Beginners Guide

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