Tricks For Good Contrast Ink Drawing

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The series of pen strokes shown in Figure 5 is designed to help you develop technique for drawing rounded objects with pen and ink. First, practice making the series of strokes as they are shown in the illustration.

Next, try making a drawing of a simple sphere and a cylinder. First, outline the objects lightly on the paper with pencil. Then apply pen strokes as shown in Figure 5. The first sphere has an irregular shadow to contour one side, while the second is contoured by the indicated background. A variety of shadows used in the other three spheres shows the interesting effects you can create for a simple subject. The cylinder has been rendered with a variety of interesting strokes and broken lines. Notice that not every part of every line is shown in the second and third boxes in Figure 5.

Strokes For Ink Drawing

FIGURE 5 - Application of strokes.

FIGURE 5 - Application of strokes.

In any art medium, it is as important to learn what to omit as it is to learn what to put in. Omitting unnecessary detail is especially important to the pen-and-ink artist. This knowledge is acquired by practicing and experimenting, constantly striving for simplicity.

The lower half of Figure 5 shows various pen strokes applied to a box, creating studies in different values. (One is simply an outline.) Select a similar box for a model and make several lightly penciled outlines of it to serve as guidelines. Then, make various experiments with pen strokes on the penciled boxes, allowing plenty of white paper to remain untouched to represent the white and light-gray values. Remember that simplicity is the key to a successful, professional-looking rendering. After the ink has dried thoroughly, remove all pencil lines with a soft eraser. Neither the waterproof permanent ink nor the paper should be harmed by using a soft eraser or art gum on it.


When you use pen and ink instead of pencil, you'll find that you have to use different methods to achieve various artistic effects.


In pencil drawing, you found that various tone values are produced by employing different grades of pencils from hard to soft and varying the pressure on them. Since ink puts down only solid black, the only way to show various tone values is by controlling the amount of white space between the solid black ink strokes. As we said at the beginning of this lesson, the eye of the viewer then "mixes" the proportions of black and white it sees, so that the black and white mixes appear to be shades of gray. This phenomenon occurs even though the viewer knows that he is looking at black lines and white spaces.

A subject which has many tone values may be rendered easily in pen and ink if the lightest values are shown as white and the darkest values are shown as black. Only the general values of each mass need be shown. Finished ink renderings need have no more than five values from white to dark. This will simplify your rendering and avoid any tendency to overwork it and make it look complicated. Such overworking gives drawings an amateurish look.


In an ink rendering, contrast refers to the arrangement of values in the rendering. Even though you must achieve the sense of different values through the technique of spacing lines at different distances, you still must consider positioning blocks of "values" for good contrast.

In ink drawing, because you have a more limited range of values at your disposal, you may sometimes need to rely more on rearranging objects in the composition to achieve good contrast. It may be necessary to add objects or subtract objects from the scene in search of good contrast to a greater extent than would be necessary when using pencil or other mediums which have the full range of values.


With ink, as with pencil, color as well as values may be suggested, as shown in Figure 6. The rendering in the first sketch suggests two values, gray and white. The light source is apparent and the contrast is excellent, but no color is evident. No attempt has been made to show whether the dress is light-colored or dark-colored, or whether the neckerchief is the same color or a different color from the dress. In the second sketch in Figure 6, five values are indicated and it is clear that the kerchief is lighter in color than the dress and that the dress is lighter than the apron. Several textures are also indicated.

Although color cannot be shown in a pen-and-ink drawing made of black lines on white paper, the color can be suggested sufficiently so that anyone looking at a drawing can easily imagine the color you have tried to portray. For example, suppose that two figures are to be portrayed side by

Coloring Pages Praising God

FIGURE values.

— Suggesting color with five

FIGURE values.

— Suggesting color with five side. If one is in a vivid red dress and the other is in a medium blue dress, the actual difference in the tone values of the red and the blue may not be great. But the difference in color can be suggested by drawing lines that capture the difference in mood between the two. The red dress might be drawn with irregular lines that are rather sharp and broken, because red is an exciting and vibrating color. For the blue dress, smoothly-drawn parallel lines would suggest the color because blue is a quiet, peaceful color.

Surface Textures

The texture of surfaces such as wood, stone, glass, cloth, and metal, is suggested through various methods. For example, a plain brick wall ruled off to show all the joints in the brickwork makes a very monotonous, uninteresting drawing, since, pictorially, we are not particularly concerned with the masonry details. Properly rendered, a brick wall can be made to reveal its texture by merely showing a few bricks in its entire surface, as in Figure 7B, and sometimes without the direct indication of any bricks.

Vertical or horizontal lines drawn slowly can suggest the grain or texture of wood. Foliage may be suggested by rapidly drawn, short, irregular lines and curling strokes in many directions. Crosshatch lines suggest woven fabrics or rough surfaces; short vertical strokes suggest grass. Smooth or rough, shining or dull, there are surface textures to all tangible things on earth. Finding methods to suggest them in a black and white technique is one of the interesting challenges you face. Experiment with textural effects. The more you experiment, the more ideas you'll develop for expressing surfaces with various lines and tones. Use texture strokes sparingly. Instead of rendering an entire surface, you can often confine the texture mainly to the shaded parts.

Brittle Star Drawing
(A ) Mechanically rendered detail.
Brittle Star Drawing
(B) Technique suggesting texture.

FIGURE 7 — Uninteresting mechanical technique and interesting textured effect.

FIGURE 8 — Ink rendering of wooden models.

(Further on, under "Other Ink Techniques," you'll find a description of another way of adding textures to an ink drawing. It is called "pad stippling.")

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  • diamanda
    How to draw contrast ink?
    4 years ago
  • razanur brandybuck
    How to add contrast in ink drawing portait?
    2 years ago

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