Pens <k Inks jen and ink has been for centuries one of the most common drawing mediums. In the past pens were almost always made from quills, although reeds and bamboo were also used. Today there is an abundance of pens to choose from, many of which can be used by artists, although the quality of ink in most commercially available pens is often poor and will fade over time. Drawing in ink is always a great challenge because the ink is impossible to rub out and so in many senses embodies the spirit of drawing. Every mark made becomes a vital part of the evolution of a drawing and any mistakes can often be used in a constructive and interesting way.

Quill pen

Traditionally made from goose feathers, the quill pen is still hard to beat in terms of flexibility and versatility. Each quill will vary in performance depending on the strength and resistance of the shaft.

making a nib

1 Reeds, bamboo, and goose feathers are all suitable to be made into nibs. Use a craft knife to cut cleanly through one end of a reed.

2 Cut a curved section out of the back and trim the front into a point with two 45° angle cuts. Make a small cut to split the nib.

Choosing a pen

With so many different pens available, the only way to be sure of what suits your style is to test a random selection. A standard nib holder will take a variety of different width nibs, all of which give a variation of line depending upon the degree of pressure you exert. On the other hand technical drawing pens, which also come in a range of sizes, are hard and inflexible and give a consistent width of line regardless of pressure. Fountain pens are more convenient and give a good variety of line.

Reed pen

The common reed (Phragmites) is normally used to make reed pens and, like quill pens, each makes its own distinctive marks. Pens made from natural fibres need a lengthways split in the tip of the nib to act as a channel to hold the ink.

Italic nib Mapping nib Script nib Drawing nib Dip pens Steel nibs all respond well to pressure to give a thicker or thinner line. Standard penholders take most nibs, but tubular mapping nibs need a separate holder.

pens & inks

Sketch pen

This pen has a flexible steel nib in a fountain pen format.

Rollerball pen

Rollerball pens act like ballpoint pens to give a steady ink flow.

Fibre-tipped pen

A fibre tip allows the ink to flow smoothly in a thin line.

Technical pen

This pen gives both good control and a consistency of line.

Chinese brush

Sepia ink

Black ink

Chinese ink

Raw Sienna ink

Using the right ink

Of the two basic types of ink - non-waterproof and waterproof - most non-waterproof inks will eventually fade if exposed to light. You can easily test for fading by drawing some lines in different inks on a piece of paper and then covering one half and leaving the other exposed to the light for several months.

Sepia ink

Chinese ink

Use a Chinese brush and ink block (left) for eloquent yet controlled drawings.

Black ink

Chinese ink

Coloured inks

Of the many coloured inks you can buy, the more usual colours for drawing are black and a range of browns. In the past ink was usually made with ground lamp black or red ochre and a solution of glue or gum, moulded into dry sticks or blocks to be mixed with water. Prepared in a similar way, Indian ink is a mixture of carbon black and water stabilized by an alkaline solution such as gum arabic or shellac (a resinous substance used for making varnish).

oak gall ink

Oak leaf drawn with

You can make a permanent sepia ink with oak galls from oak trees. Crush the galls and boil the powder in water for two or three hours until the liquid is dark enough to strain.

oak gall ink

Oak leaf drawn with making ink

You can make a permanent sepia ink with oak galls from oak trees. Crush the galls and boil the powder in water for two or three hours until the liquid is dark enough to strain.

Raw Sienna ink f


Sanguine - meaning a blood red colour - can be used in its natural form by sharpening a piece of the red chalk to a point and fixing it into a holder. Processed sanguine is made up of iron oxide and chalk and then moulded into bars, sticks, or pencils.

Çhalks Charcoal

Compressed charcoal

Sanguine Conté crayon

Brown Conté crayon

Blue drawing chalk

White drawing chalk

6B charcoal pencil

4B charcoal pencil cut.

Brown Conté crayon

Blue drawing chalk

4B charcoal pencil

Sanguine pastel pencil

Sanguine pastel pencil

Conté crayons

A hard version of chalk, these are less prone to breaking and come in a wide range of colours.

Drawing chalks

Similar in texture and appearance to pastels, these leave a finer deposit than crayons. White chalk is only effective on toned paper or over another colour.

Charcoal pencils

Harder than charcoal sticks and graded, these pencils can be sharpened to a fine point for precise work.

Pastel pencils

Pastel pencils are ideal for creating fine lines and for delicate blending.

Compressed charcoal

White chalk is one of the oldest of drawing media and has been used in its natural state to heighten artists' drawings for hundreds of years. Red chalk, known as sanguine, is a rust coloured earth which can be located in areas such as central Italy. Nowadays, processed coloured chalks, or crayons, are produced by mixing the limestone rock with pigment, water, and a binding medium. Charcoal, another natural material commonly made of charred willow, is a highly versatile medium that has also been used for hundreds of years. Today the material is often compressed into solid sticks.


The rich, velvety black quality of charcoal makes it one of the boldest and most evocative mediums. It is sold in different degrees of hardness and thickness. Compressed charcoal has a more intense appearance than willow or vine charcoal sticks.


Drawing with Conté crayon

Conté crayons are a hard version of chalk, mixed with pigment and graphite and bound with gum and a small amount of grease. Their composition makes them harder to rub out than chalk or charcoal so it is difficult to erase any accidental lines. They do, however react in the same way as chalk when mixed with water, with the pigment loosened on the paper so that it acts like a wash. Use a textured paper so that the distinctive qualities of Conté crayon will be heightened.

Water has been absorbed by the lines of crayon so that they appear much darker and heavier.

3 Now use the damp sponge to loosen the pigment in the lines of crayon. The : gment should disperse into a light wash gives the figure a sense of shape.

1 Begin by wetting a large sheet of paper with a household sponge. This damp surface will cause the crayon marks to absorb some of the water and so appear thicker and heavier, giving a sense of solidity to the image of the figure.

2 Draw the outlines of the standing figure with a brown Conté crayon, sketching lightly to begin with and then reinforcing the lines once you are happy with the proportions. Don't worry about repeating lines if you need to alter a feature.

Conté crayon looks lighter and more grainy on dry paper.

Water has been absorbed by the lines of crayon so that they appear much darker and heavier.

Conté crayon looks lighter and more grainy on dry paper.

Study of a Girl

By mixing water with Conté crayon you can achieve an interesting drawing effect that should also encourage you to draw lucidly.


Household sponge

4 Use the tip of the crayon to describe the dark creases of the shirt and add any details such as the fingers on the girl's hand.

Pastel boxes

Pastels are sold individually or in boxed sets that keep the colours clean and protect them.

Pastel Types

Tihe opaque nature of soft pastels and their ability to cover a surface easily means that the medium may often be used in a painterly fashion. However pastels cannot be mixed in the same way that paint can, so they remain within the realms of drawing in as far as the dry sticks of pigment have to be applied individually to the surface of the paper in a series of marks and then overlaid or blended with one another. Pastels are essentially chalk that has been mixed with pigment and a binding medium. They vary in hardness depending on the particular pigments and the proportion of gum to chalk. The harder they are, the better suited they are to linear work.

Pastel boxes

Pastels are sold individually or in boxed sets that keep the colours clean and protect them.

Chalk pastels

These pastel sticks, with their brilliance of colour and ease of handling, are the most popular form of pastel. The purity of pigment is retained by using just a small amount of gum solution to bind the various quantities of coloured chalk into a solid form.

Protecting your work

The powdery composition of pastels makes them susceptible to smudging, so protect drawings with sheets of tracing paper.

Pastel pencils

Pastel pencils are a harder version of the sticks. While their pencil format makes them ideal for detailed work and delicate modelling, they are less suited to covering large surface areas.

pastel types

Wax crayons

The waxy consistency of these sticks means that they are resistant to water, yls a result, they can be combined with watercolour washes to provide interesting texture in a drawing.

Water-soluble pastels

Similar in consistency and texture to wax crayons, these pastels can be used wet or dry and either drawn straight on to a damp surface, or softened with a wet brush that disperses the pigments.


Torchons, or blending tools, are made of tightly rolled paper and are the thickness of a pencil. As the tip becomes soiled from pastel pigment, you can peel away a layer of paper to reveal a clean surface.

Spray fixative

The ease with which pastels smudge means that you must always seal a finished drawing with fixative. If you use a spray then pin the work to a vertical surface to prevent any drips marking the surface.

Oil pastels

These pastels are constituted with oil rather than gum, which makes them more translucent and sticky. Their advantages over soft pastels are that they adhere to paper easily, that the colours can be blended, and that they can be used for a variety of techniques such as "sgraffito" (p.36).

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Pencil Drawing Beginners Guide

Pencil Drawing Beginners Guide

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