Create Beautiful Artwork with Ink

Drawing and painting with ink is a time-honoured method: just look to the Chinese and Japanese traditions, where ink has been used for centuries for both painting and writing.

It is an incredibly expressive medium to work with, offering both rich depth of colour and sharp, powerful lines. Here are our top tips to help you make the most of wonderful inks!

1.  Practice your mark-making

Inks behave differently to paints, so it’s a good idea to spend a bit of time getting to know your inks.  If using water-soluble inks, try filling several plastic cups with various ratios of water to ink, including one pure ink. You can use different-sized brushes, and some nibbed dip pens with various nibs to work out how you can create different shapes and effects. By layering thin layers of ink you can build up the strength of your colour in a controlled way. Cross-hatching and small ‘scribbles’ make good textural marks. Play around!

2. Choose your surfaces wisely

Inks work well on both smooth surfaces and toothed watercolour paper, though each has very different properties so be careful when thinking about the effect you want. For detailed work with a dip pen, try a Bristol board, which is popular with illustrators as it has a very smooth, polished surface, reducing risk or the pen ‘catching’ and spoiling your image. Rough, heavy-textured paper works well for watered down inks, and if you want to try working ‘wet-to-wet’, which will give you some interesting, ethereal effects. Try combining both line drawing and layered ink washes for an interesting shade effect.

3. Embrace mistakes!

Part of the beauty of inks is the tentative risk-factor: at any minute, you can risk spoiling your painting with an accidental splatter or splodge. Practice will help you eliminate this, but if you can accept your errors, you will have a piece of work that is organic and dynamic. If you’d rather avoid any mistakes, make sure your nib or brush is not carrying too much excess ink, as this will push a bead of ink down onto your page. Make sure you have some absorbent paper to hand to dab.

4. Need for speed

Inks respond very well to speedy, quick sketches: think of the expressive sketches of Matisse or Picasso’s late works. Harness the flowing, free elements of ink in life drawing, using your brush to capture the sense of movement and basic shapes, and make the most of the change in width of your line to make some really interesting shapes. You may find that working with inks influences your style when you work with paints again!

Do you like working with ink? What are you top tips?  We’d love to see your examples!


Above Artworks: With thanks to Rose Davies, BobMan323 and Picasso




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