How to: Ink

So I’ve been getting a lot of requests for ink assistance via Tumblr (You all are so precious) so I thought I should make some comments about that, and then I’ll go through and actually make a tutorial like I did for pencil.


Materials. I should preface this by saying get a good pen. I have done many a drawing in your run of the mill bic pen, but it’s not recommended, not that I have anything against Bic. Like I said in the pencil one where I confessed to using a mechanical pencil, I am the worst person to seek advice from in terms of materials, but Get a good pen (a DRAWING one, guys, I don’t mean steal a nice pen from your dad’s office or something). For those of you looking for a name, I had an Ironlak technical drawing pen. I, of course, destroyed it, because that’s what I do, but it was good while it lasted and I want another one.

Practice shading. I don’t care if you’ve been shading in pencil since you were a baby and could out-chiaroscuro Caravaggio, practice it in ink. A tip for anyone working with materials that aren’t their “go-to” (or even that are): You can never practice enough using them, and figuring out what exactly they can do. I promise you that. But, ink shades a lot different than pencil. Not to mention, ink drawings are typically meant to function differently than pencil ones, so you’ll need to address your ‘style’ (next tip). Ways to practice shading with pen? You can do a value scale, or a dozen, yes, but I also recommend practicing different ways of shading. What I mean is practice hatching, cross-hatching, contouring, pointalism, etcetera. Pens are complicated because they don’t blend the way a pencil does, and you shouldn’t feel bad if that makes you want to tear your hair out at first.  (Here’s a nice tutorial on these different methods of shading and what they look like for those who are thinking to themselves ‘what the hell is cross-hatching?’)

Style choices. Not just for the fashion majors out there. You need to figure out what kind of style your piece is meant to be. Some people do realistic style portraits in ink. Some do contour-esque drawings (think old school tattoos and coloring books). Whatever it is, you have to know, so you can keep your drawing consistent, and more important, your linework consistent. For instance, contour drawings typically involve bolder outlines, small areas of detail work that offers very little in terms of outright shading, etcetera. You’ll want to practice smooth lines (no ‘stop and start’ drawing) for this, and you’ll want different widths of pens to keep those bolder lines smooth.

Practice Laying Out. No, not tanning; in fact, I encourage you to do the exact opposite when it comes to tanning. But practicing drawing objects in pencil, or even just smaller samples in ink, can help you tremendously when it comes to laying out an actual drawing. Ink becomes more complicated because it doesn’t erase, so ‘building up’ figures and objects may not always be an option, especially if you’re doing a contour drawing. But practicing drawing these things in pencil first, or even on a smaller scale in ink, might help you to get it compositionally worked out, as well as proportionately correct. Because as sweet as your linework might end up looking, you can’t change the fact that a poorly proportioned girl with sweet linework is still a poorly proportioned girl. (Feel free to steal some practice laying-out tips from my pencil post here) Anyways, if you’re worried about it and just HAVE to do an ink drawing, you can lay the contours out (lightly) in pencil first, trace your lines in ink, and erase the pencil below (give your drawing some time to dry first, before smudging ink all over the place and hating yourself).

Paper Choice. You can go with what you want, because let’s face it, you will. But I use Bristol paper. I got a giant pack(s) of it from Michael’s or the like for relatively zero dollars (Sale!) But it has a smooth surface, a nice white tone, and is archival (it won’t turn yellow or completely disintegrate before my eyes). Check all these factors when purchasing, because it does come in different forms. It also comes in a bunch of sizes, so whatever you think you’d like (I bought a few different size packs, starting at 9×12, but remember: if you buy one too large, you can cut them down, but not visa-versa). You’ll need a smooth paper, so the ink lays flat against the page (In other words, don’t get charcoal paper in your adventure to ‘make your own choices’ or whatever, you bunch of spiteful folk) Most “books” of paper aren’t sealed so you can touch the paper in the store. They also tend to come with recommendations on what materials they might be intended for. Just a thought.

I’ll get on the actual tutorial, I promise. I’ll do it with my next ink drawing, so you’ll get an ink and typography tutorial all in one, like a buy one get one sale. Win!



6 responses to “How to: Ink

  1. "out-chiaroscuro Caravaggio"poetry.

  2. haha, tell me I'm wrong. I'd be pretty impressed, but they could still use the practice!

  3. truth.dude, this blog setup is weirding me out. I don't know if I can handle it.

  4. i'm not going to lie; i don't know how to change it back.

  5. umm, design>template? although i have no idea where you even found this one, soo…

  6. It's semi-fixed now, since I figured out how to get it to default on classic. I'm considering this a win.

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