Pen and Ink Lesson 2 from Home School Arts
Introduction to Pen & Ink

     These lessons are designed to do in order. If you have not done the pencil drawing/graphite lesson you may want to do it now. The pencil drawing/graphite lesson goes into detail about drawing styles and shading. Most of the same processes are used in pen & ink drawing like cross hatching, line drawing, contour line, etc. however because of the differences in the media there is also a lot that is not the same. In this lesson we are going to explore the ink media and composition. We are also going to do more drawing together. As we will do on the next page. If you feel comfortable with your understanding of the different types of line then lets continue now.

     While the use of pen & ink may be similar to pencil drawing in some fashion it is quite different in others. Basic line drawing, contour line, cross-hatching, scribbling/scumbling have similar techniques. However the nature of pen and ink can create more problems and it can also have more interesting and varied results. I will go over briefly the techniques of drawing as this lesson is covered in Pencil/Graphite in detail.

     One other thing that is different is that you can unintentionally smudge an ink drawing while the ink is wet f it indelible or when it is dry if it is water soluble and you rub your hand across the work.

Tools and Materials


     There are many pens on the market that you can choose from. Or if you are the adventurous type you may decide to make your own from feathers the way our forefathers did. You might also try different sticks, reeds, bamboo or other exotic materials. The crow quill dip pens and metal replacement points are still a good choice. However they will leak and splatter and require you to stop during your drawing to refill the nib. If you drop one you will have a mess that needs to be cleaned up quickly. Then there are fountain pens and felt tip markers. Each has a unique type of line. I encourage all of the above for you to try while experimenting with finding your style. However for the every day workhorse we are fortunate today to have other choices. The technical pen is a precise drawing instrument that does not have the problems inherent with the other media. Unless damaged or not taken care off the pens will not leak or clot and will allow you to draw in any direction with little effort. They come in refillable and throwaway models and range in price from inexpensive approximately $3.00 a pen to expensive $20.00 a pen. You can find these pens and other drawing instruments at you local arts supply shop.

     Now we need to talk about nib size. The pens come in different sizes ranging from 6x0-.13mm (very narrow) to 7-2.0mm (very thick). The 6x0 are very fine and I use them when I want to make very subtle shading gradations while stippling (using the pointillist method). I use the 3x0/.25mm, 00/.30mm, 1/.50mm and the 3/.80mm for most of the drawing applications that I do. In the following pages you will see examples of the work and for each I will tell you what pen size I used.


     Many companies manufacture India Ink and the quality of each depends on the process used by each company. India Ink is a mixture of water, carbon black (lampblack) and a binder of shellac, latex and other binding materials. The finer the lampblack usually the more flowing the ink. It is also very important that use choose ink that is not water soluble unless that is a planned part of your work. I use inks that are classified as permanent and good for all surfaces. As you can read I am not suggesting any particular brand as we all have our preferences. Ask your local arts supply or an artist in your community what they use. Part of the learning process is research and making decisions upon that research based on critical thought. Most of the colored inks are not light safe and are water-soluble. They will fade over time and will have to be kept away from high humidity sources and must be framed and treated with care. I guess it would be important to tell you at this time that once you have put ink to surface it is almost impossible to remove it. If your work is for reproduction purposes you could use white out to cover a small mistake but you have to make sure it is completely dry before you try inking over it again or it could clog your pen. Also if the work will be hung white out is not an option. You will have to start your work over.

Paper and Other Surfaces:

     When using India Ink it is important to choose the surface that will reflect the type of work you are doing. If you are using a technical pen and a very fine nib you will need a surface that is firm and smooth. The nib of the pen should move across the surface without hitting any bumps or snagging on the surface. This could cause a clog or an ink flare if the surface is weak or porous at that point. However if you are doing a Sumi-E drawing using a brush you can use a very delicate rice paper. Sumi-E is the art of Japanese brush painting with ink. We will talk more about that later.

     Hot Pressed Illustration Board is a very good surface to use the technical pen on. As the paper is made it goes through a pressing process using very hot rollers to compress and surface the paper. A very fine clay is also used in the manufacturing of the board and makes a surface that is very smooth or polished yet will allow some absorption of the ink. It will also allow for a very fine line in your work. This is the preferred surface for most of the artist I know. You can also use an Xacto-knife, razor blade or scalpel to remove and lighten the ink on the surface. However do not use any of these tools without supervision if you are a younger student. Parents or teachers I really want to impress at this point the danger of razor blades and art knives. They are usually very sharp and can cut without the student even knowing they are injured until they see the blood.

     Cold Pressed Illustration Board has a surface that is looser and therefore will allow some wicking of the ink on the surface. This will make your lines look less sharp and softer. It is also less forgiving if you do decide to use an art knife to remove a small mistake. The surface will usually shred under the knife if you are not extremely careful.

     Bristol Boards, Watercolor Papers, Acetate, Mylar, Glass are other surfaces that you can use. For this lesson I would ask that you get a paper specifically designed for ink. Any hot presses Bristol, Illustration or Watercolor paper will work. You can experiment with the other papers as you continue with your practice and your quest to find your own style.

     Now lets get on with the lesson.

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