Friday, April 01, 2005

Tools for drawing in ink.

So my last tutorial was on pencil drawing materials and this time we'll focus on inking supplies. Some of the drawing supplies apply here as well (refer to Drawing Materials for details on them), rulers, templates, scanner and software if you plan on displaying online. Most people prefer to ink over pencil lines as well so for your base drawing you'll need pencil drawing materials as well with the exception of blending tools.


There are quite a few options for pens that you have on what to use for inking, I'll list the pros and cons of each option.

Dip Pens: These are quite old fashioned pens but still are wonderful for drawing. You buy the holder and nib(the pen point) separately, this means you can have one or two holders for a wide variety of pens. The nib is loaded with india ink from a bottle (it must be india ink not fountain pen ink) either by dipping the pen right in the bottle or by applying the ink to the nib with a brush (much less messy). Dip pens can give a very wide range of line thicknesses just by pressing harder or lighter with the pen which makes for some beautiful ink effects. Also india ink is waterproof, non-bleeding, acid-free and non-fading. The disadvantages to dip pens are that they take some setting up (you have to get all the materials, put the pen together, load it with ink, and refill the nib often), they can be very messy since it involves lots of liquid ink, the nibs are pointy steel so you have to be careful of poking yourself, and they are not very portable.

Drawing Pens: Under this heading is a wide variety of pens and prices, some refillable, some disposable, and come in many line sizes. What they all have in common is durable, lightfast(won't fade), acid free, waterproof ink. They are very convenient if you don't like the prep time that dip pens require and they don't have the potential to cause as much mess, they are also quite portable. The downside to them it even if you buy several different sized pens you can't get the line variation that you can with dip pens. My reccomendations for affordable pens is Faber-Castel Pitt Pens, Zig Millenium Pens (I actually bought a pair of these in the scrapbook aisle in Walmart's craft department, I was quite surprised to find them since they are a quality pen), and Sakura Pigma Micron Pens.

Gel Pens: These are quite common pens, available in many colors and with nice thick opaque ink. They are very affordable you can buy them just about anywhere some are even acid-free and light fast. The disadvantages are the pen points sometimes clog up, there's no line variation, and they aren't waterproof. I wouldn't reccomend these for most art, but they are wonderful for doodling and the colored gel pens can be used for small accents in drawings.

Ballpoint Pens: These are the pens you see most often everyday for writing. There is a wide variation in quality of ballpoint pens, I'd only reccomend the nicer ballpoint pens (such as pilot) for any type of drawing. They are affordable and great for doodling and practice. However they sometimes bleed, are rarely lightfast, many aren't acid-free, and aren't waterproof.

Markers: There are several types of markers to consider, the first are art markers. These are usually acid free and lightfast but rarely waterproof and often are quite pricey, however it you enjoy large areas of ink they can be a good choice. The second type are permanent markers like sharpies, these aren't meant for art they aren't acid-free or lightfast and often bleed quite a bit. The third are childrens markers such as crayola, these are great only for little kids to play with not anything you want to really last.

Brushes: Okay so these aren't technically pens but you still use them for applying ink. Like dip pens you use them with bottles or india ink. You use them much like you would with paint. They can cover large areas with ink quickly. The disadvantages are that they can be very messy, aren't very portable, and they are probably the hardest to learn to get controlled lines with. I prefer using brushes with dip pens (pens for the lines, brush for filling in areas).

Fountain Pens: There are two types of fountain pens now. The first type is about the same as the refillable artist pens I mentioned, these have ink cartridges that you buy to replace the empty ones in the pens. The difference is that they have a nib similar to a dip pen. The other kind is very old fashioned and you fill by hand with liquid ink, not many of this sort are still made. Most fountain pens being sold new are intended for calligraphy (fancy writing) not drawing but I thought I'd include it anyway since some of them can be used for drawing. You have to use special fountain pen ink with them. The disadvantages are that they can be hard to find and they can be messy.


The following section is about inks, these are for use with brushes or dip pens. Of course you can buy prefilled pens with different inks in them if you want to try colored inks as well. There are also fountain pen inks in a variety of colors but I'm not familiar with those so I can't really cover them.

India ink: India ink is a rich dark black ink, it's waterproof which makes it perfect for going over with watercolors or thinned colored ink after it's dry. Chinese ink is very similar to india ink and has the same basic properties and most of the same ingredients. There are also some colored varieties of india ink as well but the term is usually used for the black ink.

Walnut Ink: This is a beautiful old fashioned brown ink, it's not waterproof but nice if you want to give your work an aged feel.

Acrylic Inks: These are waterproof, lightfast, colored inks that can be diluted with water to get lighter shades.


Pretty much any paper can be used for inking. Markers and some ballpoint pens will bleed on softer papers so always test on a corner before using. Bristol board and other illustration boards are most popular for crisp inking such as comics or detailed illustrations.