If you are interested in pen and ink drawings, then the first step is to get started with pen and ink drawing materials. There are many different pen and ink drawing materials that you need to start using pen and ink art properly. In short, the 7 pen and ink drawing materials you will need are ink, nibs, technical pens, erasers, pencils, paper and brushes. This article will explore all of these pen and ink drawing materials in more detail, so that you can use them for your next pen and ink project!
What is considered pen and ink and why is it called pen and ink?
The term “pen and ink” refers to a drawing technique employing black and other colored inks that are applied to either paper or board with either a dip pen, a reservoir pen or a technical pen to create art.
7 Pen and Ink drawing materials to get started
The following 7 materials are what you will require to get started, they are not in any specific order of importance but if you have Ink, Paper and a simple pencil you have 90% of what is required.
The rest will make your experience a much better and productive one.
The types of ink you will require to get started with ink and pen drawing will depend on the pen and pen tips you use, some pens will require thicker ink or even waterproof ink.
This is why I tend to recommend pigment based ink as it covers both requirements – it is thicker and it dries waterproof and you can work over it with other inks and paints.
Inks can be water based or Indian inks that are oil-based. Indian Ink is a pigment based ink where the pigment is suspended in a binder. In addition to the different types of pen tips, there is a variety of pen points which change how thick or thin you want the pen line to look depending on pressure applied while drawing them with pen nibs.
Pigment based ink – this waterproof ink is generally used for pen drawings such as technical drawing where you need to avoid smudging your work when watercolouring over it later on.
The other benefit of pigment based ink is that it sits on top of the paper like a later of paint rather than being absorbed into the paper.
This means that if you are working with layering ink over watercolors then your ink or pen work will not get lost inside the paint work. Pigment based ink also tends to look blacker than dye based ink.
Dye based ink – If you are using dye based ink then you will not have the luxury of waterproofing, it also means you can’t apply other types of paints or markers to your drawing without the risk of the colors running or bleeding.
If you do choose to go with dye based ink, I suggest that the ink is the final layer applied to your drawing (after watercolors, pencils etc). Dye based inks are also more likely to fade over the years regardless of the paper you use.
Nibs and Dip Pens
If you are using ink from a bottle then you will need a method to draw the ink from the well/bottle into the pen’s ink reservoir. This can be achieved using pens that use a nib or a dip pen which is basically a handle and nib combination (or one piece) such as a bamboo dip pen (see below).
Nibs are made from a variety of materials including glass, metal and precious metals such as gold.
Nibs come in different shapes with the most common being round or pointed pen nibs which are used to create strokes that have more defined edges whereas stub nibs produce a wider line width due to their flat edge.
Using a nib may mean re-learning how to use a pen as it requires the artist to pull the pen down to draw a line. Trying to push the nib up may cause splattering.
If you think this will be a major issue for you then I suggest you use technical pens instead. I prefer technical pens as I keep forgetting to pull the nib and I ruin lots of drawings in the process.
Dipping pens come in both metal and wooden pen holders.
There are many different types of pen holder styles but they all have a reservoir to hold the ink and a means by which you can transfer that ink from the pen’s well/reservoir to it.
When creating pen and ink drawings, you may also use a graphite pencil to create a light drawing of your pen and ink drawings.
While some artists believe that pen and ink should be the sole medium, I have yet to come across an artist who solely uses pen and ink but rather they create a light drawing that is inked in once they are happy with the final drawing and have made any relevant edits they need. I tend to use a light graphite pencil such as a 2H pencil for all my preliminary sketches.
As for paper, many artists use either bristol board (cardboard) as it has a smooth surface for pen and ink artwork so they can get crisp edges around their lines but others prefer pulling out all stops by using hot press watercolor paper because its finish provides even smoother results than matte papers allowing them to do detailed shading tricks like hatching with pens without worrying about getting any smudging from their hands.
As soon as you have finished drawing, any graphite marks from the initial sketch can be erased. A kneaded eraser may be used to remove the graphite from the surface without altering the paper’s surface.
I have also include brushes as one of the pen and ink drawing materials as they are very useful if you want to create a blended effect with your pen. You can use natural hair or synthetic brushes, it does not actually matter when it comes to using ink.
If you are working with watercolor pencils as part of your pen and ink drawing then a brush is a must. Using watercolor pencils to sketch out your design before applying pen or black india ink allows you to be more experimental with colors.
Once you are happy with your pencil work you can then use the brush to wash in areas of color before applying ink.
I also like to use brushes when layer ink washes over large areas and I like to give my works a more organic feel than a rigid hard line made with pens.
When asked what pens do you use for pen and ink drawings I always refer to technical pens.
I love technical pens such as Sakura Pigma Micron pens and have used them since i was a teenager creating comic books at school. I actually use a technical pen as I am more comfortable using them as they suit my style of pen work. I simply struggle with the pull method of a nib in ink.
I have more information here on Sakura Pigma Micron. I find them the most versatile and have a fantastic waterproof finish that is super dark, not to mention they are quite affordable and easy to find.
While I do love my Sakura Pigma Micron pens, there are others. Here is a list of what I believe are the best drawing pens:
- Sakura Pigma Micron Pens are my personal choice for pen and ink artists.
- Staedtler Pigment Liner Sketch Pens.
- rOtring Rapidograph
- Kuretake Fountain Brush Pen – this is technically more a brush pen than an ink pen but I got great results with this pen.
7 Pen and ink drawing materials you’ll need – Wrap up!
There are many pen and ink drawing techniques and I believe you should use pen and ink materials that suit your style of drawing and work for you. Don’t feel compelled to use one method over another just because the majority opinion says so. In art, anything goes.
So when it comes down to pen and ink materials, you can use pen and ink for technical drawings, fine design work, calligraphy or writing. You should use pen inks that are waterproof. Also ensure you are using the correct type of paper. If you are still unsure, use the same type of paper that you would for watercolors.
Are there other types of pen and ink that you enjoy using? Have you tried any on this list before? Let me know what works well for you.
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Joseph Colella is a frustrated artist with over 40 years experience making art (who moonlights as a certified Business Analyst with over 20 years of experience in tech). While he holds a Diploma in Information Technology, in true wasted talent style he spent years trying to get into various Art degrees from the Accademia di Belle Arti (Napoli), and failed to get into the Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) at the University of Western Sydney. His goal is to attend the Julian Ashton School of Art at The Rocks Sydney when he retires from full time work. In his spare time, he writes for the this blog, WastedTalentInc, where he shares practical advice on art, making art, and art materials. Joseph’s art has been sold to collectors all over the world from the USA, Europe and Australasia. He is a trusted source for reliable art and copyright/fair use advice and is committed to helping his readers make informed decisions about making them a better artist.
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