As an illustrator, ink drawing can seem intimidating—it’s hard to correct a mistake, and it takes practice to get the strokes right. But, the contrast and definition you can create in an ink drawing are unparalleled, so it’s worth trying your hand at the technique!.

If you’re ready to dive into the world of pen and ink, here’s a guide on how to get started so you can create clean, controlled lines. 

1. Prep Your Workspace

Gather a paper towel, a cup of water, a brush, ink, scrap paper, and the paper you want to draw on. The scrap paper will cover your surface so that you don’t make too much of a mess. 

If you’ve never inked before, watercolor brushes are a good option. Also, consider synthetic brushes because they’re easy to maintain and often cheaper. Whichever type you choose, a soft brush is ideal for inking. And remember to always clean them when you’re finished to keep your brushes in good condition and preserve their longevity.

For your water cup, you don’t need anything fancy, but you may want to refresh it with clean water over time.

2. Make a Point

Make the tip of your brush into a point.
Make the tip of your brush into a point.

Dipping your brush in water creates the point for the brush. When your ink gets thicker, wetting the brush can adjust the thickness of the ink for a smoother drawing.

Bring your wet brush to a point with a soft paper towel. This will, again, make it easier to draw with.

3. Dip Brush in Ink

Dip your brush into the inkpot.
Dip your brush into the inkpot.

Select either water-soluble or waterproof ink—waterproof ink prevents major bleeding if there’s a spill. A favorite is Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star ink, but you can use anything handy or what’s available at your local art supply store.

Remove any excess ink by dabbing the brush on the paper.

4. Start Drawing

Play with the strokes and amount of ink you use.
Play with the strokes and amount of ink you use.

Practice different strokes with different brush sizes in a simple drawing.

Take note of your line quality, the ink absorption, and the ink consistency. Play with varying the amount of ink you let the brush absorb, according to how light or heavy you want the stroke weight. 

Make sure the line is always juicy, meaning you have a good amount of ink on the brush (unless you’re going for a dry texture). Pay attention to your paper, too—a bumpier paper will give you a different texture than a smooth finish.

Once you’re comfortable with your brushstrokes, you’ll be ready to incorporate nibs, harder brushes, and more into your drawings!

Improve Your Ink Drawing

Ink Drawing Techniques: Brush, Nib, and Pen Style