Pens, Brushes and Ink

Lately I've found that by diluting the ink to about 1 part ink to 8 parts water, that I can get much better control over the image, when working with color.

Essentially, the diluted ink will draw out nearly as strong as full strength ink... but if you damp it with a tissue, shortly after the drawing, it almost erases. So what the artist can do then is decide while drawing whether to use a full black line or just a hint of a shadowy line (which almost resembles pencil) I find that this keeps the ink line from overpowering the painting, but provides line where necessary.

Favorite ink / no contest: Calli Jet Black India 010 It's the most permanent & non clogging of any I've tried.

Favorite technical pen: Faber Castell (are they going out of business?) Bigger ink reservoir and best of all you can refill it quickly, without it making a mess!


Date: Fri, 17 Jul 1998 18:21:10 -0400 (EDT)
From: (Robert Hobbs)
Subject: Re: illustration: Tips & Tricks / Diluted Ink

Would you believe that I don't even use technical pens anymore? Believe it or not, I have actually gone back to crowquills for expressive line work and the ancient drafting pen for ruling lines.

Date: Fri, 17 Jul 1998 21:50:53 -0700
From: "Jessica Schiffman"
Subject: Re: illustration: Tips & Tricks / Diluted Ink

I still use technical pens occasionally, but I mostly use a Windsor Newton brush for inklines now. With practice, you can control the line width better than with any pen (my personal opinion).


I agree... technical pens are really best for doing really tiny detail. I usually use them just for doing the eyes and other critical areas... tiny lettering, etc.

I mostly use the Rotring art pens. I find the Rotrings pens are pretty good for expressive strokes... especially since my drawing style involves alot of going back over the just drawn line to achieve gradation of width. They really fly over the paper.... I've never had the patience required to use crow quills... seems like they always need to be redipped and then there's the accidental 'blob' factor! Good nibs are hard to find... I was told that the best makers stopped production back in the 50's.


Date: Tue, 22 Jul 1997 13:10:26 -0700
From: Jessica Schiffman
Subject: Re: illustration: Brush for inklines

At 01:20 PM 7/20/98 EDT, you wrote: "Jessica, please tell us more about doing inklines with a brush. I would love to be able to do this and have tried, with horrible results, although I think I control a brush well. How much practice time did it take you? Do you control it with your fingertips for tiny strokes, your wrist for larger and your elbow for those long, flowing strokes? Is there some secret I'm missing out on? The hardest thing seems to be small circular shapes. Any tips?"

Phyllis: I'll try to put in a nutshell what I've learned:

1) Always move the brush AWAY from you, as opposed to a pen, which you move toward yourself. Actually, you can move it toward yourself, but you get a rougher lines, as for a one-panel cartoon.

2) Yes, practicing is good, I spent alot of hours practicing in the beginning, and I still spend a half hour warming up if I haven't done this for awhile. A good exercise is to put tracing paper over the image you plan to work on and ink on that. Or, make a line that varies in width, and then try to repeat that exact line over and over.It can be kind of a meditation.

3) Your inkline line should always be on the OUTSIDE of the form you are outlining. The inside edge of your inkline will be right on your pencil line. UNLESS the form is black, then, your inkline has to be on the inside of the form, with the outside edge of the inkline on the pencil line. Otherwise, the black form would change shape. I hope I'm making sense.

4) I can't do circles either. I use an inking template and a technical pen. But sometimes I then go over it with a brush, letting the clean pen line show at the edge of the form, and the rougher brush line is the outer edge of the inkline. The same works for making straight lines with a ruler.

5) Don't try to use a cheaper brush. Only Windsor Newton works. It doesn't have to be a 00 either, a good brush comes to a very fine point even if its larger. I don't know what size I'm using, because the print wore off the brush handle.

6) Use waterproof ink (water soluble isn't black enough) and rinse your brush constantly. Keep a piece of paper next to you, and always twirl the tip if the brush on it to make a point after you dip.

7) If you hold the fingers of your left hand against the base of your right thumb, you can get some extra control.

8) For smaller lines I lay my right hand right down on the paper, on a piece of tracing paper so I don't smudge. Bigger lines I use my whole arm.

So much for a nutshell! Hope this helps. I love to give advice....Jessica

The comments on "Denril" has been vital, as I work quite a bit in B&W with a couple of publishers. The vellum I was using, along with the ink, was causing problems down the road. I thought my only option was to forget vellum altogether, and use illustration board. THANK YOU! now I know there is something else out there to consider using.


Have you tried the 'ArtPen' from Rotring? It's like a fountain pen... they work great!


I use the Art Pens... haven't tried the Sketch pens. I like the Art Pens because they're so reliable... I mostly use the F because the EF just doesn't seem to ink out fast enough for me.

I get a variation in line width from my naturally sketchy drawing style, where I back-up over the line I've just drawn to fatten it up. Also, with the pressure applied, one can vary the width to achieve a crow-quill effect.

I use Calli ink (jet black India 010) with the refillable cartridge... because I've found it to be the most waterproof and also ironically the least likely to clog up an unused pen.

I discovered a pen trick this summer. By keeping the pens in an airtight plastic container with a wet sponge, it really keeps them from drying out. I found a container shaped just right at a houseware store, with about six compartments long enough for pens and a hinged lid that snaps shut.


I've recently started seeing Gillott nibs in art stores again, after years of only finding them mentioned in books. The Gillott 1290 is one wierd nib ... it's very flexible, and the point is bent at a slight angle ... you can get incredible line variation with it, but it takes a while to get comfortable with.

Personally, I like the Hunt 101 "Imperial" nib ... it seems to have about the right degree of responsiveness for my style, and I like the results I get. They're also easy to find and dirt cheap. Some day I'll buy 1000 of 'em just to have a supply on hand.

- -pd

For waterproof pens, you should really try using a Lumocolor pen. Those are generally used for drawing on cells or film, and I've had great luck with those...

- -Ali

I did some several years ago for a client. I used a sumi pen (Like a sumi brush, with a felt tip and an ink cartridge) and I did it in reverse.

Here's the way it worked: I first did a fairly tight marker sketch of the illustration, using only a black marker. Then, I took that to Kinko's and got a reverse color copy (Black to white, white to black), took it home and put a sheet of tracing paper over it. then, I rendered the entire thing with the sumi pen in reverse. When done, I got a reverse stat shot and turned that in to the client. The brush strokes, when reversed, look amazingly like woodcut.

- -Mark

Here's an opportunity to spout about my favorite inking tool. It's a cartridge fountain pen, except instead of a pen nib, it has a real sable brush. The ink is not waterproof, but seems reasonably lightfast and permanent based on my casual tests. It's made in Japan by Kaimei, and sold with 3 cartridges. Refills are sold in sets of 10.

The only place I know of that carries these is Sax Arts & Crafts. They're on the Web, but I don't remember the URL. Anyway, I'd love to see these get more popular, 'cause then I'd be assured of always being able to buy more cartridges. It's really a great tool.

- -pd

When I do pen and ink work, my favourite paper is Paris paper (I know somebody mentioned it earlier). It's lightweight and bleedproof. The pad I have is 74 pound, made by Borden & Riley Paper Co.

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