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  • Writer's pictureKonstantin

10 Beginner Queries On Ink Drawing - Solved For You

If you've ever run into an amazing Inktober post, you might have very likely been seduced by the power of this graphic medium. But how do professional artists use ink to achieve such levels of perfection?

How do you use ink for drawing?

There are two basic ways to draw with ink: a) modeling lines and b) modeling stains. The art of connecting these two practices is what lets one create powerful ink artworks.

Any ink drawing, from a child’s doodle to a Michelangelo study is somehow one of these two or its combination. Naturally, the level of proficiency depends on the quality and quantity of draftsmanship practice in the author’s hands and eyes. A particular trait of ink in contradistinction to other drawing media is that it has to be applied with a tool like a nib or a brush, just like a painting. But let's finally find out more.

I. What Is The Best Way To Start Ink Drawing?

Thinking of your model as a flat shape and modeling it on your surface as it were a clay figure. When drawing, it comes naturally to most people to substitute their sense of vision with their sense of touch and, while that is the reason why we let outlines prevail ever more as we age, because of this very same sense substitution, silhouetting would be the easiest way to start using ink.

This way you may slowly start developing a shape from a central point, going back and forth without stressing yourself too much about details and precision at the beginning of a drawing. It is easier to work on a flat shape rather than concerning yourself with volume and lighting if you are at an early stage of your draftsmanship.

II. Is Ink Harder Or Easier To Use Than Other Drawing Media?

It is definitely the toughest medium to master because it doesn’t allow you an instant of hesitation or distraction, and it often doesn’t allow you to leave until the piece you are working on is finished either.

III. What Is The Most Difficult Part of Drawing With Ink?

You can not correct it. Even watercolor allows you some tight margin of error in certain cases when you have to lift or displace pigment, but the ink doesn’t, at all. With ink, it’s always "make or break": you either get it right from start to finish or you get it wrong.

While every drawing medium demands some level of planning or intentional clarity, ink demands absolute concentration because there is no going back, ever.

Furthermore, while it is also true that every art piece requires pre-visualization, with ink you must have the clearest strategy while also accounting for its wonderful unpredictability (which is perhaps its greatest trait).

IV. Is It Worth Taking The Time To Learn Ink Drawing?

I encourage you to take an attentive look at Hasegawa Tohaku’s paintings or Rembrandt’s drawings. Let them convince you it is absolutely worth every minute.

No other medium is as infinitely bold and versatile.

It is not easy nor quick to master the many ways ink has been used over the course of millennia, but once you get the feel of the medium, there is no ceiling to what you can do. Besides, learning to draw with ink will make learning any other medium a downhill walk.

V. How Long Does It Take To Learn Ink Drawing?

That largely depends on how much and how smartly you practice. If you dedicate at least an hour to your practice every day, you may be noticing convincing results in about 6 months. If you keep that effort on, by the first year you won’t recognize yourself.

Just don’t forget that the Great Masters of the East (who invented the medium) sincerely considered that a couple of lifetimes would have barely sufficed to achieve the art they yearned for.

VI. Is Ink Better Than Other Drawing Media?

A particular medium is not better than any other; what’s there to explore is a vast range of differences that may better suit the creative needs of a specific and unique sensibility. That being said, no dark in the visual arts matches the absolute black hole-like purity of ink’s black, and no other medium matches its vitality.

Ink is a wild animal; it can't be tamed but, whenever paired with the right hands, watching it roam free and almost instantly transform into a world of beauty at every stroke is unforgettable.

VII. How Much Does It Cost To Draw With Ink?

Ink is --rightfully-- the prima donna of drawing media, thus --you guessed right-- it is the most expensive over a general comparison. However, it is far from unaffordable. A beginner’s kit consisting of a 50 ml ink bottle, a nib with its pen holder, and a small brush shouldn’t cost more than 20 USD.

Add to that a pack of Bond paper for another $5, and that should be enough for you to take on the aforementioned six months of first-stage training. Just like anything else, the fancier you get, the more you must pay.

Let’s say you have become really exquisite in your practice and you want to start drawing on silk just like the great Eastern masters of yore; well, a meter of fine silk can easily cost 100 USD.

Some tools, such as reed or fountain pens and large brushes with special hair, can be rather expensive as well, but they do bring the advantage of lasting a lifetime if carefully handled.

VIII. What Paper Should I Use To Draw With Ink?

That depends on how you wish to pair texture with your outline or stains, and how much you wish the medium to bleed once applied. As I suggested above, for basic undiluted (non-washed) applications of pure black ink, even a Bond sheet would suffice.

If you are mainly using a nib or pen to draw lines and you’d like something sturdier to work on, something like the Strathmore 400 Sketch Series or the Canson XL Series (they even produce a “Pen and Ink” block) sketchbooks are very reliable.

On the other hand, if you want to do washes, I would recommend you to use pulp (cellulose) watercolor paper.

In my opinion, using 100% cotton paper for this purpose would be a slight waste even if you are an accomplished draftsman, because, once applied, you can’t manipulate ink quite as watercolor anyway.

Another very enticing option for ink washes is Chinese and Japanese paper. There are important differences between the variety of traditional Asian papers that hopefully we will cover in a future occasion, but in any case, once your brush touches a sheet of Sheng Xuan (raw paper) you realize the inventors never lost the primacy of their craft.

Generally speaking, I would advise you against wasting your money on cheap porous papers, because the medium tends to bleed sideways and you can’t really have full control of your drawing.

IX. How Do You Draw With A Brush And Ink?

Once again, the inventors are unparalleled here. I encourage you to spend a lot of time watching traditional ink painting from the Far East.

The technical procedure is basically applying layers of water-mixed ink which becomes increasingly darker as the drawing develops. You can also start with your purest blacks and then work on your grey tones if you are using good paper, but I only recommend this to advanced students.

The incomparable beauty of using a brush, especially a Chinese brush, is that with a single tool you may accomplish anything you need to perform: since the point is completely malleable, you can draw outlines, stains of any conceivable shape and size, vibrant splashes, you name it;

There are no limits to this extraordinary instrument.

X. What Do You Use To Outline An Ink Drawing?

There is a reason why, even in the age of digital art, the term “inking” is still used when referring to a definitive outline. Many professional artists like to use different kinds of markers for this because these tools are more predictable than brushes, making it easier to achieve a consistent outline. However, an accomplished draftsman can use any combination of medium and tools that may hold a regular point along every stroke.

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