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Applying Tone and Color with an Ink Wash

 

Building up tones with an ink wash - Step 1

Building up tones with an ink wash - Step 1

An ink wash is a transparent mixture of ink and water applied with a brush to create tone. You can mix washes of different shades by varying the ratio of ink and water. A light wash is a very transparent mixture with only a few drops of ink added to water. This is suitable for lighter areas of tone. A heavy wash is a darker mixture with a greater concentration of ink and is used for deeper tones.

Applying a wash is a more liberating and expressive technique than cross hatching and stippling for building up tones in an ink drawing. Several washes were used to build up the tone in our study of Lindisfarne Priory.

To begin with, a light wash was unevenly applied to the sky and foreground to suggest variations in the light. It is always advisable to start with a light wash which is easy to darken if applied too lightly. On the other hand, a heavy wash is almost impossible to lighten if applied too darkly.

 

Building up tones with an ink wash - Step 2

Building up tones with an ink wash - Step 2

In this next stage, the same light wash was applied to the shaded sections of the architecture to establish the tonal composition of the drawing. Note how the brightest areas of tone that are picking up direct sunlight were left as unpainted white paper.

 

Building up tones with an ink wash - Step 3

Building up tones with an ink wash - Step 3
(click to view a larger version of this drawing)

At this penultimate stage, a heavier wash was applied over the darker areas to create a more dramatic contrast of tones. In certain sections, this wash was applied twice to establish pockets of deeper shade.

 

Applying color to an ink drawing.

Applying color to an ink drawing.
(click to view a larger version of this drawing)

To complete our pen, ink and wash drawing of Lindisfarne Priory, we have applied a final wash using color inks.

The great advantage of drawing with Indian ink is that it is waterproof when dry. This means that you can paint over it with transparent color inks, dyes or watercolor without any danger of smudging your drawing.

In the finished work we used three different colors of ink: cobalt blue for the sky; yellow ochre for the architecture and sap green for the grass.

Before the ink was applied, the drawing was brushed with water to assist with the spreading and blending of the colors.

Finally, using a large brush, the ink was broadly applied to the sky, followed by the architecture and grass and then left to dry. It is important to execute this stage quickly and leave the ink to run and blend naturally. If you try to control it too much or are too detailed in its application, you will loose the spontaneity and freshness of the technique.

It takes a lot of courage to release control and let the color do its own work but the results are often better than anything you could have planned.

Good luck with your efforts!

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