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Pen and Ink Drawing Lessons - A Detailed Drawing Technique

This pen and ink drawing lesson leads you through the various stages of a detailed illustration. You will learn about the use of cross-hatching and stippling techniques with Indian ink and how to color your work a watercolor wash.

  • Slide Show

This pen and ink drawing lesson leads you through the various stages in the development of our illustration. It is a mixed media work on paper, using pencil, Indian ink and watercolor.

Our slide show demonstrates how a detailed drawing of this type is built up in a series of layers that gradually contribute to the overall effect of the work.

This tutorial should help you to develop your basic drawing skills in pencil, the use of cross-hatching and stippling techniques with Indian ink, and your watercolor painting skills.

Choosing Your Subject

Choosing a view to draw.

A View of Whitby

For our illustration we chose a location with a flat frontal view. It is a view of houses on the River Esk valley in Whitby, North Yorkshire, England.

The way that the buildings stack up helps us to convey a sense of depth without the complications of perspective drawing. Buildings viewed from a high eye level are a very suitable subject for ink drawing as the flat planes of their walls and roofs lend themselves naturally to techniques such as cross hatching and stippling.

Selecting an area to draw.

Selecting an area to draw.

If you feel the overall view is too complicated, zoom into a smaller area of the scene which you may find easier to develop. Choose a section where the composition of the shapes, colors or textures of the buildings appeal to you.

This section was chosen for its pattern and shapes.

This section was chosen for its pattern and shapes.

A landscape drawing or painting does not have to be an identical copy of what the artist can see, but may have some of its elements adjusted to create a better composition. This section was chosen for the unity and pattern of its larger shapes. It has an even distribution of flat rectangular walls with angular gables and roofs. The smaller shapes of the chimneys and windows create an interesting counterpoint to these larger elements. Although the colors are quite similar throughout the image they can be changed in favour of a more interesting composition. Tiles, slates, brickwork and bushes provide a range of patterns and textures that can also be adjusted to contrast and harmonize different surfaces.

Step 1: Start with a pencil sketch

Begin your ink drawing with a pencil sketch.

The first step in this drawing is to sketch the scene in pencil. Draw the image lightly in line and avoid shading any areas. It is important to keep the paper clean because you will be applying transparent watercolor paint at the final stage.

This is the time to make any the big decisions about your composition: what to include and what to leave out. At this stage you can change your mind and erase or simplify details, but you don’t get a second chance once you start inking. When you are satisfied with your composition you are ready to start drawing in ink.

Step 2: Draw over your lines with ink

Draw over your lines with ink.

Using a nibbed pen and waterproof Indian ink, carefully draw over your pencil lines. As the ink can often take some time to dry, it is advisable to plan your approach to an ink drawing. If you are right-handed, start at the left hand side of the paper and work towards the right. This way you will avoid smudging sections that you have previously drawn which may still be damp. If you are left-handed, reverse these instructions. Once the ink is dry you can start to pencil in the patterns and textures of the tiles, slates, brickwork and bushes.

Step 3: Add pattern and texture

Add pattern and texture.

In a detailed landscape like this, it is advisable for the inexperienced to lightly pencil in the tiles, slates, and brickwork. Without the guidance of a pencil line, you could get into some difficulty when inking these small, complicated areas. However, some artists prefer not to use an underlying pencil line as they like the spontaneity of their marks and accept their ‘mistakes’ or lapses of concentration as part of the natural drawing process.

Some of the walls in our drawing have been patterned with brickwork, while others have been stippled with dots to suggest a pebble dash texture. A few have been left plain to evoke a stucco finish. The bushes have also been stippled in graduated tones to convey their texture and form.

Slates that are too small to draw individually have been suggested by hatched lines.

We mentioned on the previous page, when talking about shapes and colors, that a landscape drawing or painting does not have to be an identical copy of what the artist can see, but that it may have some of its elements adjusted to create a better composition. The same applies to patterns and textures. You can change, simplify or enhance these for creative effect.

Step 4: Apply tone with cross-hatching and stippling

Apply tone with cross-hatching and stippling.

The technique of cross-hatching is used to apply tone to those parts of the buildings that are in shade. Cross-hatching begins to establish the overall form of the image. The shade of a tone can be increased or reduced depending on the number of hatched layers applied: a lighter shade is achieved with a single layer of hatching, while each additional layer darkens the tone.

It is advisable to build up the tones gradually across the entire image rather than completing the drawing in small sections. This way you are more able to achieve an overall tonal unity throughout the composition.

Step 5: Adjust hatching and stippling to balance tones

Adjust hatching and stippling to balance tones.

Once you have established the basic areas of dark and light, you can start to unify the overall tone of the drawing by fine tuning your cross-hatching and stippling. You may need to intensify the hatching and stippling of certain areas in order to balance the different depths of shade throughout the composition.

Step 6: Use dark tones for the windows

Use dark tones for the windows.

After some further tinkering with the tones and textures across the image, the ink drawing is finally completed by darkening the windows. This adds to the solidity of the buildings by suggesting their interior depth. The windows in a drawing of a building are nearly always dark. The one time they can appear bright is at night when they are illuminated from within.

The objective in balancing the elements of this or any other drawing is to ensure that all the lines, shapes, tones, textures and patterns work together in harmony, with each element contributing its strengths to the overall composition, without overpowering the qualities of the others.

Once you have finished your ink drawing, you may be pleased with the result and be happy to leave it as it is. On the other hand, you may feel that you want to enhance the image with the addition of some color. A watercolor wash is often applied to add a colorful dimension to a monochrome pen and ink drawing.

Step 7: Applying a watercolor wash

Applying color with a watercolor wash.

The great advantage of drawing with Indian ink is that it is waterproof when dry. This means that you can paint over it with watercolor without any danger of smudging your drawing. You can even rinse off any excess paint under a tap without damaging the work. However, if you are going to apply watercolor, it is advisable to use a heavier paper (180gms or more), so that it will not disintegrate when wet.

Watercolor is a paint that should be mixed liberally with water to achieve a transparent wash. Watercolors are at their luminous best when applied in thin washes allowing the white of the paper to shine through. The intensity of the color can be built up with successive washes.

Our watercolor was applied in one or two transparent washes of flat color, thin enough to let the drawing below shine through to establish the tone of the work. We used some of the tertiary colors of the original scene, but have also introduced some secondary hues to adjust the mood. Color is the element that has the strongest effect on your emotions and must be used carefully and knowledgeably to capture an appropriate mood for your work.

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