Learn How to Draw in Pen and Ink

Pen and Ink Equipment and Materials

View of an young illustrator working
Nicola Tree / Getty Images

The strong black line of pen and ink and the difficulty of fixing mistakes can make it seem daunting to beginners, but the upside is that it forces you to attack your drawing with confidence, so you make great improvements. To quote David Lloyd George, "Don't be afraid to take a big step. You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps."

Before you get started with pen drawing, you'll need to select your materials.

Drawing Pens: You can do basic line drawing with any pen - a black ballpoint will do the job, though it isn't archival, meaning it will fade over time. But it will be fine for practicing. A fiber-tip pen gives a nice line and you can purchase one with artist's quality, lightfast ink. However, to my mind, nothing surpasses the expressive line of an old-fashioned dip pen.
Top Ink Drawing Pens

Drawing Ink: To get smooth-flowing ink that doesn't tend to clog, try to choose the best you can afford. That said, many of the 'student' brands perform very well. Make sure you choose the right kind for your pen - archival inks are now available for fountain pens and drafting pens.
Top Drawing Inks

Ink Drawing Paper: There are many papers which are suitable for pen-and-ink drawing, and regular sketchbooks are fine for most line drawing. However, fibrous paper tends to catch and clog in nibs. For best results, choose a smoother, finer surface - even office printer paper is fine for sketching. For detailed work, you'll want a smooth surface, such as Illustrator board or Bristol Board. If you want to use wash or watercolor with the ink, you'll need a heavily sized paper - a hot-pressed watercolor paper is ideal. Lightweight paper will be fine for quick sketches, but if you do big washes, you'll need to stretch the paper to prevent it from cockling (buckling).

Equipment: Pencils for preliminary sketching, kitchen towel for blotting. If you wish to use washes, a Number 6 round Taklon (or similar synthetic) and a water pot. Use distilled water to dilute Indian ink. An old medicine dropper is handy for measuring out small amounts of ink or water.

Pen Maintenance:Clean and dry your pen after use. Pens can be washed with detergent and water and dried to prevent rust. Dried or sticky ink can be removed easily with an ammonia-based window cleaner.

Watch Now: Dos and Don'ts for Inking Comic Books