How to Make a Pen and Ink Illustration – Part 1

Pen and ink illustration has been around for a long time. There are many different styles.  I am going to show you a fairly simple and versatile style and method.  Please note some links are affiliate links to help you find products. These links make me money to keep this blog running, but cost you nothing to click on.

You will need:

Pencil and eraser – I use a plain old mechanical pencil from the grocery store, and a Mars white plastic erasor. The pink ones contain grit which damages paper. A damaged surface takes paint differently, so be careful with this.

A pen with ink – I usually use a Micon Pigma pen with a .005 tip and another that is thicker. This is very small, so remember to use a light touch with it so you don’t damage the tip.  Micron Pigmas use pigment ink, so it is lightfast and waterproof.  However you can work with any pen that feels good to you, just be aware many office supply pens are not waterproof.

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If you feel swanky you can use a dip pen like the Speedball dipper and a bottled ink. I use Higgins India Ink.  This takes a while to get used to.  Feel sorry for Harry Potter in his first week at school every time you make yours drip or scratch out!  With a metal nib pen like this be careful, it is easy to stab the paper and damage the surface, and also easy to stab yourself.

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Paper – I usually use Strathmore Bristol with a vellum surface. I find it holds pencil and ink better. The smooth bristol warps a lot more with watercolor.  However, if you are just starting out you can start with plain old white paper you use for your printer.  Just be aware it is super thin, so the ink may bleed and you wont be able to color with watercolors or liquid inks.

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And colour! you can use watercolour, goauche, brush inks, markers, colored pencils or even crayons. I usually use Pelikan gouache or Windsor Newton watercolours.  These get expensive fast, but the good news is the starter set will alst you for a good long time.

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Now find an image you like. I’m going to do something fairly simple yet interesting – a butterfly.

Butterfly stock image used by the kind permission of egil21 and found on Deviantart.  There are a number of sites where you can find stock images,. just remember the rights stay with the creator even if the let you use it for free. So be nice and say thank you!

My first step is to mark out the margins on my paper. Yup, margins. Since I expect (hope) someone will love and adore this picture and want to hang it on their wall, I need to leave space around the edges to go under the matte and picture frame.

After the margins I rough in the general shapes of the wings and anything else in the image.  Use loose circles and lines and draw very lightly. All this will get erased soon, but you need it to make sure you got your picture in a  good place on the page and still have space for everything.

Now to start the large shapes more solidly.  Pay attention to the relation of things .. this helps you match the proportions of what you are drawing.  This holds true for drawing from life, but photographs don’t fly away on you, so are much easier to start with. As you can see I’m simplifying the background and have made some random branch and leaves to make this image a little cleaner visually, and to finish it faster.

And now I’m sketching in the smaller details, and making some simply shading to show where I want the pen and ink shading later. I generally use crosshatching and line shading to indicate both volume and depth. With all the detail in it is time to start round one of the inking!

I start with my .005 pen and fill in my line work.  I always think this is the easiest part. The image is already there, I am just adding the ink. In some places you may miss the pencil line by a bit.  Don’t stop! that gives you wiggly lines and hesitation marks. Keep going!

With the first round of ink done, let it sit a minute or so to dry entirely. If you use a dip pen, give it up to a half hour or even overnight.  In the old days they would use a blotter (an absorbent paper) to soak up extra ink when writing letters. This is important in older detective fiction, since traces of the letters could be read that way, but not as common nowadays.

Now take your white plastic eraser and erase all the pencil marks, and those places where you have rubbed pencil graphite all over the page with the side of your hand. Or maybe that’s just me …

The eraser takes a small amount of the ink up, unfortunately. So now you can go back and touch up and lines that are too thin, or got a little faded.  As you can see with all the pencil up the image seems … thinner now.

I have gone back and added more detail and crosshatching to indicate both the fuzzy surface texture of the butterflies body, but also the shadowing of wing over wing and wing over leaf. On the branch I have used some curved lines to indicate both shadowing and a rounded surface.

I usually use single line, or crosshatching to shade in pen and ink image. However there are many other methods. Some people like dots, called stippling, and some use line thickness to make shading. I also use my shading line to help show when a shaded object is rounded, by curving the lines around the object

 

 

Most illustrations use several line thickness to add emphasis to the image, and to separate sections.  I am using my .03 Micron Pigma pen and going around the outside of the wings  to visually separate them.

Last step for the ink!   If any parts of the image are solid black, this is the time to put them in or make sure they are nice and solid.  I’m leaving a bit of texture on my butterfly wings, as the actual insect has a fair amount of shimmery texture itself.

 

With the actual inking all done, it’s time to take a break!

And by break I mean, bring the image over to my scanner and scan it in to Photoshop. A few small edits later, and I have one brand new image to add to my coloring page collection.  This also gives me a chance to mess aorund with various colors, if I can’t decide what I like best.

Tune next week for part 2 – the colors!

– Lyrra Madril

 

 

 

 

 

 

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