Ink Painting Techniques


Ink is an incredibly versatile medium. When you are painting with ink, you can create many of the same strokes, textures and shapes that you can create with colored paint. However, because ink is restricted in tone, you will be forced to create works in black and white and gray scale. This limitation can be helpful to beginning artists as they struggle with composition, image clarity and even storytelling in their work.

Creating Different Strokes

  • One of the main advantages of using ink and brushes is that you can create a wide range of brush strokes. By varying the pressure you place with your hand, you can alternate between thin and light strokes to thick and wide. Test these strokes out on a piece of paper to practice your technique. See if you can change between thick and thin lines within the same stroke as an extra exercise.

Painting Figures

  • Creating figures with ink requires you to draw out at least the basic shape of the figure in pencil first. This is because you cannot paint over ink once it is on the page. You can draw out basic shapes such as an oval for the head, rectangle for the chest, triangle for the hips and simple lines for the limbs. With a frame in place, you can add hair with curved strokes and clothing with parallel lines around the limbs of the figure.

    Details such as eyes and mouths can be created with a few simple strokes. A mouth can be created with one slightly curved line for the upper lip and a bottom lip with a small curve underneath. Eyes can be made with a dot for the pupils and an small curved stroke for the eyelid.

Making Use of Light and Shadow

  • One of the main advantages of using ink for painting is the ability to play with bold spaces of light and almost sinister areas of dark. Drawing swamp trees is an excellent way to practice this technique. These dark and twisted trees can be drawn in sharp black with low curved vines hanging down across the branches. This will force you to create shapes the viewer can understand even in simple black and white.

    Once you have practiced creating art with bold black and white images, add variance and tones. Ink can be thinned with water just like paint. The more water you add, the lighter the ink will become. This can be used to create soft shapes that you can add shadows and details to later with slightly thicker ink. Because ink has a transparent quality you can layer on details, allow them to dry and then ink over them to create shadows.

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