Art Blog

5 Pen & Ink Techniques All Beginners Should Know

If you’re interested in drawing, pen and ink is one of the best ways to start. It’s easily accessible — you’ve probably got at least one basic ballpoint pen on your desk, right? And with its portability, you can practice the technique whenever, wherever you like.

Before you put ink to paper, however, there are 6 pen drawing techniques that you need to know. 

First things first: choosing the right supplies


Pen and ink techniques — pens to use

Ink pens come in a variety of tip sizes. Some are very small (fine-tipped) while others are wide. Depending on the size, they will make different marks

For the purposes of practicing these techniques, start with a pen that is fine to medium tipped. Some pens come in millimeter measurements; in that case, something like a 0.3mm or 0.5mm is best. 


Pen and ink techniques — ink to use

One technique that many pen & ink artists use features ink and a paintbrush. You’ll want to start with blank ink — I prefer Sumi ink because it has a beautifully rich black tone. For paintbrush, look for one that is meant for water-based media. 

Pen and ink drawing techniques to try

1. Hatching

Hatching pen technique

Hatching is the most basic of the pen and ink techniques. It involves making a series of straight lines on your paper.

The closer the marks are together, the darker they appear. These marks can be short or long, and you will typically make them all a similar length.

Hatching can have a flattening effect, as all the lines are straight and not necessarily following the contour of the subject you’re drawing. 

2. Crosshatching

cross hatching  pen technique

Crosshatching is the cousin to hatching. As the name implies, this approach involves you first making a series of straight lines in one direction, and then a series of lines in an intersecting direction (hence the “cross” in the name.) Like hatching, the closer the crosses are to one another, the darker they appear. 

3. Stippling

stippling  pen technique

Stippling is made for those with a lot of patience, as it involves creating a ton of tiny dots on the page.

Dots that are clustered tightly together will appear darker and give your drawing form. In addition, they can also bring an element of surface decoration to your work. 

4. Cross contour

cross contour  pen technique

Remember how I said hatching can flatten your drawing? Cross contouring helps give it form.

It works in much the same way as crosshatching, but the lines follow the contour of your subject. In doing this, your subject will look more rounded and three dimensional.

5. Scribbling or random lines

scribble pen technique

This technique challenges you to channel your inner child! It may seem silly, but scribbling can be useful even in the most professional compositions.

The random lines approach is great for building texture. I really like to use it when drawing leaves on trees — the scribble marks easily convey mass. Layer them in order to build depth in your drawing. 

6. Ink painting

Ink painting pen and ink technique

Although a majority of basic pen and ink techniques can be made with a writing utensil, ink painting requires different tools. For this, you’ll need a bottle of ink, paintbrush, water and palette ready.

One popular method is adding ink to your palette and diluting it with water. The more water, the lighter the ink will be. Then, start building layers by painting the ink, waiting for it to dry, and repeating the process until you have the desired tone. 

Alternatively, you can use a brush (a thin liner brush works best) to apply ink directly on the paper. Using a brush will produce a varied line weight and give your work a more painterly feel. 

You can use all of these techniques by themselves, but it’s more fun to mix and match them in your drawing. What will you try first?

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