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Pen and Ink Drawings: A Simple Foundation


Bristol Boards
Bristol boards are a favorite of many pen and inkers for their extremely smooth surface that is made specifically for mechanical drawings, pencil, pen, ink work, and even airbrush!

Blotting Paper
Blotting paper is used to absorb extra ink from the paper surface, and is especially important if you ever work with dipping pens, calligraphy pens, or any other instrument that applies ink but doesn't control the flow of ink, like homemade bamboo nibs (see below).


The pen is one of the most important tools for artists, crafters, typographers, and many others, both professional and enthusiast. The type of pen you use for your pen and ink artwork makes a huge impact of the quality of your work, and thus, it is important to know what to look for when looking for the right tool for your pen and ink artwork and experiments.

First, look for pens that use archival quality ink. This ink will stand the test of time, and is usually made of higher-quality pigments that reproduce very well with a range of paper types.

Second, decide on the nib size of your pen. The smaller the pen nib, the finer detail you can create. It is good to have a range of nib sizes: heavy areas of shading can take much longer with smaller nibs, and detail work requires the smallest nib possible for good depth and reproduction.

Technical Pens
Technical pens, or "tech pens", have traditionally been used by professional drafters, but artists quickly picked up on these precise, smooth pens for better pen and ink work. These pens also come in a range of colors, too, so make sure you are getting the color that you expect!

Homemade Bamboo Nibs
Want to start your creative endeavor before you ever put pen to paper? Consider making your own pen out of bamboo! Here is a great tutorial on making bamboo pen nibs from the blog, Daily Art (mas o menos).

Calligraphy Pens
Perhaps you are into pen and ink more for the art of writing, rather than drawing. If that applies to you, then embark into the wide, beautiful world of calligraphy! Calligraphy pens also come in a range of nib sizes, as well as inks, so you can customize your line work to be exactly what you want.

Shading & Line Techniques

Hatching and Crosshatching
This is the most basic shading technique, using straight, parallel lines in varying distances to create areas of shade. Hatching lines all go in one direction only, and are all parallel. Crosshatching is two layers of hatching, with each layer going in a different direction.

Contour Lines
This is a great shading technique to use to give more form and context to an object. Contour lines follow the shape of the object that you are drawing, and give it more of a defined look. Contour lines are great for drawing wood grain, for example.

Stippling is one of the more involved shading techniques because it takes much longer to make individual dots than it does to line shade. However, the time investment is well worth it, because stippling gives one of the most finished, professional looks of any shading technique. As with any shading technique, the closer together the dots are, the darker the shaded area will be, and the further apart, the lighter the shaded area will appear.

Scumbling is often called scribbling, or even the "Brillo Pad techinque" because the lines made are random scribbles that look like a Brillo Pad, of course! The lines are free flowing but controlled, and loop and twist around in a scribbly looking way.