7 BASIC Pen & Ink techniques to help you get started

By Nicole Tinkham
7 BASIC Pen & Ink techniques to help you get started

Pen and ink– these are two very scary words for any newbie. If the first thought that comes to mind when you hear these words is PERMANENT then you’re not alone. Many of us shy away from even trying pen and ink drawings for fear of making a mistake and not being able to easily fix it. Here’s what we want you to do today. We want you to LET GO of that fear. Anything you attempt in life will take time and practice, pen and ink being no different. One main difference between pen & ink and pencil drawing is shading. With a pencil, you can produce different shades depending on how much pressure you place on the pencil. Pens on the other hand don’t work that way. In order to get nice shading, you have to rely on TEXTURE. Don’t stress out, this is actually super fun. Continue reading for 7 BASIC pen & ink techniques and how to achieve them.

1.    Hatching

START HERE. This is the most basic of the 7 techniques listed in this blog. Hatching is simply straight parallel lines. No need to use a ruler though. The lines don’t have to be perfectly straight or the same distance apart. In fact, we prefer them not to be perfect. Give it some character!

Use hatching for: Light shadows

2.    Cross Hatching

Cross hatching is like hatching but doubled. You’ll create your straight parallel lines going one direction and then do the same exact thing going in the other direction so that the parallel lines cross.

Use cross hatching for: Deep shadows

3.    Contour

Take the parallel lines in your hatching technique and curve them with the shape of the object. This will give a 3D effect to the object and really make it stand out. Again, your lines don’t have to be perfect.

Use contour for: Dimensional effect

4.    Cross Contour

The cross contour technique is similar to that of the cross hatching technique. You’ll take your contour lines and cross over them with a second set of contour lines going the other direction. Be sure to follow the form of the object.

Use cross contour for: Enhanced dimensional effect

5.    Contrasting lines

We always think contrasting lines are so much fun.  These are shorter angled lines going in one direction and then another set of short angled lines going in the opposite direction (not overlapping). This is a more decorative approach and produces a detailed look.

Use contrasting lines for: Movement

6.    Stippling

Stippling is another fun one to play around with but also the most tedious one in this post. It’s basically a series of small dots, clustered where the shading should be. The further away the dots, the lighter the area. The closer they are together, the darker the shading.

Use stippling for: Detailed shading

7.    Doodles

Doodles are the exact opposite of hatching. Instead of shading with straight parallel lines, you’ll be shading with random squiggly lines. This technique is meant to be done loosely. Overlap squiggly lines where the shading is darker and thin them out where it’s lighter. This works great for furry or fuzzy areas.

Use doodles for: Depth

The 7 pen & ink techniques mentioned in this blog are simple enough but they do take some time and experimentation to understand when to use each one. You also don’t want to go overboard with a particular technique. Mix it up and remember that it’s ok to keep it basic. When beginning with pen & ink, you may be tempted to start out by sketching with a pencil first. It seems so much safer, right? But we want you to break out of your comfort zone. Take out your sketchbook and practice in ink. Keep working at it until you feel comfortable. You’ll improve your skill and discover new techniques along the way if you stay consistent with it.

Tell us, what’s your favorite pen & ink shading technique? Leave us a comment below.

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