Unless you’re a real deal artist that displays your work in a gallery or at places like artist alley, you might not know a ton about pen and ink art. That’s okay! It’s easy for you to start out with this drawing style, and all you need is a few pens and some paper to make it happen.

You can get professional ink pens, nylon brushes, technical pens, and other precise artist tools. If you’re a beginner, however, a few everyday pens and the right techniques will do the trick.

Ready to get started? Here’s everything you need to know about pen and ink drawings!

What Are the Best Pens to Use for Ink Drawings?

You can’t create a true ink drawing without a good pen! The good news is you probably have what you need right in your drawer at home.

Use the following pens to create ink drawings:

  • Uni-Ball pen
  • Thin Sharpie
  • Fountain pen
  • Gel pen
  • Felt tip pen
  • Retractable ballpoint pen
  • “Dart” pen
  • Stylus pen
  • Dual pen & phone stand

1. Uni-Ball Pen

custom uni-ball pens

It’s a good idea to sketch an outline of your drawing first, and then come back in later with more details. A Uni-ball pen is perfect for this exact purpose! Use the pen to make decisive strokes and bold lines. It’s also great for creating heavy ink-filled areas.

2. Thin Sharpie

thin custom sharpies

Details, details! That’s exactly what you’ll get when you use a thin Sharpie for your ink drawings. The Sharpie brand is known for dark, permanent lines that won’t smear easily. With that in mind, a thin Sharpie is an amazing tool for you to have in your pencil pouch.

3. Fountain Pen

custom fountain pens

Do you want to give off an air of sophistication while creating your ink artwork? Behold the mighty fountain pen! This stylish writing utensil has been a fan favorite since it was first invented in 1827. You can be part of its history when you use this elegant pen to create your next work of art!

4. Gel Pen

custom gel pens

If you were a 90’s kid, you probably used gel pens to doodle all over your notebooks in school. It turns out these pens are just as good for artists who want to create ink drawings! You can find every color in the rainbow and then some, which comes in handy when it comes to adding colorful accents into your piece.

5. Felt Tip Pen

custom felt tip pens

A felt tip pen or marker has all the precision of a thin Sharpie (and all of the color choices), but it also has the added bonus of being easy to smear. This might seem like a negative at first until you think about how you can purposefully smear ink for an artistic effect – think a sunset in the background or a reflection on a body of water.

6. Retractable Ballpoint Pen

retractable ballpoint pens

You never know what ink colors you’ll need to use when creating your illustration. That’s the beauty of a pen that has them all in one! You can click between red, green, blue, and black ink, without having to put the pen down and grab a new one. Traveling artists swear by this style because they don’t have to carry around a bunch of pens.

7. “Dart” Pen

custom dart pens

The world of ballpoint pens is pretty vast, but one pen you’ll never get tired of using is the dart pen. Named for its pointy tip, this style is great for creating small dots or thin lines. Your artwork will always be right on target when you opt for this easy-to-use tool!

8. Stylus Pen

custom stylus pens

In this digital world, many artists create their art on not only paper, but also on a tablet or phone. That’s the genius behind a stylus pen! You can be in the mood to draw in your notebook one minute, and then easily flip over the pen to draw on your device the next. No swapping required!

9. Rubberized Pen

custom rubber pens

Are you buckling in for a long day of drawing? A rubberized pen should be your new best friend! It’s comfortable to hold, which will help you avoid any pesky cramps. Plus, it’s a great style if you create ink drawings for a living. For instance, caricature artists would love having this pen on their easel!

10. Dual Pen & Phone Stand

dual pen and phone stand

A phone stand with a pen attached is great for artists who want to hand draw an image from their mobile devices. If you transfer your ink drawings to digital copies, this dual stand/pen is also a great way to show off your work to other people.

Take inspiration from these real-life
examples of pen and ink drawings!

How to Draw With Ink Pens

Your first step in learning how to draw with ink pens is to find the right pens to use. Next, you’ll want to perfect your techniques so you’re always creating a true work of art!

These are the techniques you need to become familiar with:

pen and ink drawing techniques chart

Hatching – This is when the lines go in the same direction in a defined area. The lines will be parallel and will not cross over each other.

Cross Hatching – Cross hatching is just like hatching, only the lines will cross over one another.

Random Lines – The lines will go in all kinds of crazy directions. This technique helps you create texture.

Stippling – Stippling has you create a bunch of dots to create value in the drawing. It’s a time-consuming process, but well worth it for the final look.

Ink Wash – Imagine painting a picture. Ink wash works in the same way, with you laying on the ink with a brush versus a pen.

A true artist will mix and match the technique they’re using to create their masterpiece. Just keep on practicing, and you’ll eventually get the hang of all of the techniques listed above. It also doesn’t hurt to check resources like YouTube for “how to” videos!

What Else Should You Know About Pen and Ink Drawings?

You’re almost ready to get out there and create your ink artwork. Before you get going, keep the following pointers in mind so you can create something truly spectacular!

Tip 1: Choose the Right Paper

choose the right paper

Rough, yet soft paper is typically the best for ink drawings. You can get away with using regular drawing paper or even computer paper, but it might yield different results. Be aware of that before you start your artwork.

Tip 2: Set the Lighting

set the lighting

It can be hard to see your work if you’re in a dimly lit room. Make sure you have enough light to see your paper, and even better, head outside and draw under the sun. The natural light is good for your art and your happiness!

Tip 3: Sketch Pencil First

sketch in pencil first

Pencils are made with erasers, so it’s totally fine to sketch your initial drawing in pencil first and then go back through with your pens. No one will think you a lesser artist for going the safe route!

Tip 4: Hold the Pen at 45 Degrees

hold the pen at 45 degrees

You’ve probably held your pen the same way ever since you’ve learned how to write. It’s time to break that habit for your ink drawings! Keep the pen angled 45 degrees to the paper, start drawing closer to your body, and then move outward.

Tip 5: Use Your Arm and Not Just Your Wrist

use your arm to draw

Have you ever done a full body workout? Well, think about drawing with ink in the same way! You should use not only your wrist, but basically your entire arm and your shoulder. This is helpful when it comes to sweeping strokes and bold lines.

Tip 6: Create Different Textures

create different textures

Let’s say you’re drawing a rural landscape with a wooden fence, a stone pathway, and a brick barn with hay piles in front. You will want to change up the pen you’re using so you have varying lines/textures for each of those details. It also doesn’t hurt to change up how hard you’re gripping the pen while drawing.

Tip 7: Avoid Being Flat

avoid being flat

Part of the challenge in drawing with ink pens is breathing life into your art. Be careful not to fall into that trap! If you’re drawing a person, add little wrinkles under the eyes, clump the hair so it has lift and movement, and add realistic details like moles, scars, or blemishes. The less cartoony you are, the better! 

Tip 8: Cover Mistakes

cover mistakes

Don’t freak out if you accidentally make a mark you don’t want. Simply adjust the plan for your picture and work with the mistakes. You can cover lines with more lines, or add a freckle or two to a face if needed!

Tip 9: Take Frequent Breaks

take frequent breaks

Your back and bottom can get sore if you spend too much time working on your drawings. Get up every now and then to stretch and maybe grab a light snack and some water.

You’re well on your way from newbie to full-blown Picasso! Remember, practice makes progress so don’t worry if you end up blowing through a few pieces of paper before you get the hang of things. Just keep a good recycling bin nearby, and you’re good to go!


Check out more of Bridgette Wilhelmi’s work: https://wilhelmb.wixsite.com/brdgtree

Creative Bloq. (2019, September 25). Ink Drawing: Expert Tips to Get You Started. Retrieved from, https://www.creativebloq.com/illustration/get-started-ink-drawing-11618934

Fussell, M. Pen and Ink Drawing Techniques. Retrieved from, https://thevirtualinstructor.com/penandink.html

Medford, K. (2020, June 1). How to Ink a Drawing. Retrieved from, https://www.wikihow.com/Ink-a-Drawing

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