Pen and Ink Tools – Part 2

Pen-and-ink Drawing Surfaces

Pen-and-ink drawings are usually created on different types of paper. The聽tooth聽or grain of the paper can affect the marks made by the pen. Because of this, most illustrators prefer to work on smoother surfaces that are still absorbent to the ink, creating detailed ink drawings in this way.

You can use ink to draw on your sketchbook paper, but over time this paper will warp or fray with the wetness of the ink. The paper in this sketchbook simply isn’t heavy or absorbent enough. For final work, illustrators usually choose something with a little more heft.


Bristol Board聽is a smooth-surfaced paper that’s heavier than regular drawing paper. It’s a popular choice for pen-and-ink drawings.


Another popular choice for ink drawings, and the paper used for this class, is聽hot-press watercolor paper. Hot press refers to the method used to make this special kind of paper. This paper’s surface has been ironed smooth, and is very versatile, allowing artists to make fine details in ink as well as combine other media such as watercolors or colored pencils.


Pen and Ink Tools – Part 1

In this class, for the most part we will be using a crow quill (or dipping pen) and/or聽a brush to make our marks.


However, an almost endless number of pen and ink tools and techniques exist, and it’s highly recommended that you experiment with as many opportunities as possible within this amazing medium.聽Some substantial differences exist between tools; it’s likely you will prefer some over others. Take the time to experiment and discover your own interests and comforts


In this and subsequent posts, we’ll cover the most commonly used pen-and-ink drawing tools and materials.聽In addition to the obvious ink-specific tools such as pens, brushes, and paper, you may also need to acquire paper towels, white-out pens (useful for reproduction work), an old toothbrush, and a water jar.




The first pens were made from feathers (quills), bamboo, or reeds. Usually, quills are created from the wing feathers of geese. Other common feathers used for quills come from the crow, eagle, owl, hawk, swan, and turkey. These feathers are carefully treated in order to retain their shape despite frequent wetting and drying. The hollow shaft of the feather acts as an ink reservoir, and ink flows to the tip by capillary action.

Crow Quill



The modern version of the traditional quill鈥攖he steel dipping pen, or crow quill鈥攔emains widely used by illustrators today.聽This pen is included in your supply list and is the one recommended for use in this course. A quill pen can produce either very delicate lines or thicker, more dramatic ones. It can also produce lines of varying width. Check out all the varied lines produced by a crow quill in the next image. When you press down on the crow quill, more ink is released, making the line thicker. Apply less pressure, and the line becomes thinner. This allows your line to vary from thick to thin and visa versa without having to change the position of the pen.


Aside from the traditional look it gives an image, a聽crow quill聽helps to develop hand techniques that are needed for all drawing media. When working with a quill, you must learn to control the pressure that you apply to the nib in order to vary the weight of your lines.

Crow quills are made of both a聽holder聽and a聽nib.聽The nib is the metal point that you dip into the ink. They come in a variety of sizes and with a variety of point shapes (pointed, angled, or rounded), but all are flexible, have a small hole or reservoir, and are split at the tip, thereby allowing the ink to flow onto the work surface. They also work on the same principle as the feather, sucking up the ink through capillary action. You’re encouraged to experiment with several different types and sizes of nibs in order to see how they all perform differently.

Caring For Your Crow Quill

When using your crow quill,聽don’t聽dip it into the ink past the nib. Doing so will cause messy, uncontrollable drips on your artwork and will also damage the pen, shortening its life. Dipping in just past the reservoir is ideal.



Drawing Pens


These drawing pens are similar to a felt tip pen, but they use archival ink. Several different brands exist but the most commonly used are the Microns pictured here. Various point sizes make it easy to control line weights. These pens are often used for sketching, particularly for comic book art and illustration. Again, note the consistent line weight and various sizes, each of which is ideal for different purposes. You’re highly encouraged to try using these pens if you haven’t already done so.


Brushes As Drawing Tools


Watercolor brushes and brushes for working in ink are generally the same: they both use water as the dilution and clean-up medium. However, keep in mind that once a brush has been used for inking, it’s difficult to get perfectly clean again, so be careful that leftover ink doesn’t stain your artwork when subsequently using other media. Keep in mind we are specifically discussing drawing here; painterly brush techniques will be covered in later modules.

Brushes used for drawing purposes are generally of a smaller gauge. Though the sizes of brushes you’ll use will vary given the size of your picture (the larger the picture, the larger the brush, in general), good sizes for general inking鈥攕uch as comic book style illustration鈥攁re the number 0 to number 3. These allow for both thicker and thinner lines, but will also give a “drawn,” as opposed to “painterly,” feel.

Also similar to the style produced via crow quill, a brush allows for line width variation based on pressure.聽For this course, drawing with a brush in addition to the crow quill is recommended. Take the time to practice with both.

Caring For Your Brushes

Don’t dip your brush into the ink all the way to the metal. This will make for a messy drawing tool and will shorten the life of your brush. Clean your brush every time you’re finished using it. If you plan to use it again in a short time, rinse it in water that’s completely clean. Don’t leave your brushes sitting in water for long periods of time, as this will damage your brushes’ tips. In general, it’s better to periodically wash brushes with soap and water, which will not only keep your brushes in good shape but will also ensure their ability to manipulate ink effectively. Don’t聽use turpentine or other hard solvents to clean, as they’re unnecessary with ink and will deteriorate the hairs on your brush.

Pen and Ink Illustration: an Introduction

We can trace pen-and-ink illustration’s roots back to the very earliest illuminated manuscripts.

An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which text is supplemented by additional decoration. The earliest known examples come from the Byzantine Empire, from 400 to 600 CE.


Illuminated manuscript

But regardless of the antiquity of the medium, pen and ink are used all the time by contemporary illustrators, with a spectrum of different results.


Yuko Shimizu Work Process Shot

Illustration and the Art of Printing

Illustration’s development has paralleled the art of printing and reproduction, with very specific moments in history periodically reinventing our medium. We can boil these moments down to a few landmark inventions:

  • the printing press
  • color lithography
  • photography
  • digital printing
  • digital media

Arguably, the invention of the printing press is still the most important thing that has occurred in the history of our art form.


When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, developing a movable type system in Europe between the years of 1440 and 1450, he completely revolutionized the world of human communication. He also initiated the marriage between illustration and publishing that still exists today.


Just as type could be reproduced for print, so could images. The invention of illustrating by means of cut woodblock followed closely the invention of moveable types for printing.


Early Chinese woodblock print

It’s important to note that Chinese were the first by far to use woodblock printing, with the earliest known work dating back to before 220 CE. However, in Western illustration the first woodblocks date from the beginning of the 15th century and the invention of Gutenberg’s press.

Gutenberg added illustrations鈥攗sually woodcuts鈥攖o his printed books. Very soon after that, books with woodcut illustrations became commonly available.

These illustrations were limited to black ink on white paper, forcing illustrators to render subject matter and to represent dimensionality using only lines, leading to the聽development of hatching in the pages shown here.


Illustrations by Erhard Ratdolt, 1488, in a book written by Persian astrologer Albumasar

Label Specs


Hello class-

As each of you is designing your concept sketches it is very important that you keep in mind the project specs (i.e. size, shape, colors requirement, and resolution) of the final art work.


So the art created for a beer can like the one below would be different than that created for a beer bottle or a wine label.


PLEASE keep in mind that you should feel free to be creative with this. 聽A label might have a rectangular or square shape, but it DOES NOT HAVE TO. 聽Not that the ones below do not. So when deciding on the overall shape, do what will make for the better and more unique overall illustration. 聽 The only rule is that it MUST BE FUNCTIONAL. 聽If you are not sure, use a photocopier and cut out your concept sketch and test it out on an actual bottle or box.

I’m including below some TYPICAL label templates as a helpful tool. 聽They are meant to print on 8.5 x 11 paper. 聽You don’t HAVE to use them. 聽Look at creative illustrated packaging for inspiration. 聽And really as long as it could actually work, the sky is the limit!

To get an idea of sizes: TYPICALLY a rectangular Wine Labels like these (theres also the little wrap around necker which you can choose to design or not!) are around 3.5″ x 4″


But you can also choose to design a wrap around image like these …

AND AGAIN… IT’S UP TO YOU. YOU DON”T have to conform to these shapes unless you choose to. 聽But be sure no matter what you choose your design will WORK.

Beer labels are typically聽2.5鈥 x 3.5鈥 for the most basic, and 7.375鈥 x 3.125鈥 for a wrap around. 聽And again… this is your call. Wrap arounds will provide you a little more room to illustrate, but do what will work best with your design.


As for illustrated cans… which offer a larger space to play with, copy the proportions of the examples below as I was unable to find a template for you. 聽And again, prioritize making some really creative and well illustrated images over conforming to the examples!


Figure Drawing Reference

Getting the right reference is key in creating a great final art piece!

Though we some times don’t know how to get our figure drawing exactly right… we can sure see when it has gone wrong! Poor drawing is one sure way to ruin a great idea. 聽So, lets get the right reference so that we can do out best work!

NOW of course the BEST thing to do is go and draw a REAL LIVE PERSON… but you may not have access or may not be able to get just the right pose for your visual concept. 聽FEAR NOT! 聽there are some great resources out there!



Art Pose聽and Art Pose Female Edition聽are perhaps the most practical and intuitive artist anatomy reference applications for iOS and Android. 聽You can pose your figure, see musculature and move your camera all around it. 聽You can even go to a silhouette view. 聽Pretty good stuff! Learn more!聽



Pixelovely聽Is probably my favorite reference site. It聽has figure great drawing poses, choose between kinds of models, clothed or nude male or female etc. 聽Plus animal poses!聽聽MEOW! Within each category are sub-categories. For example, under the animal category, you can choose the species of animal 鈥 and whether or not to time the session.



Quick Poses is a great figure reference site. You can choose between gesture drawings (timed poses) or random pose studies (not timed). There is a healthy selection of both clothed and nude models to choose from. 聽The site also includes tips to improve your study.


Life Drawing in New York

Since we are in New York City artists have many options to improve their life drawing skills聽by drawing聽from a model outside of this class. 聽Drawing from a model outside of class is REQUIRED. 聽Practicing our craft is VITAL! 聽Take advantage of the resources in our city!






The New York Society of Illustrators is an incredible resource for up and coming commercial artists. 聽The sketch night is a great way to get to know this institution. 聽Its lively with great models, live music, pro illustrators, and often comes with FOOD! 聽This one is wonderful and is the cheapest option I’ve found for students!













Shoestring Studio聽is a聽membership-based art studio聽serving painters, draftsmen, illustrators, and other artists in need of workspace, community, and shared resources. Their primary mission is to provide affordable, accessible workspace for artists in Crown Heights and the greater Brooklyn area. 聽They host figure drawing sessions several days per week at a very affordable rate. 聽You do not need to be a member to attend. 聽Be sure to ask about student discounts!