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.

13 thoughts on “Pen and Ink Tools – Part 1

  1. Pingback: Reading on INKING | COMD 2313 Illustration 1, SP2018

  2. I find that certain tips like “When using your crow quill, don鈥檛 dip it into the ink past the nib.” and “Don鈥檛 dip your brush into the ink all the way to the metal.” make it less stressful inking but also prolongs the effectiveness of inking tools.

  3. The first pens were made from feathers , bamboo, or reeds. Don’t dip your pen past the nib. once you use brushes for inking its dangerous to use the brushes with any other medium. the ink will still be there. 0 to 3 brushes are good for inking comic books. it makes them look drawn and gives a better a control of thiner and thicker lines.

  4. I learned not to dip past the nib of a crow quill, since it can damage the tool and it can make your ink drawing look messy. So I think it鈥檚 important to be careful when trying it out. I also learned that the first pens were made from feathers, bamboo, or reeds.

  5. I learned that it’s not a good idea to dip your pen past the nib which will affect the inking tool and makes it’s more messy, tedious and difficult to ink with. Inking requires a lot of getting use to the quality and purpose of it’s properties when it comes to the materials your using. The first pens were made from feathers, bamboo or reeds.

  6. Reading this made me realize how important it is to take care of quills and other inking materials. If you dip a crow quill in ink past the nib, it will mess up the quill and shorten its usage. After trying inking myself, I realize that it requires patience and precision. After using the nibs and brushes to practice inking, the one I enjoyed using the most was the crow quill. Simply because I was so precise with it. It was easy making thin and thick lines with just one stroke.

  7. What I took from this was that ultimately, an artist must take care of their inking supplies. It can effect the life, and the quality of it. How much ink to put on the brush/crow quill, and how the thickness of a line line solely depends on the pressure you push down on the tool. And if you don’t want to use a brush or a crow quill ,you can always use a Micron pen as an alternative, however, be aware that each tool has different styles of lines.

  8. Reading on the importance of crown quill and brushes for inking, I’ve come to realize you must keep your supplise clean if you wish to have it for a long period of time. Also practicing with crow quill helps you strengthen your lines and make them cleaner. Working with brushes and quills have made me less messy with my lines. Along with the effective use of being bold with just simple strokes.

  9. What I’ve learned from this is that there are many different tools that can be used for the inking process. Each give your a variety of different styles that are possible. You must take care of your materials very carefully in order to extend the life of them. You can use the same materials for years if the proper care has been taken.

  10. certain tips like crow quill, don鈥檛 dip it into the ink past the nib. and Don鈥檛 dip your brush into the ink all the way to the metal. make it less trying to ink but also extend the effectiveness of inking tools.

  11. Theres many mediums on inking. What鈥檚 important those is the knowledge of learning how to use some of these equipment and caring for them because for example you have the crow quill. Dipping the pen all the way past the reservoir will drain it鈥檚 life, damage the pen and also mess up your piece. It鈥檚 best to dip just past the reservoir for better results on your drawing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *