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ams 08-15-2014 10:56 AM

Pen, Ink and Watercolor Demo
I became interested in Pen & Ink & Watercolor recently when a friend suggested we try plein air. In preparation for the day, I began practicing my sketching skills and tried pen & ink with my watercolor. I loved it. We didn't end up going plein air since it was raining but I continued with the pen & ink!

Some notes about paper

I experimented with a few different types of paper.

Bristol smooth works well for the pen and ink but doesn’t have any sizing so it absorbs the paint and the surface changes as soon as you add the watercolor. It makes it difficult to do any smooth graduated shading.

Some people like cold press but I found it was too rough to get a smooth ink line so the end result is quite different from a smooth paper. It gives more of a sketchy feel which you may like.

I had some left over Stonehenge from many years ago when I worked in colored pencil which I found worked the best for me. It is very similar to a hot press watercolor paper. If you already have a favorite hot press paper, that will probably work for you.

I only had some toned Stonehenge so I used that to practice on but I feel white works better. I found an old sketch on white Stonehenge and tried the pen, ink & watercolor on the back and it had a brightness I didn’t get when working on toned paper.

You will have to experiment to see what fits your style best.

Here are some examples so you can see the difference the paper makes. All paintings are 5” x 7” except the cold press example which is about 2” x 3".

A Basket of Peppers (Fawn toned Stonehenge, ref from Dewi)

Watering Cans (Strathmore 400 Bristol Smooth, ref from KreativeK)

Blue Lips (White Stonehenge, ref from KreativeK)

Cold Press Example, Sharpie Ultra Fine Point: Notice how the ink lines are broken instead of smooth.


ams 08-15-2014 11:05 AM

Re: Pen, Ink and Watercolor Demo
Some notes about pens...

For the first few pen & ink & watercolor paintings I did I used a Sharpie (Ultra Fine Point). If you buy a Sharpie, make sure you get the Ultra Fine Point, anything else will be too thick for work like this.

I feel that even the Sharpie Ultra fine is a little heavy for fur, feathers or other delicate texture or details. For those places, I have started to use a Pigma Micron pen, size 02. I have an assortment of Micron pens and it looks as if 01, 02 or 03 would work equally well for these situations. The 05 Micron is comparable to the Sharpie Ultra Fine, the 08 Micron is a little heavier. The 005 Micron is very fine and might not show up through the watercolor but I haven't tried it yet.

There is a thread over in the Pen & Ink forum that discusses pen choice in detail which you may find helpful.

Here a couple of examples to show what I have observed with the two pens I have worked with. Both are 5” x 7”. The demo that follows will be using a Micron 02 since it is a painting of a bird with delicate feathers. You will be able to see the difference there.

Fire Valley (Sharpie Ultra Fine worked fine for this subject, ref: missi51)

Cat (Sharpie Ultra Fine Point a little too heavy for the fur in a painting of this size, ref: Dewi)


ams 08-15-2014 11:11 AM

Re: Pen, Ink and Watercolor Demo
Demo of my Pen, Ink, Watercolor technique

The demo will be of a cardinal. The reference photo I am using is from the RIL (Shelly P). It is one of the photos in the Pen & Ink Monthly Project for August 2014.

Here are the steps I have been using for my Pen, Ink & Watercolor paintings. The Demo will be 5” x 7” on Stonehenge pearl gray, Pigma Micron Pen (Size 02).

The first step I did was to make a light pencil sketch. I like to use a 2b 0.5mm or 0.7mm mechanical pencil. I have tried a harder pencil in the past to keep the sketch light but I had problems with it damaging the paper. Instead, I work with a softer pencil and lighten the sketch before the inking step by blotting any areas of heavy graphite with a kneaded eraser.

Next, I applied the ink using a black Pigma Micron 02. I tried to keep the inking to a minimum, just using it to suggest texture and indicate some of the shadows. Notice that the edges of the bird are short little flicks of the pen to suggest feathers, not just a straight outline of the bird. On the other hand, the line is smooth where I drew the beak and the eye. I love how easy it was to get the detail on the legs and feet. It would be very difficult to do that in watercolor alone when working this small.

Last, I added watercolor to the drawing. I don't have to add much in the way of detail but I still like to add shadows by mixing each local color with its complement. Many of them are already indicated with the pen & ink but I will restate them with color and add some more shadow areas. I also put a small dot of opaque white on the eye since the pearl gray paper didn't give a bright enough highlight.

I haven’t been working with this technique very long but if you have any questions, post them in this thread and I’ll try to answer them.


dezzy 08-15-2014 12:20 PM

Re: Pen, Ink and Watercolor Demo
I love your style. I have always been drawn to pen & ink +wash. I especially love your Fire Valley and Blue Lips! They are beautiful!

I recently picked up a Strathmore toned tan sketchbook. It's definitely not meant for watercolors, but it took light washes ok. But like you mentioned, the tanned paper dulled the colors too much. Same with my copics for the most part. I did get it for general sketching and colored pencil work though...but I just had to try my other tools! I would have never thought to try the bristol, though it doesn't sound worth it anyway....but stonehenge! I totally need to try this later. I have an entire pad barely touched from back in my colored pencil days. So thank you for that tip!

Also if you haven't already, or are interested in such things...you might be interested in checking out Stillman and Birn sketchbooks for PA pen,ink, and wash work. They have different sizes and different paper thicknesses and smoothness. So far I've only used the alpha, but I haven't used it enough yet to determine how I like it for my wash work. But they are well loved and received.

ams 08-15-2014 01:27 PM

Re: Pen, Ink and Watercolor Demo
Thanks dezzy.

I did look into the Stillman and Birn sketchbooks and thought they didn't have a smooth surface in the heavy weight but I see in looking again that the Zeta series is exactly that. I sent for their free sample pack to give it a try but I will probably stick with the Stonehenge since it is much less expensive.


Yorky 08-15-2014 02:51 PM

Re: Pen, Ink and Watercolor Demo
I am a fan of pen and wash but have never incorporated pen shading.

I work on clod pressed sketch books and rough paper (for my A59 project) with no problems.


camazine 08-15-2014 03:00 PM

Re: Pen, Ink and Watercolor Demo
LOVELY, Anne! Blue Lips, the Cat and the Cardinal are my favorites. I think one of the key techniques in this kind of work is to get the right balance between the ink lines and the watercolor. As you said, you are trying to keep the inking to a minimum. I am wondering about the cross-hatching in the dark areas. I find it a bit distracting. You have managed to get nice dark areas under the cardinal's beak and around the cat's eye without cross hatching. Do you think there might be a way to avoid the cross hatching shadows under the cardinal and behind Blue Lips? Just a thought... Scott

ams 08-15-2014 04:03 PM

Re: Pen, Ink and Watercolor Demo
Doug and Scott,

I see what you mean about the cross hatch shading. I went over the shadow again and the cross hatch is less dominant but it's still there. Next time, I'll try the shadows with w/c alone. I am still feeling my way as to how much to ink. See below for updated cardinal with a darker shadow.

Doug (or anyone else)...if you have examples of different paper, pens, pen & ink styles that would fit in the thread and be helpful to people getting started with this technique, please feel free to post them.


Yorky 08-15-2014 04:15 PM

Re: Pen, Ink and Watercolor Demo
Don't misunderstand me Anne, shading and cross hatching is a legitimate technique in pen and wash.


ams 08-15-2014 04:46 PM

Re: Pen, Ink and Watercolor Demo
Thanks Doug. I know it's a technique used in pen and wash. What I am still experimenting with is how much "pen" vs. how much "wash." :D Like Scott, I also found the cross hatch shadow distracting but I may still end up preferring it. Time will tell. I am working small right now so I don't spend too much time on a single painting and I can try lots of different approaches.


dezzy 08-15-2014 07:08 PM

Re: Pen, Ink and Watercolor Demo
I don't really have much advice, as I've only dabbled over all these years, sadly. But since my recent re-dabbling..my interest has been in watercolor journaling. The likes of Cathy Johnson...Brenda Swenson...Jane LaFazio...styles such as theirs. I also just finished the Beginnings course of Sketchbook Skool. I find that simply looking at a wide variety of people's work/style and try to incorporate the little things I like into my work to make my pictures work for me. I want to be able to do like you were saying...have just enough ink work to make it pop (well it does that for me anyway hehe) without going overboard, and also letting the watercolor sing! That is why I really like your Fire Valley picture, it strikes that balance so well! My problem is I want to draw looser, and not so tight. That is my biggest hurdle! Your ink work in that picture looks loose, and fast, and sketchy, and to me anyway, perfect!

I recently just went through this the other day. I had drawn and sketched out some rolling pins, and shaded them in nicely. Was happy with them. But I hate pencil work, so I just had to ink them in. Then when I tried to shade them, I used a bunch of sketch marks with the pen to try the different values of shade, and it really just didn't come out well at all, and just ended up way overdone. So then I had to draw an anchor 2 days later. Again I inked it in...but remembered a whole other way to represent shade with pen...by using simple hatching to indicate the shaded areas...and it came out much cleaner and nicer! I guess at the end of the day it's all trial and error until we find our way!

camazine 08-15-2014 10:42 PM

Re: Pen, Ink and Watercolor Demo
Personally, I like your second more finely cross-hatched shadow on the cardinal. Perhaps you may even want to put some washes over the hatching. Since you start out with the pen and ink, I do think it is very helpful to put something down in the shadow areas.

I think the pen and ink works especially well for capturing delicate details, like the feathers and fur, and the fine grasses in the background of the cardinal.

Your cat reminds me of some of the illustrations done by Beatrix Potter, also using pen and ink plus watercolor. Take a look here and here

shadoj 08-16-2014 12:08 AM

Re: Pen, Ink and Watercolor Demo
So lovely! I may have to try this technique quite soon.

Your pen work does a good job indicating the texture of the feathers, beak, legs, pebbles, and grasses. Perhaps that's why the cross-hatching looks off? I get the impression of a shadow falling on burlap, yet the texture of the road seems either dusty or sandy. Have you tried pen-shading the shadow with dots, broken parallel lines, squiggles, etc. which might reflect the texture/perspective of the road under the bird?

Just a beginner here, so feel free to take things with a grain of salt ;) Happy painting and inking!

ams 08-16-2014 08:57 AM

Re: Pen, Ink and Watercolor Demo
camazine, I had forgotten about Beatrix Potter. She is a master of this technique...in my opinion, just the right balance of ink and watercolor.I am flattered that my work brought her to mind.

shadoj, welcome to wetcanvas! You're right, the cross hatch texture doesn't read correctly on the road. If I were using cross hatch in many different places, it would probably work but since the other places I am inking are for texture and not shading, it doesn't feel right.

Thanks everyone for the input. It is helping me to learn what questions I have to think about when I am ready to ink.


shadoj 08-16-2014 12:25 PM

Re: Pen, Ink and Watercolor Demo
Thanks for being kind :)

See, I love when folks pose questions and ask what is/isn't working. It tends to make me doodle more and try to figure things out on my own paper!

I don't think there's anything wrong with choosing cross-hatching to shade! I find it most effective when the hatching lines match the shape and perspective of the object... it's the parallel vertical lines in the shadow on the ground that are most distracting, because they pull the shadow "flat" up to the plane of the paper, giving it weight like the grass, rather than letting it appear as part of the receding road/background. Same way that evenly-spaced parallel horizontal lines used to shade an upright object tend to make it appear flat (good for cubes, not so much for spheres, columns, birds, etc.). Try it out if you like hatching -- a ground shadow without the parallel vertical lines, but plenty of horizontal ones and lots of angled ones. Imagine what would the road look like if it was painted like a checker board... that should give some great hatching angles!

Hope I didn't over-explain. I tend to do that :rolleyes:.

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