Artistic Tools for the Ink Drawing

Articles & Drawing Tutorials, Drawing With Ink, Tools

I’d like to tell you about the art supplies that I use for my drawings. Of course, these are not all the possible tools that you can make good use of; it’s rather a general classification.

Also in this post:

  • a couple of words about ink and paper,
  • quick tips on how to choose the right tool for the particular drawing example,
  • the hatching samples,
  • explanation how to interpret the numbers and letters marking the ink liner or pen,
  • the difference between the “SB” and “BS” marking on the brushpens,
  • what means the mysterious “SC” label and what are the so-called “calligraphic” tools,
  • examples of artworks drawn with a particular type of the tool from my portfolio.

I hope you’ll find much useful info!

  1. Nibs and liquid ink (preferably black ink, but it can also be of different colors)


For refined ink drawings, it’s great to use thin nibs, like calligraphic. Nibs can be thinner or thicker, so you can choose several kinds and widths of a nib for one drawing.

For drawing with a nib, you also need a bottle of ink and a couple of subsidiary tools such as a paper/cloth napkin and a small container of water for refreshing and cleaning the nib.

The most obvious advantage of this artistic tool is the possibility to vary the line according to the pressure the artist applies to the tool. A line that was drawn with a nib is notable for its expressiveness. Here are several examples of lines that change their width depending on the pressure: nib-strokesI like using nibs for creating contours in my drawings. Of course, it’s possible to draw a whole artwork with this tool, but it requires an advanced skill of line control. If you wish to create a detailed artwork with the only one tool, be sure that the paper sheet for it is big enough.

If you wish to draw a detailed artwork with the only one tool – a nib – be sure that the paper sheet for it is big enough. The best way is to start from the thinnest possible line that you can achieve and keep in mind the tolerance for the thicker varied line of the external contours.

Examples of “only nib” artworks from my portfolio:

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As you may notice after that comparison with the next “liners” gallery below, “only nib” artworks have a feel of something more thick, heavy, dark.

You may also be interested in this video postHow to Draw with Nib and Ink

2. Liners (also known as ink pens, technical pens)


These tools have one significant advantage – they are portable and handier than nibs. In a case with a nib and liquid ink (that is absolutely required), you have a possibility to throw down your ink container and get really messy. Usually, ink is extremely hard to wash away!

But ink liners are the tools that you can take with yourself just everywhere.

Liners have a fine pointed tip that can leave marks of different width, depending on the type of the liner. These tools have a marking of a line width that is clearly seen on the liner’s body or cap (for example, 0.1 or 0.5). The bigger is the number, the thicker is the line of the tool.

The number on the liner is usually close to the according value in millimeters, but it is not necessarily corresponding to it one-on-one. For example, as is said on Pigma Microns, a 0.3 liner line is close to 0.35 mm line width, and 0.2 liner creates a 0.30 mm line.

Sometimes there is not a number but a letter. For example, an XS (extra small), (S) small or M (medium) like on Faber-Castell Pitt pens. The decoding scheme is:  XS = 0.1 mm, S = 0.3 mm, F = 0.5 mm, M = 0.7 mm.

A small bonus for you: a visual comparison of ink pens line widths. On the image below you can also examine the tips of the tools. At the bottom of the it are the brushpens – about which we’ll talk next, in the segment number 3.


Liners have a characteristic that can be both an advantage and a limit: it doesn’t provide a line variation within the bounds of its width number.

In other words, if you have an ink liner of an x width, you can’t get a varied line or a line of 2x (0.5x) width than the actual value of your tool. The lines are uniform along the full length, and this makes impossible to create an expressively varied line at one try.

The lines are uniform along the full length, and this makes impossible to create an expressively varied line at one try. But this same characteristic allows making a great even hatching.

Here are two samples of hatching, created with a liner and nib. My skill of making even lines with a nib is quite advanced, so both hatching samples are alike. nib-and-liners-hatching
The liners are usually filled with amazing waterproof and fade proof ink. You can always check the liner’s body for the inscription that verifies it.

The tools that you can see in the image above are non-refillable. This is my personal choice because I don’t like the process of cleaning and refilling with ink that is necessary in a case with the refillable technical pens. Such refillable technical pens are also known as rapidographs and isographs. Rapidigraphs can write and draw only at an angle of  90 degrees relative to the paper, isographs can leave ink marks regardless of the angle.

The examples of “only liners” art from my portfolio are below. If you examine them, you may notice that these artworks have more transparent, aerial feel than the “nib” drawings.

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It is also possible to achive amazing artistic results, combining both nibs (for creating the counour) and liners (for details and thin hatching). Like here:freedomA note: There is another small category of ink pens, they are often called calligraphy or lettering pens (and have a marking like SC, where C is for calligraphic). These tools have a wider tip than the liners listed above, and this tip is slightly skewed.


I don’t use calligraphic pens a lot, but they are still great 🙂 I want to start learning hand lettering in future, so probably than I’ll have more impressions and experience to share with you.

3. Brushpens


Brushpens are similar to ink liners (pens) with their advantage of convenience and portability. They also have a marking on the body, it always has a “B” letter.

Please pay attention that SB and BS marks don’t provide the same information. BS means “small brush” and SB is “soft brush.”  The width value of the brushpen stands after the “B” letter.

Some brushpens can be refilled. However, I use non-refillable for the same reasons that I already named.

Some artists admire brushes for the ink drawing technique. I personally love liners (ink pens) more because they are amazing for the smallest details and give me the full control. But the brushes and brushpens are perfect for creating varied expressive lines, they are thick and dark. That’s why I use then for creating contours.

Examples of work with the countours made with a brushpen:

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4. Brushes

Personally I use “ordinary” artistic brushes very rarely. But when it comes to adding strokes with liquid white ink to my art, I usually pick a soft thin natural brush.

I heard that some great artists prefer brushes for their ink drawings because this tool helps to achieve a lively line with a slight tinge of elegant carelessness. There is some kind of magic when a tool has its own control while creating a line 🙂

Comparing brushes and brushpens, it can be said that brushes, in general, allow more diversity in applying strokes.

Brushes are also very handy when it comes to drawing something fluffy, like fur.


Also, I’d like to say a couple of words about the ink and paper I use. They are necessary materials when it comes to creating a beautiful graphics too, right? 🙂

I don’t have an absolute favorite among the ink samples. It’s just great to choose something steady and waterproof to be sure that your drawing can survive after an occasional drop of water (or coffee, or tea) 🙂 If you like to color your artworks with something like watercolor, it’s also very useful to have a waterproof ink.

In other words, read the description of goods and don’t take something really cheap. In the world of art supplies, it happens very seldom that a surprisingly inexpensive tool provides an impressive, long-lasting result.

As for paper, I used to draw on coated glossy paper (it resembles a photo paper), and the outcome was really nice. The hatches put onto this slick paper look a little bit thinner – comparing to the hatching drawn on ordinary thick paper like whatman. I especially love coated paper in combination with the nib tool: it draws so smoothly that the process becomes a pure pleasure.

A limit of coated glossy paper is that you can’t apply coloring onto it as a second layer – this type of paper goes great with ink, but it’s difficult to get it work with paints or colored pencils. It’s also complex to erase something from it – the inks are removing from the surface, too.

Now I work mostly on the thick whatman paper sheets with ink liners and brushpens. I like the slightly rough feeling of it and the crisp white color that is contrasting with the black ink.

You can use any paper you like, it’s just better to choose thick “heavy” types. A thin paper like office or printer types is not very good for the ink drawing because:

a) it isn’t good with two or more layers of ink,

b) you can wear a sheet of such paper out just at the stage of making a pencil underdrawing,

c) this paper creates unpleasant “waves” after a slight soakage, and

d) drawings made on thin paper look very poor.

That’s all for today. 🙂

I hope this guide was helpful and you found something useful. As I said in one of the previous posts, it’s not the tools who get you amazing result, it’s your mastery. Every artist has his or her own little tricks and “secrets” that help to achieve an outstanding look of the drawing. And all such tips require independent practice,  experimenting, and mastery of the artist.

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