The Basics Of Ink Techniques: How to Draw Beautiful, Expressive Lines

Articles, Drawing with ink

In today’s article, I’ll show you how to create expressive lines that will help to convey your thoughts and ideas and transform them into amazing ink art.

We’ll also discuss the difference between a line and a hatch, and observe how to make your line work better.

Lines in your drawing are very important. They are responsible for the overall look and feel of the artwork, and the clear distinction between all the objects you depicted.

This post is a part of the series “The Basics of Drawing with Ink.” I had to publish the articles of the series separately because there is just too much information for one.

In this series, we are exploring the pillars of ink drawing mastery: line, hatching, cross-hatching and contour hatching.

Everything starts from those basics. You can build any texture in your ink drawing, and exactly the knowledge of the basics gives you endless possibilities.

You may also find interesting these parts:

Introduction to Dotwork (Stippling) Technique in Ink

The Basics of Ink Techniques: Hatching and Cross-Hatching

So let’s begin with the lines and everything that relates to them!

What Are Lines?

Let’s settle on the terms – to be sure that we’ll understand each other. 🙂

A line, in contrast to a hatch, is an all-sufficient unit in the drawing that has a distinctive feature and expressiveness (it may be perceived emotionally in some way – an aggressive line, a gentle line, etc.).

Lines usually vary in width, while hatches are uniform. That’s why groups of hatches work together so greatly – they don’t distract the viewer’s attention one from another.

Another difference is not a strict rule, but it is quite common: lines are, on average, longer than hatches – just because the lengthiness helps to tell a story. And a hatch is rather a small screw of the drawing system; grouped in hatching, they create an appropriate background.Lines often serve as contours in the ink drawings (I usually use lines exactly this way). They can be found in drawings of any kind, but where lines happen to be a core technique, is doodle art and coloring pages art.

How to Draw a Beautiful, Expressive Line?

You can use a nib, an ink liner (ink pen), a brush pen or a brush. Any tool has distinctive features; for example, to get control over brush pens or brushes you probably will need more time and experience.

Note: this article explains the main features and differences of named art supplies.

I personally love using pointed nibs and brush pens, because they allow me to vary the width of my lines – from very thin to broad – depending on how hard I press on the tool while drawing a line.

It’s hard to achieve a proper line variation with an ink liner (pen) because the width of the tip of your tool remains the same, no matter how hard you press. However, you get the best control with ink liner, this means – no surprises in the line quality.

You can also vary the angle of your tool towards the paper sheet and the speed of drawing – everything has an effect on the line’s appearance.

Compare the lines made with an ink liner and a brush pen at the image below:

Not only bodies of lines can be different, but also the starting and ending points (let’s call them “ends”).

An end can be chopped (I call it a “full stop”) or loose. Everything depends on which one serves the objects in your drawing in a more appropriate way.

To make a “full stop” end, I slow the movements of my arm. Just be aware that you can make an unpleasant blob if you will be completing your line too slow with the tip of your tool still on the paper.

Loose ends can be created with a swift and easy pressure movement of the arm.

Here is the difference between lines’ ends (these are made with a brush pen)

And here are the lines drawn with a wide-tip ink liner:

The principle is simple – just experiment with the pressure, the speed of drawing and explore your artistic tool.

You, my dear Reader, may look at all these lines and think that I’m talking only about straight lines and all these principles apply only to those simple direct lines. But they can be absolutely different! Like at the image below:

As you can see, you have endless possibilities 😉

How Do I Apply This Knowledge?

Let’s observe some examples of how lines can enrich an ink drawing.

At the beginning of this post, I talked about the coloring pages art. Here I have a simple yet pretty example of a coloring page that consists almost of lines (the hatches are a minority that helps to give a bit of volume to the drawing).In the past, I loved drawing various doodle portraits; this was my way to relax. On this video, you can watch the process of creating such an artwork. It is very simple too – just contouring lines.

I also include lines in my complex ink art. For example, when I was drawing this “The Wisdom Of Nature” artwork, I started it with contours (leaves, mouse, skull, frame elements were contoured with lines).

That piece has many lines made with a brush pen – expressive lines that are different from just uniform, almost featureless, hatches. And, in combination with dots and thought-out hatching, this artwork looks really textured and impressive.

Below you can see a drawing that I’m currently working on. You can observe the early stage – here are many contours of weed, the outlined objects look a bit flat, but when I add some hatching and dots to them, everything will become textured and credible.

How to Practice

You don’t need anything specific to make your lines better (if you have such a wish). Just grab a piece of paper and any tool for drawing with ink you like (or that one you want to get better with) and draw some lines.

  • try to vary the pressure… make your lines thin and broad while you draw
  • make lines with full stops (chopped ends) at the beginning and the ending
  • make lines with loose ends
  • start a line with a full stop and finish with a loose end, and vice versa.

Here is a short video with several suggestions how you can practice line work:

Just have fun!

And, as a concluding advice, let me recommend you two crucial things.

Always analyze good pieces of line art

Observing other people’s drawings, you can notice what works and what doesn’t, so you will be able to make better decisions when it comes to your own creations.

Draw your things!

Don’t just practice the basics, make something that will transform those fundamental principles into a personal, unique art. The point of improving your technique is to help you express your ideas and be able to depict anything you wish.

Thank you for reading. I hope that this article was interesting and useful for you. If you have questions and feedback, please let me know in the comments.

And share this post with your creative friends who may be interested in the ink drawing technique 😉

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