October is the best month for artists, especially those who love drawing challenges and get inspired by other people's creations. The Inktober challenge is the king of drawing challenges! The moment it's over, many artists start looking forward to the next one. Inktober is about drawing with ink (feel free to use alcohol-based markers or any other ink-based tools). Every year, right before Inktober begins, I get a lot of questions from my students about what materials they need to start.
This blog post covers the most essential supplies for getting started with ink: paper, ink, pens, and nibs. Don't get stuck doing too much research. Just get some of these supplies and start inking!
An important note before we start. This post contains many links to products on Amazon and in my favorite art supplies stores (most of the links are affiliate links, which means I get a small commission when you buy something). I realize that the post feels too 'commercialized,' and yet I've got a good reason to leave it like this. My intention is to simplify the process of choosing art supplies for those who are buying ink supplies for the first time. If you look at the choices available on Amazon or Jackson's Art, you can easily get overwhelmed and give up before you even start. That's why I have provided links to the products I use myself.
PART 1. Ink for sketching: the basics and my recommendations
There are two main types of ink: pigment-based and dye-based. Pigment-based ink is waterproof, which means you can work with other inks on top of it once it is dry. It does not fade over time, unlike dye-based ink. Dye-based inks are not waterproof and will bleed or run if you apply another layer of ink on top of them. You may also notice that some inks are water-based, and some are oil-based. Then there's a type of ink called Indian ink.
All these terms are hard to get your head around and deserve a separate blog post, so don't worry about any of that! Just remember that the ink you have may not be waterproof. Test your inks to see how much they bleed.
Winsor & Newton say that their inks are dye-based and water resistant (which means they are not waterproof and may bleed), except Liquid Indian Ink, Gold, and Silver. The degree of bleeding may vary from color to color.
Ink for sketching: my recommendations
If you know me even just a little bit, then you know how much I love using Winsor & Newton supplies, so here are some inks that I recommend.
You can actually start sketching with just this one ink. Using black ink on its own is very good sketching practice: with no colors to distract you, you can focus on your technique. Using just this one color encourages you to be more precise and deliberate! You can use black ink on its own or on top of your watercolor paints.
Buy Winsor & Newton Black Indian Ink on Amazon
Black and White Inks
You can also create spectacular black-and-white drawings. I love to draw with black ink first and then add some dots on top of it. It makes my sketch look more playful and fun.
Buy Winsor & Newton Drawing White Ink on Amazon
For those who love bright colors as much as I do, Winsor & Newton has colored inks too. Their Drawing Ink Sets of 8 make a perfect first set of ink!
1. Winsor & Newton Drawing Ink Set of 8 (Henry Collection)
2. Winsor & Newton Drawing Ink Set of 8 (William Collection)
Buy on Splendith
Another amazing set is Winsor & Newton's 4-bottle set (metallic collection) which contains black, white, gold-metallic and silver-metallic inks. They are great to use in ink sketches but also on top of your watercolor or gouache sketches to create special effects. Buy on Amazon.
While these are some of my favorite inks, I find that pretty much any ink works great! So once again, do not get stuck trying to find the 'best' ink! If you happen to have some other brand, a different degree of water resistance, and different colors, work with what you've got and enjoy it.
PART 2. Tools for ink sketching: nibs & nib holders, brushes and pencils
Pencil and eraser
Just like for any sketch, you may want to draw a pencil sketch first in order to plan your drawing. In this case, make sure you use a B2 graphite pencil. It is very soft and easy to erase. Use a kneaded eraser, not a regular one. It does not ruin the texture of your drawing paper. A kneaded eraser is a great tool to have in your sketch kit!
Nibs are mostly a matter of personal preference. You will need to try a few different types to settle on the ones you like.
I prefer to use G Nibs, which are intended for calligraphy (and manga/comic drawings), and are highly recommended for newbies. I find that these nibs make it easy to vary the thickness of lines and give you more control overall. So if you are new to inking, give them a try.
Here are a couple of options I recommend:
Zebra Comic G Moden Chrome Pen Nibs Amazon
To cover large areas with ink (as in the sketch below), you need to use a paintbrush. You can use both professional brushes and student-grade synthetic brushes (Winsor & Newton's Cotman series). Synthetic brushes work well with ink, so just use whichever brushes you already have. You do not need to buy anything special.
Paper for drawing with ink
Most types of paper generally work well with ink. So experiment with the paper you already have at home before you buy some new paper. You will notice that the result may be affected by the type of paper you use, so you can play around with different effects if you are feeling adventurous.
Overall, you want smooth drawing paper, like Winsor & Newton Smooth Grain Drawing Paper (buy on Amazon)
Colored inks work great on watercolor paper. They bleed amazingly well into each other, which looks great.
Let me know in the comments if you found this post helpful. Most of my students use gouache and watercolors, but I always encourage everyone to try ink, too. At least during the Inktober. I believe it is important for artists to work with various media and expand their creative range.
If you are not into ink yet, I've got lots of Skillshare classes on watercolors, gouache and alcohol-based markers.