*This post contains affiliate links. I receive small commissions for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you. These commissions help me keep this site up and running, in order for me to keep providing helpful and inspiring art content. :)
Drawing includes three and a half quarters of the content of painting…Drawing contains everything, except the hue.
A question I’m often asked by beginners getting started on their art journeys is:
“Is it necessary to know how to draw before jumping into painting?”
My instinct is always to respond with a resounding
“Yes!”, followed by a, “Learn them simultaneously if you’re eager to start painting.”
However, I hold myself back because I know we all have different goals, things we enjoy doing (and things we don't), as well as styles we aspire to develop.
Plus, just to be clear, I respect each-and-every type of artwork and artist out there.
As I’ve shared in the past, I don’t consider any type of art style or way of working “better” than another.
So I always answer, “It depends.”
In my opinion, there are two circumstances in which spending time learning how to draw wouldn’t benefit an artist very much.
1) If she/he is interested in only working on completely abstract paintings that require little-to-no planning, in which the painting is created 100% intuitively and the medium itself is doing most of the talking/decision-making organically.
*Think of acrylic pouring or Jackson Pollock-type drip paintings.
Even in these cases, though, I’d highly recommend learning about Art Fundamentals such as Color and other Elements of Art such as Line, Texture and Shape, as well as Composition.
This will greatly improve the quality of your work.
2) If she/he is only interested in learning about Color and is okay with tracing over photographs or other people’s work for the foreseeable future.
Tracing is okay in the beginning and there is a time/place for it even later on, but if we only trace for long periods of time, we'll hit a wall with our drawing skills.
This method does not prepare us to draw freehand confidently or from direct observation (otherwise known as drawing from life).
*If you see a professional representational artist tracing, she/he most likely already knows how to draw and is using tracing to speed up the working process.
When it comes to any other kind of artwork or artistic goal - yes! even those which revolve around high levels of abstraction or stylization- it's my belief that the artist would greatly benefit from learning to draw. ️
Lots of well-known abstract artists throughout history started by learning the ins and outs of their mediums, as well as understanding the fundamentals, and then they veered away to develop their own thing.
And even then, they continued sketching and practicing line work consistently in between larger projects.
Whether their drawing was highly minimalistic or abstract is besides the point.
This knowledge and practice equipped them to not only create highly distinctive art styles, but also to not be limited by their lack of skills.
It’s important to realize that drawing doesn’t only equate to rendering subjects realistically.
It’s far beyond that.
Knowing how to draw means we understand perspective and 3D form, that we're able to recreate proportions we see effectively, that we're aware of light behavior and value, and that we're able to get original ideas down on paper with the simplest (and cheapest) of tools.
It's being able to lay down the "bones" for our paintings from scratch, with a minimal amount of tools and with imperfections that are particular to us, which enables us to develop styles that are highly unique.
We're also able to make sense of our visual compositions via thumbnail sketches before moving on to the painting process.
Our understanding of all of these impacts our painting tremendously, even when we’re not looking for the highest levels of realism.
So… in my opinion, drawing and painting are 100% intertwined.
And honestly, I’m not sure why anyone looking to make deep progress artistically would want to jump over drawing.
What I’ve seen in my many years of developing my own skills and also teaching lots of different people, is that those who know how to draw are able to move on to painting successfully a lot faster than those who don’t.
Anyone can learn how to draw and your paintings will be better for it.
So why not do it?
Learning how to draw doesn't have to be hard if you approach your journey in a smart, step-by-step way. I cover all of the must-know basics to get you started in my Drawing for the Total Beginner Mini-Course, which you can access for free along with the Watercolor for the Total Beginner Mini-Course right here.
Here are 5 reasons why learning to draw will positively affect your artistic development:
1. Through drawing we start developing our observational skills, our fine motor skills and our hand-eye coordination with tools that are similar to what we've been using since we were kids (pencils and pens) before jumping into paintbrushes and paint. ️
2. Aside from Color, lots of essential Art Fundamentals such as 3D Form, Perspective, initial phases of Value, etc., are learned through drawing and sketching.
We're also able to understand what makes something look realistic via practicing drawing in grayscale before starting in with the monster of a topic which is Color. This makes our learning much less overwhelming.
Not sure what Art Fundamentals are? Check out this video.
3. You’re not limited by what you can and can’t do, and can create artwork from scratch (no need to trace or use intricate grids).
*Grids, just like tracing, are also ok to use when you already know how to draw and understand the importance of seeing the global picture, as well as the fundamentals.
Check out my FREE Patreon-exclusive tutorial and class samples here.
4. Most representational paintings get developed on some sort of preliminary sketch or start with a preliminary sketch, which is the foundation for everything else.
No amount of color, texture or even shading will fix a faulty foundation. ️
5. You can draw anywhere, at any time, and with a minimum amount of supplies.
This makes it much more easy for us to stay consistent with our art practice, and consistency is absolutely key.
Because of all these reasons, though I consider myself to be primarily a painter (I sell my paintings and teach people all around the world how to paint), I plan on continuing with my drawing practice throughout my journey.
This is also why I teach the way I teach, as well as why ever since I started my blog and YouTube channel, I thread drawing and sketching into the content I share.
To me, drawing is 100% the basis for all kinds of art.
Some of my favorite drawing/sketching supplies:
*This post contains affiliate links. I receive small commissions for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you. These commissions help me keep this site up and running, in order for me to keep providing helpful and inspiring art content. :)
Tired of having to depend on tracing and/or using grids when drawing or preparing for a painting? Do you want to be able to confidently sketch while out and about, in a coffee shop, at a park, while on vacation, etc.? Confused as to how artists are able to recreate shapes and proportions effectively when drawing freehand?
Most of my students and community members know that, even though I enjoy using references when drawing or painting (I use both photos as well as draw/paint from direct observation), I'm not a very big believer in tracing and using grids.
Because, after we've gotten to a certain level with our drawing, sticking to those methods for long periods of time and never challenging oneself with freehand drawing or sketching, tends to hinder our progress in a variety of ways.
For one, tracing and using grids doesn't do much for our development when it comes to our visual measuring skills or our ability to lay down lines confidently.
Not to mention, these methods primarily teach budding artists to create carbon copies of the reference. This may very well be what certain types of artists are seeking, but for artists like myself who are looking to bring expression, personality and even certain amounts of imperfection into our representational pieces, progress would just come much more slowly.
Finally, because these methods focus primarily on copying, there's no reason for artists to further their knowledge of the subject on hand when it comes to proportion, 3D form and even perspective, which are all very important Art Fundamentals to wrap our heads around.
If we don't understand important Art Fundamentals such as perspective and 3D form (and others such as anatomy if we're drawing human figures or portraits), there's just no way that we're going to be able to draw freehand with confidence and ease.
For me, if my drawing practice is not somehow preparing me to draw from direct observation (otherwise known as drawing from life), it's holding me back.
This is just me, though. And I'm aware we all have different goals, styles and ways of working as artists.
But it's also important to be honest with ourselves regarding the types of practice that will help us get to our goals.
Even though I like using references in order to have something to jump off from, I'm not going for 100% replicating or creating a carbon copy of what I'm looking at.
I'm always taking away elements, bringing in elements, manipulating color, looking for ways to bring myself into my work and thinking of ways to improve the overall composition.
And yes, I do believe that using tracing is a great option for beginners just getting started on their drawing/sketching journeys. It could also very well be a great jumping off point, even when the artist has already developed his/her drawing skills and is getting into a new type of subject.
For example, when I was getting started with figure drawing, tracing over full-body poses helped me understand shapes throughout the body and develop that mind-muscle memory to a certain extent before drawing freehand.
I also believe that there is a time and place for tracing and using grids, even when the artist is already highly skilled. Namely, when he/she is short on time, the composition is very complex or large, he/she is teaching classes, working on studies that focus primarily on the painting process, etc.
It's one thing to trace and use grids when one already knows how to draw and quite another to continue tracing and using grids forever, and ignoring the importance of learning to draw because you want to skip straight to the painting process or whatever it may be.
If you're creating art for the fun of it, then it's perfectly ok.
But if you're really looking to improve your art skills at a deeper level, it'll hinder you.
I've said this once and I'll continue saying it:
Drawing is the basis for all kinds of art.
Even though I sell my paintings and consider myself to be primarily a painter, I'll always continue practicing my drawing/sketching alongside my painting, because I know how much this practice enhances and simplifies my process with everything else.
And, if you're asking yourself if knowing how to draw is necessary if you're looking to develop a highly abstract style, I would say yes.
The only scenario in which I'd consider learning how to draw as not necessary, would be if an artist is looking to do pouring type paintings or Jackson Pollock-type paintings, in which the paint in itself organically creates shapes and the composition is more erratic/less planned.
But, if you're looking to ever leave that, it's essential to know how to draw and learn about Art Fundamentals.
If you know these two at least on a basic level, not only will moving on to painting be much easier, but you'll be able to create higher quality work much faster.
This is why,over on the Becoming Artists membership site, I share both watercolor and drawing/sketching tutorials, as well as full classes and assignments on Art Fundamentals.
In the following video, I share my preliminary sketching (outline sketching) process for recreating effective shapes and proportions freehand.
This is what I do every time I'm working on a new drawing, as well as before getting started with a new watercolor piece.
I also provide lots of tips along the way that'll help beginners move forward faster with their freehand drawing.
After finishing with the preliminary sketching process using regular graphite pencils, I use alternative shading/mark-making techniques (hatching and crosshatching in this case) to develop a wide range of values and create interest/depth.
If you enjoyed this video and found it helpful, make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel. I share a brand new video every week with art tips, drawing and painting tutorials and mindset/productivity tips for artists. *Subscribe HERE*
Freehand Sketching Tips for Beginners
*This post contains affiliate links. I receive small commissions for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you. These commissions help me keep this site up and running, in order for me to keep providing helpful and inspiring art content. :)
Would you love to paint animals using watercolor, but find it a bit intimidating? Have you tried painting animals in the past, just to end up disappointed and frustrated with your results? Would you like to be able to create animal paintings that are impactful and full of life?
For animal-loving artists like myself, it can be incredibly rewarding to paint one successfully, in a way that communicates its beauty.
One of the pieces of advice I most frequently give to my students and art community members over on Patreon, is to make time to break up complex compositions (or subjects) into elements, techniques and/or layers that can be practiced in isolation.
This way, when we sit down to work on the complete piece, we're not only much more likely to be successful, but we'll also enjoy the process a lot more due to the understanding and confidence we've built through this previous practice and prep work.
And this is exactly what I did in the video below in order to push my ability to paint animals using watercolor.
I found three (quality) reference images of very different sets of animal eyes so that I could challenge myself and dove right into these studies.
You can check out the three painting processes below.
This goes without saying, but eyes are one of, if not the, most important parts of any portrait, whether we're drawing/painting a person or an animal.
Eyes are able to transmit the person's or animal's essence and personality and, if drawn or painted well, they can make the entire piece come to life.
Which means, they can also break the piece, if drawn or painted poorly.
Oftentimes, artists decide to make eyes the focal point and draw more attention to them by making use of techniques such as:
- Bringing in higher levels of detail in the eye area
- Creating higher tonal contrast in this area
Tips for Painting Animal Eyes Using Watercolor
1. Make time for isolated studies
It's super smart to practice different elements and techniques in isolation or via smaller studies, as opposed to jumping right into complete paintings without having done any previous practice or preparation.
When I was first getting started on my own painting journey, I used to go right into a brand new drawing or painting expecting a masterpiece, only to end up frustrated with my results.
I used to have very high expectations of myself, even when I was getting started with a brand new medium or a subject I had never drawn or painted before.
Then I had an awakening.
Every-single-type of subject, whether it's a portrait, a landscape, a still life arrangement, etc., can be broken down into things that can be practiced separately. Taking time to practice things that we feel might be challenging for us before jumping in can make all the difference in the world.
As mentioned before, this kind of prep work makes it much more likely that we'll not only end up with a final piece we love, but that we'll actually enjoy the process much more.
For example, if you love drawing or painting portraits, learning about the anatomy of different facial features and and practicing each in isolation without the overwhelm of drawing/painting an entire face, is going to inform your final piece immensely.
If you love drawing or painting landscapes, creating studies of different types of skies, trees and things like water or flowers, will make it much more likely that you'll succeed at that final piece.
When it comes to painting animal eyes, understanding their structure, as well as their different parts is incredibly powerful. If we don't take time to study them, it can be easy to leave out little elements that are important in order for them to look believable.
2. Use high-quality reference photos
When we're trying to achieve higher levels of realism, it's essential to work with references, at least in the beginning. In fact, I'd recommend both using photos, as well as drawing/painting from direct observation (otherwise known as drawing/painting from life).
Because without references and material to inform your work, you'll most likely be making up information and drawing/painting subjects the way you think they look like, and not what they actually look like. Unless you have a photographic memory or are a genius of some kind, of course.
Plus, realism is all about those subtleties and details, which are super easy to forget if we don't have the subject in front of us in one way or another.
Even if your goal is to later be able to draw things from imagination, using references is going to help you develop your observational skills and understand about Art Fundamentals such as light behavior, form and perspective, all of which are key and impossible to understand if you don't study what things look like in real life.
Having said all this, learning to select the right reference photos for drawing or painting is essential, as we can make the process way harder for ourselves if we're trying to create a drawing or painting using a low quality image.
Here are a few things to make sure your reference photo shows if you'll be using it as a reference for your artwork:
- High resolution
- Not blurry/pixelated
- Not over or underexposed
- No flash!
- Not cropped in awkward ways (no essential body parts cut out)
- Good lighting (you can see lights, midtones and darks)
- When drawing/painting animals, make sure you can see the eyes as clearly as possible or make sure you collect other references of that same animal that do let you see its eyes
- When drawing/painting animals, we want to look for a pose that enhances the beauty and particularities of the animal and isn't awkward
3. Choose your paintbrush sizes and switch between them mindfully along the way
Before getting started with your painting, choose the specific paintbrushes you'll be using for both outside of the eyes, as well as for the detail inside of the eyeballs.
The fur around the eyes can be described in a much more abstract/looser way and, at least for those first layers, medium sized paintbrushes work best (I like using round brushes in sizes 14-16).
For the detail inside the eyes, we usually want much more control. Inside those eyeballs, we have very small (yet super important) elements to add in, such as the tear duct, the pupil, tear lines, etc., many of which we want sharp and defined.
We also have to be able to work around those little highlights in the eyeballs, as these are essential in making the eyes look lifelike.
For complete animal paintings or things like eyelashes, etc., it's also important to choose a very thin detailing paintbrush. I'd recommend practicing drawing thin lines with whatever paintbrush you choose before adding them in.
4. Plan when/where you're going to be using wet-on-wet techniques vs. wet-on-dry techniques
*Wet-on-wet: Applying/dropping in paint onto paper that has been pre-wetted with clean water or has a layer of paint that's still wet- Great for organic color gradients, soft transitions from more saturated color to more translucent color and blurred edges.
*Wet-on-dry: Applying paint on paper that is completely dry - Great for sharp, defined edges.
Before starting with any watercolor painting, it's advisable to think of a strategy that'll help you arrive at the effects/outcome that you're looking for.
As opposed to opaque painting mediums such as acrylics or oils, we're not able to cover up our mistakes with a layer of paint. Not to mention, saving our highlights is essential and, once paint touches paper, there's no going back to the whiteness the paper once had.
And, yes, you can decide to add in your highlights at the end with white gouache or another medium, but it's important to understand that when we're working with watercolor, we're playing with the medium's translucency and the whiteness of the paper underneath to create a variety of different values.
Usually, we want the whiteness of our paper to stand in place for our highlights and no white paint is actually necessary when working with watercolor, if we save those whites.
I'd highly recommend not getting started until you have at least a general idea of how many layers of paint you're thinking of going in with, as well as which areas you want to use wet-on-wet techniques in, which areas you want to use wet-on-dry in, and which will require a layering of both.
Also, along the painting process, continue asking yourself whether it's important to allow a layer of paint to dry before going in with the next.
For example, when painting many of the details inside of the eyeball (highlights, pupil, etc.), you're probably going to want to go in wet-on-dry in order to achieve sharp outlines, but for the fur and elements around the eyes, wet-on-wet can come it very handy.
Transitions between colors within the pupil can oftentimes also be created wet-in-wet.
Five minutes of planning before getting started can go a long way in having a smoother painting process, and arriving at way more successful results!
5. Remember the spherical nature of the eyeball
If you've never tried painting a sphere using watercolor before, it's extremely helpful, as eyeballs have a spherical form. *There are animals such as owls that don't have spherical eyes.
Aside from the eyeball being a sphere, we need to remember that eyeballs are set deep within the skull and are covered/wrapped by an upper and lower eyelid with creates outwards/convex volume in the head shape.
The sphere in itself is going to have different values throughout it, and the eyelids create shadows on the sphere, too!
When we're drawing or painting human eyes, we're able to see much more of the sclera (the whites of the eyes), and it's easier to tell different values throughout it. Just like when drawing or painting teeth, even though the sclera is essentially white/off-white they are never one flat white value.
If we leave them with only one flat value, and don't try to understand their 3D form, we risk our outcome looking quite cartoony and it will retract from the level of realism in the piece, even if the rest of the piece is realistically rendered.
6. Plan your highlights and keep them protected throughout the painting process
Notice the highlights and lighter values in the reference photo both inside of the eyes as well as around them, and think of the strategy you'll be using to keep them protected throughout the painting process.
Are you going to be using masking fluid to keep lightest lights protected, or will you be painting around them carefully?
Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you plan for them, as once you cover up that paper with paint, there's no going back to the whiteness the paper once had.
Those highlights are incredibly important to make those eyes come alive and look moist and realistic.
Also, the more we can do to understand the structure of the animals head (brow ridge, snout size, rounded areas around the eyes, etc.) the more 3D and realistic our painting will tend to look.
This is why doing skull studies is so valuable!
7. Start with a bright yellow layer in the eyeball when appropriate
Whenever it makes sense, I like starting with a semi-translucent layer of bright yellow in the iris/pupil (avoiding the highlights), as this provides a glow to the eyes.
Usually I like doing this with a color such as Gamboge or Permanent Yellow Medium.
This works very well when the animal's eyes are amber colored and even green.
However, I didn't use this strategy for the husky eyes I share above, because these eyes are blue and I would risk turning them green (yellow + blue= green).
8. Mindfully use soft/blurred transitions vs. defined edges
When painting eyes, we're usually going to need a combo of shapes with soft/blurred out edges and hard/defined edges.
Notice where these blurred out effects happen and where sharper edges are located in your reference.
Usually, we have lots of soft transitions within the pupil, where one color turns gradually into another color. But when it comes to painting elements like little shapes along the tear lines, eyelashes, and pupils in some cases, we want the edges of our shapes to be defined.
By giving thought to these things, you'll have a better idea of whether you should be painting on paper that's still wet, or whether you should allow the previous layer to dry completely before adding more detail.
It's essential to stay patient!
Aside from all this, if we're looking for higher levels of realism, it's important to stay away from the look of obvious/stark outlines around different elements.
A lot of animals, such as cats, tend to have a darker (eyeliner type look) around their eyes. This may instinctively make us want to go in and create a hard outline around the entire eye and this will ultimately retract from the level of realism of the piece.
In realism, there are no outlines and it's important to notice the subtle changes in values even in these areas that we may initially perceive as dark lines.
Usually there's a line weight variation within the elements we initially perceive as lines, such as the tear lines, and even whiskers. Meaning, certain segments of those "lines" are thicker while others are thinner, some are darker while others are lighter. Capturing this leads to a more natural look.
Notice moisture and any highlights along the tear lines, too!
9. Pay attention to the length and direction of hair growth around the eyes
Whenever we're painting animals that have fur or feathers, it's important to acknowledge their length and the direction they're growing out towards. Not only this, but how this length and growth direction changes throughout its head and body (it's not the same all throughout!).
If we mindlessly start laying down marks and lines without paying attention to our reference, we're most likely going to end up with an outcome that doesn't look very realistic, which is why it's so important to keep observing our reference photo.
Whether you decide to paint the areas around the eyeballs before or after the eyeballs themselves, switch on over to the paintbrushes that you've selected for this and stay focused when laying down those brushstrokes that are meant to describe fur or feathers.
The way you use your paintbrush should reflect the direction and length of that growth.
This doesn't meant that you have to paint every-single-hair that you see in the photo (in fact I would never recommend trying to paint each individual hair), but noticing these characteristics and taking them into account as you're laying down those abstract shapes representing those groupings of hair or feathers, is essential.
10. Leave eyelashes and whiskers until the end (or keep them protected with masking fluid)
Make sure you don't get ahead of yourself and leave eyelashes and/or whiskers until after the areas beneath and around them have been finalized.
Sometimes, though, I do mask out the animal's whiskers using liquid frisket before getting started with the painting process. Generally speaking though, details like whiskers and eyelashes are created with lines or marks that are overlapping the other elements, which is why the layers underneath have to be finished.
You don't want to have to go in a fix layers underneath after the whiskers or eyelashes have been added!
Be patient and always keep thinking critically in terms of what should come first and what should come later.
Also, make sure you're using very small paintbrushes that come to a thin tip for these final details and, if needed, always practice painting thin lines on a scrap piece of paper before going into your painting. This is something I almost always do myself, to the day.
In the eye studies I share in this video, I approach the animal's eyelashes in a very abstracted way, using irregular shapes as opposed to trying to draw in every single eyelash in. Whiskers I do either mask out since the beginning or add until the end using white gouache. *Refer to Yellow Labrador watercolor painting above.
Watercolor supplies used in video:
Love the look of pen and watercolor artwork and want some tips to get started on the right foot? What are the must-know things to have in mind when combining ink and watercolor in order to avoid undesired accidents? What are some good options for supplies when it comes to ink pens and bottled inks?
Watercolor and ink go together like bread and butter.
As an artist with experience working with a vast array of traditional drawing and painting mediums, I've found very few combos that can so easily create such striking and professional-looking results.
I'm a huge fan of both painting with watercolor as well as of pen and ink sketching, and have released helpful blog posts and videos to help beginners improve their skills with both.
In today's blog post, we're covering the must-know basics to know about when looking to use these two mediums in combination, which brings up a whole new set of questions in terms of process and supplies.
As with all mixed-media art creation, it's incredibly important to consider how the mediums we're going to be using will be interacting and affecting each other throughout the art-making process, but also how the piece will hold up over time after the artwork has been completed.
By doing a bit of research, choosing the right art supplies, visualizing what results we're after, and planning the techniques/general strategy we'll be using before getting started with a new piece, we can ensure a smoother process and it'll be much more likely that we'll arrive at results we'll love.
Today, I'm incredibly pleased to share an article written for us by pen and ink expert K.T. Mehra. She is the founder of Goldspot Pens, a store based in New Jersey that is dedicated to selling not only beautiful, high-quality fountain pens, but also incredible inks, writing instruments and paper.
Alongside the hard work she does in her company, she's incredibly passionate about literature, history and, you guessed it...art!
Without much further ado, let's get into her helpful tips and recommendations for supplies.
Watercolor and ink work together beautifully, and this combination of mediums can certainly lead to a variety of amazing effects and styles.
Line work created with dark inks can be colored in with bright watercolor washes for very impactful, modern-looking pieces, but there's also so much room for exploration, creativity, and for artists to bring in their own personalities into the process.
To make it easier for artists just getting started with ink and watercolor, I’ve written a short list of must-know aspects to consider when choosing pens and inks to combine with watercolor. Afterwards, I'll be sharing my favorite options for both ink pens and bottled inks.
Before getting into anything else, when buying inks to combine with watercolor (whether in pen or bottled format), it's important always ask yourself the following four questions:
1. Is it waterproof?
The first and most important factor you want to consider is whether your ink is waterproof. This will determine whether it'll bleed or smudge when water is applied on top of the ink.
When working with watercolor, you'll need quality waterproof ink. This will allow your line work to stay clean and sharp as you apply paint over it. Most pens and inks will be labelled as 'waterproof', whether in pen form or bottled format.
2. Is it water-soluble?
You may come across inks and pens that state they are 'water-soluble'. You want to avoid these inks, as they are made with water and will run when combined with watercolor.
These can be used to create particular styles, but are not ideal for most cases when you're looking for a good ink or pen to use in combination with watercolor, as the ink will run and smudge, and very possible affect the vibrancy of your washes of color.
It's best to assume that any ink pen contains water-soluble ink and will not be ideal for use with watercolor unless its specifically states that it is waterproof. You also usually want to avoid any pen or ink that says it’s 'water-based'.
3. Is the ink pigmented?
Oftentimes it's not 100% clear whether the pen contains waterproof ink or not. One sign that the pen is most likely waterproof and usable with watercolor is if it includes the words 'pigment' or 'pigmented ink' on the pen or bottle.
Pigments are tiny particles of colored material that do not dissolve in water. In other words, they are rarely water-soluble or water-based, which makes them good for use with watercolor.
4. How long does it take to dry?
Another factor you want to consider is the ink’s drying time. If you apply watercolor too soon after drawing with ink, it's likely that some smudging will occur.
Most inks will dry after an hour or two, but to avoid this completely, you’ll want to wait 12 to 24 hours for the ink to fully dry and set into the paper.
If you don't want to wait this long for the ink to dry, make sure that to purchase a fast-drying ink. I'll recommend my favorite below, so keep on reading!
Are you supposed to do your ink line work before or after your watercolor washes?
This is a great question, and the answer is even better.
The truth is... either way works!
There are pros and cons to both methods, but it's ultimately up to you to experiment and determine what'll work best for you, making sure, of course, that you're taking precautions and allowing layers the necessary time to dry in between.
It depends on the artist's personal way of working and the outcome that he/she is going for.
A reason you might want to do your ink work before watercolor is that it allows you to focus on your line work and/or outlines first, establishing a type of preliminary sketch to work with. You're then able to begin applying watercolor washes and it's easier to stay inside the lines and have more control over where the color is applied.
Also, you'll likely find that the pen glides across your paper more smoothly when there's no paint on your paper yet, which can be a pro for many artists.
A reason you might want to do your ink work after your watercolor painting process is if you're looking for your line work to be very clear and visible.
Doing your line work after your washes also allows you to first freely paint with watercolor, creating abstract shapes and organic effects which can then serve as a guide or a type of underpainting for the line work that'll come later.
This technique is great for artists who love the looseness and interesting effects watercolor allows, and want the paint to be the primary creative force structuring the artwork.
It's also important to note that, when doing your ink work after your watercolor painting, you're also able to use water-soluble inks, as long as you've allowed your painting to dry for 24 hours.
Have fun, explore and get creative with your process!
Ink and watercolor can and should be used in new ways that give your pieces a unique personality and character. I'd recommend exploring both sequences and analyzing which results you like best.
Best Waterproof Pens For Use With Watercolor
Now that we’ve covered the basic things to consider when searching for an ink pen or bottled ink to use in combination with watercolor paint, let’s look at the best waterproof pens available (in no particular order).
Uni-Ball Signo Gelstick Pen
The Uni-Ball Signo is a great beginner-friendly option. It's affordable and one of the best ink pens for use with watercolor. It's waterproof, fade-proof, and is able to create smooth, thin lines. It also doesn’t leave stop and start marks at the end of long lines and marks like most gel pens do.
*Most Affordable *Best Gel Pen
Sakura Pigma Micron Series
If you’re looking for a slightly more professional fineliner pen, the Sakura Pigma Micron is a great option, and it's one our favorite fineliner pens for use with watercolor. The Sakura Pigma Micron draws smooth, thin, and very consistent lines that can really help bring together watercolor pieces.
Artists around the world swear by the Pigma Micron for its precise and professional line work.
*Best Fineliner Pen
Lamy Safari Fountain Pen
Using disposable pens can definitely become expensive because they have to be replaced after a relatively short period of time, especially when using them for drawing/sketching purposes.
We recommend, as an alternative, using a fountain pen and filling it with your own ink. This allow us to use our own choice of ink at an affordable price and we can continue filling up the pen when the ink runs out. As long as we take care of the pen, it'll last for years.
If you are looking to invest in a fountain pen, Lamy Safari is the best option for beginners and is relatively affordable for a quality, reusable fountain pen.
*Best Beginner-Friendly Fountain Pen *Most Affordable
Uni-Ball Impact Gel Pen
The Impact Uni-ball pen is a slightly more expensive gel pen option that works wonderfully with watercolors. Go with this waterproof pen if you're looking to incorporate thicker, bolder outlines or marks into your watercolor paintings.
This pen draws fairly wide lines. So if you are looking to do very detailed work, you will need a large canvas or paper, which may be a drawback of the impact gel pen for some artists.
Fudenosuke Brush Pen
Another interesting option is using a brush pen alongside watercolors! The Fudenosuke pen by Tombow is perfect for use with watercolor, as it is waterproof, and produces beautiful drawings with a lot of line-weight variation.
Brush pens allow for varying thicknesses of lines/marks via changing the pressure and angle we're using. If you aren’t looking for a this kind of variation in your line work, as well as organic transitions between thin and thick lines, a brush pen may not be for you.
This pen also requires practice and a certain level of control, which may be a drawback for some artists.
*Best Brush Pen
If the thought of a fountain pen caught your attention, the Kaweco brand is famous for their superior quality fountain pens.
Winsor and Newton Fineliner
This is another beautiful and unique option for a high-quality fineliner that works great with watercolor. Winsor and Newton provide a great lineup of fineliners that are waterproof and come in many sizes and colors. I can’t recommend them enough!
The Unipin Fine Line
The Unipin Fine Line is a great and fun-to-use waterproof pen, but it does have some drawbacks. I love this pen and it’s definitely worth a buy. Unfortunately, when using an eraser on the Unipin Fine Line, the ink fades and blurs a bit.
This is a fantastic option if you do not plan on using any pencil markings that you’re thinking of erasing later in the process.
Pentel Pocket Brush Pen
If you are looking for something a little different, the Pentel Pocket Pen is a really neat option. This pen was created for writing expressive Japanese calligraphy. It has a very sensitive felt-tip that's able to create plenty of variation when it comes to line width.
This may be a negative for new artists, but it does allow more control for experienced artists that are used to brush pens.
Faber-Castell Assorted Pens
Faber-Castell has an awesome pack of eight waterproof pens which offers and assortment of different types and sizes. They call these their Pitt Artist Pens, and the cool thing about this pack is that you get four fineliners and four brush pens in almost every size.
There are better ink pens to use with watercolor on this list, but the Faber-Castell Artist Pens are waterproof and do work well with watercolor. The main benefit of buying this pen set is primarily the variety offered, which allows the artist to explore amongst them.
Best Bottled Ink For Use With Watercolor
If you’re looking for the absolute best supplies to use for your ink and watercolor pieces, buying your own ink bottle along with a fountain pen or dip pen is going to provide you a custom experience and might just be the way to go.
Next, I’ll reveal my top ten picks in terms of the best bottled inks out there.
Platinum Carbon Ink
Probably my favorite ink to use with watercolor is the Platinum Carbon ink. It's a beautiful natural black textured ink that comes in a lovely little glass bottle. This permanent, waterproof ink is great for use with watercolors.
This ink takes about an hour to dry. Once dried, it’s resistant to water, erasing, smudging and anything else.
This Japanese ink is highly sought-after, which makes it slightly pricey, but it's worth every penny!
*Best Overall Ink
De Atramentis Archive Ink
This is an incredible waterproof ink. The color is less textured and not as pretty than the Platinum Carbon Ink and less of a 'true black' than the Speedball India Ink, but the De Atramentis Archive Ink may just be the most waterproof ink on this list.
I've experienced absolutely no smearing or even a drop of ink smudged after working on my watercolor washes. The ink was also dry after only a few minutes! This is a great and really safe option for use for your watercolor projects.
*Most Waterproof Ink *Best Fast-Drying Ink
Speedball Super Black India Ink
India ink is the best, deepest, truest black ink you can get. Speedball's India Ink is an amazing waterproof option. Some artists mention occasional smearing, but I've personally never had this happen.
The Speedball Super Black India Ink is the best ink bottle you can purchase for a pure, true black outline with your fountain pen and dip pen. If you use this with your Lamy Safari fountain pen or the Kaweco, you’ll want to clean out the pen often, as this ink is thick and can clog the pen if not cleaned routinely.
*Best Pure Black Ink
Winsor and Newton Ink
Winsor and Newton’s ink is also great for watercolor projects. It offers a matte black finish that would be perfect for more modern or cartoony styles and line work. This ink does take a while to dry, but if you're looking for this kind of color and style, it’s definitely worth it.
Sailor is a company that's known for their fountain pens, but they're also one of the top ink manufacturers in the world. This is another high-end Japanese ink that performs beautifully for both writing and drawing. You cannot go wrong with the Sailor Kiwa-Guro.
The ink is a solid matte black and dries very quickly. The big negative is that there have been reports of it losing its waterproof properties after several months of being left in the bottle.
So far, this hasn’t happened in my personal experience, but it would make this option riskier if our aim is to combine it with watercolor.
How To Find The Right Pen And Ink For You
Like with all art supplies, it’s important to explore for yourself in order to find the right pen (and ink) for you. Art is such a personal experience, and we all have different styles, quirks, and processes.
Try different pens and inks to find the ones that work best for you, starting at accessible options if you have a limited budget. Finding your personal favorites will make all the difference when working on a new art piece.
Whether you decide on a gel pen, a fountain pen and ink, or a professional fineliner, we are excited to see what you come up with!
Looking for further guidance with combining pen and ink with watercolor? Check out *FREE* samples of exclusive, step-by-step, fully-narrated art tutorials I've created for my innermost art community over on Patreon here.
Sending out a huge thank you to K.T. Mehra for her enlightening tips and recommendations!
To find out more about Goldspot Pens and the products they have available, visit their website here.
Also be sure to follow their Facebook page and Instagram account for the latest news.
Thanks for reading!
Love #Inktober? Looking for new art supplies to make this popular drawing challenge different and perhaps, more special, this year? Do you enjoy trying out unique art supplies to share with your creative friends?
If so, you'll definitely want to check out Viviva Colors' new sketchbook line that's been launched especially in time for Inktober 2020, but will continue being sold worldwide even after this popular yearly drawing challenge concludes at the end of October.
Viviva's crowdfunding campaign for these sketchbooks has gone so well, that the company will continue making them available for artists (without the Inktober logo) for an undefined amount of time.
Inktober is one of the most popular drawing challenges going on in the online space since 2009.
Each year, Inktober creator and renowned illustrator Jack Parker, publishes a new daily prompt list for artists to use as inspiration to create a new drawing/painting/mixed-media piece each day throughout the month of October.
Every October, thousands of artists and creatives all around the world participate in this challenge, pushing themselves to work on a new piece, every day, for 31 days.
It's no secret that Jake Parker has been involved in a couple of different controversial incidents as of late, which have caused a good amount of people to look for alternative art challenges to work on this October.
However, lots of die-hard followers of this challenge are still eager to participate and are excited to begin, many of whom aren't necessarily fans of Jake Parker himself, but have found the experience of Inktober a valuable part of their art journeys.
Many artists believe that the challenge has grown to become more than the person who initially created it.
Inktober has become a way for artists to push their skills, creativity and build the discipline to stay consistent with their art practice.
It has become an event that allows lesser-known emerging artists, to gain traction online and start growing their name known amongst a larger audience.
It's also become an event that brings artists from all over the world together, helping us create meaningful connections that'll last a lifetime.
Inktober, in my opinion, is about artistic growth, about community, and about sharing the importance of art with the world.
In this past blog post I talk about Viviva Colors' history and also share my swatching process, as well as my review, for their original colorsheets. Make sure to check it out to read more about their compact and insanely vibrant watercolors.
Viviva Colors' mission has always been to inspire artists to continue on their creative journeys and to never set their art aside, no matter how busy or how stressful life becomes.
The company is not only constantly improving their products and offerings, but is always looking for new ways to encourage and motivate artists to stay on their paths.
Viviva knows that, through art, people are able to cope with anxiety and depression, which are rampant this year due to the current pandemic, its economic repercussions, and all of the uncertainty its creating worldwide.
And knowing how challenging 2020 has been, Viviva teamed up with Jake Parker to release an officially licensed set of supplies that'll make this year's Inktober even more special.
These items were designed to make Inktober 2020 #AnInktoberToRemember.
Just like Viviva's original colorsheets, which were officially launched in 2017, these new supplies were crowdfunded via Indiegogo.
With the huge success of the first campaign, Viviva Colorsheets was able to start mass manufacturing their original product and have shipped them out to more than 30,000 artists in over than 100 countries.
They are currently working on doing the same for the backers of these Inktober sketchbooks and colorsheets!
You can find out more about the products they have available at their website.
Let's talk about the new items!
For Inktober 2020, Viviva launched 4 sketchbook variants, as well as a special edition of their colorsheets.
All of these sketchbooks are hardbound with a quality faux-leather cover and (during the Inktober season) also include a silver foil stamp with the Inktober 2020 and Viviva Colors logos on the front cover.
a) A5 format (5.8 x 8.3 in) / 240 gsm / Ivory white / Smooth Lessebo paper
/ 64 pages
b) A5 format (5.8 x 8.3 in) / 300 gsm / Off-white color / Rough watercolor paper
/ 40 pages / 100% Cotton
c) Square format (7.5 x 7.5 in) / 300 gsm / Off-white color /
Rough watercolor paper / 40 pages / 100% Cotton
d) *The Easy Sketchbook* A5 format (5.8 x 8.3 in) / 240 gsm / Ivory white
/ Smooth Lessebo paper / 64 pages
*The Easy Sketchbook was created especially for beginner artists who have trouble with their preliminary sketching process. It includes a sketching mirror and an aluminum slot stand to hold it as you're drawing, which helps you transfer the reference's outlines onto paper in an easier and faster way.
See the Easy Sketchbook in action here!
Aside from the four sketchbooks, Viviva also released a special edition of their colorsheets set which contains an extra 4 colors (their original sets have 16 and this one has 20).
The 20 colors offered in this edition have been curated by Viviva and Jake Parker especially for Inktober.
Check out my color swatching process for their original colorsheets in this blog post. You'll be able to see the colors' vibrancy and learn about my thoughts as to how they compare with regular watercolors in that post.
Just like their original colorsheets, the Inktober edition also has the portable booklet format with protective paper in between each page.
Here are a couple of pieces I've created in my Viviva/Inktober sketchbook, which is the square format with rough watercolor paper.
A few interesting characteristics I noticed about the sketchbooks:
- The sketchbooks have been designed to be opened flat so that they don't close on you when your drawing or painting and you're able to use the sheets fully. The spine where the pages come together is not glued onto the spine of the cover intentionally, for this purpose (see images below). This said, the first few pages are difficult to open completely without having to press down hard at the spine/base. I was a little worried that I'd damage the spine when I did this, but everything was okay.
- Sketchbooks have rounded corners, which I love, as they are more difficult to damage.
- I love the elastic included on the covers, as it keeps the sketchbook closed when you're not working in it, protecting your artwork.
- I like the pocket included at the back, as I can place loose sketches and notes in there. I wish it had a bit more space.
- The watercolor paper included in the watercolor sketchbooks is very different from the commercial paper I'm used to (Arches, Fabriano, Strathmore, etc.). It is a lot more flexible to the touch when dry, has little imperfections in it because it's handmade (which isn't necessarily a bad thing), and I found that the paint gets absorbed in a very different way. Both the paint from Viviva's colorsheets, as well as regular watercolor paint sinks into the paper very quickly and the paint cannot be moved around. Washes of color react differently when overlapped and the off-white, almost cream color of this paper has an effect on the vibrancy of the colors.
Finally, here are a few pros and cons I've found in relation to the items I've had the opportunity to try out, in bullet form.
Pros and Cons of Viviva Colors'
and Inktober's Sketchbooks and Colorsheets
*For more pros and cons about Viviva's color sheets, go here.
These items are all beautiful and high-quality, and I want to send a huge thank you to Viviva Colors for providing me these items to explore and review!
Personally, I won't be participating in Inktober this year due to a lack of time and more important projects I'm working for my online art communities, but I look forward to creating more pieces in this great sketchbook.
*Visit Viviva Colors' website and follow them on social media to see inspiring artwork created with their colorsheets, as well as the latest news from them:
Viviva Colors Website
Viviva Colors on Instagram
Viviva Colors on Facebook
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