How to use watercolor with pen & ink

Updated April 17, 2017

Watercolour and pen and ink bring a unique quality to any painting. The pen and ink serves as the texture in the design while the watercolour adds interest to it. Use watercolour to colour and shade the images and add a subtle blend of shading and texture with pen and ink. Watercolour should be applied first. Waterproof ink is added after the painting is completely dry.

Tape the paper to the surface securely. Apply the design to the surface using transfer paper and a pencil or by lightly sketching the design onto the paper. Put in as much detail as you need.

Put colours onto a palette and add water drops, brush mixing each colour. Moisten the brush with clean water and paint the design. Allow each section to dry before painting adjacent sections.

When the entire design is finished and completely dry, reapply any lines that have vanished during painting or add detail lines, using the pencil or transfer paper again.

Start the process of inking the design, using variations of pen and ink techniques for this process. Cross-hatching, contouring, parallel lines and other inking techniques add dimension to a painting.

After the ink is completely dry, use a soft eraser to remove any visible pencil or transfer-paper lines.


Only use waterproof ink. Use quality watercolour paint.


Lightly mist the completed work with spray sealer to protect the painting. Some waterproof ink may tend to bleed if moistened.

Things You'll Need

  • Cold Press 140# watercolour paper
  • Masking tape
  • Transfer paper (optional)
  • Waterproof ink pens (your choice of nib size)
  • Watercolour brushes (your choice)
  • Bubble palette
  • Clean water
  • Water bin
  • Soft rubber eraser (white)
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About the Author

As an author and instructor in the arts, Jeanne Paglio has been writing since 2001 and has been an artist for over 25 years. Her articles have appeared in "Painting Magazine," "Quick & Easy Painting," and "The Decorative Painter." Paglio studied art and design at Rhode Island School of Design.