How to Do an Ink Wash on a Drawing

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How to Do an Ink Wash on a Drawing
Play around with ink and a variety of brushes to see the different effects you can create. (drawing hieroglyph LOVE image by Daria Miroshnikova from

An ink wash can transform an ink drawing into a spectacular scene. While a plain line drawing can appear two-dimensional, an ink wash gives it layers of depth that can really bring your art to life. Using ink is also a great segue into using colour, so if you're a budding artist, using shades of grey in a drawing will prepare you for the more complicated process of decorating a piece with watercolour paint.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Ink drawing on watercolour paper
  • Watercolour brush
  • India Ink
  • Three canisters
  • Paper towels
  • Cup of water
  • Black pen

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  1. 1

    Use a simple line drawing to begin, with a reference photo. For best results, your reference photo should have a variety of values -- for example, pick something that has a light source on one side, with the other side nearly in shadow. Your starting line drawing doesn't need much detail, just a simple outline of your subject will do.

  2. 2

    Pour a drop of ink into a plastic canister. Fill the remainder of the canister with water and mix it together. Dab your brush in the canister and test the colour on a piece of watercolour paper to see if it's a light tone, a medium or a dark tone.

  3. 3

    Drop ink and water into the remaining two canisters, and use the brush to test the shades. Each canister should represent a different shade: one very light, one medium and one dark.

  4. 4

    Clean your brush by dipping it in the water cup. Have paper towels on hand for the ink wash process.

  5. 5

    Look at your reference photo to see which parts of your drawing need light tones. Then, dip your brush into the canister that contains your lightest shade of grey and paint accordingly.

  6. 6

    Move on to medium tones, then dark tones. It's easier to add ink than to remove it, so exercise caution when filling in the darkest parts of your drawing.

  7. 7

    Use your pen to add texture to any areas that need it after your ink wash is dried. This is optional, but sometimes a pen can complement your ink wash to give your drawing a more refined feel.

Tips and warnings

  • If you use too dark a shade on your drawing, don't panic -- just rinse your brush in your water cup, dab it in clean water and rub your brush gently over the dark part to pull up the unneeded colour. Squeeze the brush in a paper towel, then repeat until the ink tone is back to where you want it.
  • India Ink is permanent, so don't wear your best clothing when painting, and keep paper towels on hand in case of spills.

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