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Watercolor techniques with pen & ink

Updated April 17, 2017

Using pen and ink with watercolour paint is a technique that adds drama and a stylised look to a painting. Traditional calligraphy or drawing tip pens and well-type ink may be used, as well as fountain pens, permanent and semi-permanent marker to achieve a variety of outcomes. Experimenting with these techniques with add to your watercolour repertoire and add new dimensions to your work.

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Pen and Ink Drawing

One of the most popular techniques is accomplished by sketching a detailed drawing using a hard artist pencil, such as a No. 4, then inking in the drawing and adding detail using pen and ink. After allowing the ink to dry, the painting is coloured using watercolours. This technique gives the painting a stylised, illustrative feel.

Drawing Over a Wash

Using pen and ink to draw over a watercolour wash gives an ethereal feel to the piece. For this technique, the artist applies several colours of wash, or diluted watercolour pigment, onto a piece of watercolour paper that has been dampened. The wash will spread and pool randomly on the paper. After the paper has dried thoroughly, the artist renders a pen and ink drawing over the wash.

Semi-Permanent Marker Techniques

Semi-permanent marker comes in many colours and can provide some interesting results if you are a little risky in your work. There are a couple of techniques to try, and each have varying results, depending on the quality of paper and brand of marker you use. In the first technique, start with marker on dry paper to render a drawing. Try not to use too much detail when working with semi-permanent marker as you will lose the detail when you wet the marker with watercolour. Add watercolour to the drawing. The marker will bleed into the watercolour, creating some interesting effects. Another technique to try is drawing with the markers on dampened watercolour paper. The marker will bleed immediately as you draw. Allow the drawing to dry, then add watercolour paint to the piece.

Painting First

For this technique, the artist renders a detailed watercolour painting and allows it to completely dry. After the painting is dry, the artist adds detail and outlines using pen and ink or marker for a dramatic effect.

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About the Author

Robin Devereaux has been writing professionally for more than 25 years. She has written for "The Sowell Review, "Health and Healing Magazine" and has been a contributor to several local Eastern Michigan publications. Robin is a graduate of the Central Michigan University Arts Program.

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