Draw with a dip pen and you’re continuing a tradition going back centuries. There’s a comfort in learning the old ways, but also a headache when you’re used to doing everything digitally. I’ve been inking digitally for a decade and only just picked up the dip pen last year. This Inktober, I wanted to share a few tips when starting out- I learned each of these the loud, explosive, cursing way. Read on and make your own inking a little smoother.
1. Nibs and bottles of ink are with the calligraphy stuff in the art/hobby store. A good starter nib is the Hunt #513EF Globe Nib. This is what works for me, and I encourage you to try different nibs until you find a few that suit your own style. Holders and nibs are sometimes sold separately, with a few standard sizes, so make sure they’ll fit together.
2. Dip the nib halfway into your ink bottle. Not overfilling keeps the ink from splashing down.
3. Hold the pen curved side down. Surface tension also keeps the ink from splashing down. Yes really! It was a long time before I trusted enough to flip that pen over.
4. To draw a line, pull the pen towards you. Never push forward. Never pull the pen sideways, especially on a full pen. Actually, no. Go ahead and do that. See what happens.
5. Turn the page! I saw a Youtube video about inking where the artist said it best: every artist has one good curve they can do. Turn that paper so you’re not fighting against what your hand naturally wants to do. Again, draw the line towards you. I will look for that video and share it with you when I can.
6. Keep separate nibs for each color. I tend to use my white ink almost like correction fluid, simply because that’s what’s close at hand. Imagine dipping your inky black pen into that pristine white and coming out with laundry-sock grey. When switching bottles, make it a habit to put the cap on the one before switching to the other.
7. Work with a cup of water, or at least a wet paper towel. Wipe frequently. Clean nibs mean clean lines. Once I stopped letting my ink dry in the nib, I no longer had to buy smelly pen cleaner.
8. Be strategic about where you start inking a piece. Left-handed children learn early that their writing hand will smear the ink of what they just wrote. So we develop hook hands or other strategies to deal with juicy pens. For inking art, left-handed artists can start on the upper right corner and work their way left and down. Righties, reverse it.
9. Ink multiple pages at the same time. Know when to step back and give your lines a chance to dry. Avoid the itch to squeeze in one more line when your hand is trapped between wet ink on all sides. Set it aside and rotate through a couple pages instead.
These are tips that I can hang my hat on. Remember that when starting out in any new medium, the best way to learn is to stop reading about it and actually do it! Happy inking!