It’s time for another dive into my vast pile of workshop handouts! I have been using this technique a lot lately, as it is my favourite method of colouring comics. Usually I like to do the ink work first and then colour inside the lines with watercolour, but I’m considering being daring for one of my current projects and starting with the watercolour, then adding the ink lines afterwards, with a light touch, as needed. Updates on that after I actually work up the courage to do a whole long project that way!
Pen and Ink can be added to watercolour after the paper is dry to enhance details, sharpen lines, create textures, and bring up contrasts. Any pen and ink technique can be used: crosshatching, stippling, scribbles, patterns, contour lines, etc. — think about how the pen and ink technique you choose will interact with the look of the watercolour passage to which you are adding it. If your ink is waterproof (test it first!!!), you can work back and forth between the ink and the watercolour.
Besides black inks, there are also beautiful coloured inks that can blend well with watercolour; again, just make sure they are waterproof. These can also be used instead of watercolour, but be aware that they don’t lift out like watercolour does if you decide you want an area lighter.
There are many styles of combining the two media, and experimenting will help you find your own style. Here are a few examples that you can look for in books, in galleries, and all around you in advertising, illustrations, packaging, and more. And of course there are as many styles as there are artists — this list is just a rough categorization to get you started thinking about all the ways these two mediums can combine.
Ink Drawing First methods:
- The colour-in-the-lines method: This involves making a solid, sometimes quite detailed, pen and ink drawing, and then treating the outlined spaces as fields to be coloured in solidly. A simple example would be the comic book style. The focus in this style is the outline.
- The watercolour-as-shading method: A variation on the previous style, this uses watercolour to provide the impression of 3-d to the drawing. The spaces are filled with colour, not flatly, but using variation of darks and lights or colours to show light and shadow. The drawing may or may not have details such as stippling or crosshatching supporting the shading.
- The splash-of-colour method: This is where the watercolour is brushed on loosely in a rough correspondence with the ink drawing. Sometimes it is used in just one small area to highlight a center of interest.
- Watercolour First methods:
- The toning-the-paper method: Using watercolour, the artist ‘”tones” the entire paper with washes — to provide some nebulous forms to spark the imagination, or just to to get past that “blank white page”. The wash can be smooth or textured, flat colour or graded. Sometimes the toning is used as a middle ground and the artist uses both dark inks and white to bring out the three-diminsionality of the subject.
- The suggestion-of-colour method The watercolour here is used as a loose pre-drawing, perhaps in conjunction with a light pencil sketch. The ink work is then drawn using the colours as a rough guide, but without worrying about an exact match between the colours and the drawing.
- The ink-as-final-enhancement method This is using the ink drawing as a final detailing of a complete watercolour painting. It can be for additional shading, to highlight a center of interest, to strengthen linear features or contrast, or to add details difficult to achieve in watercolour alone.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about this technique and try it out!