Winsor & Newton Drawing Inks

Ink bottleDrawing inks. What are they? And what makes them different to, say, watercolour paint? Well, we had a vague idea, but we thought it best to consult someone who knows, and that someone was artist and lecturer Stuart Edmundson, who we've previously consulted on Winsor & Newton's marker pen range.

So along he came, with a set of Winsor & Newton Drawing Inks and some peculiar… things. I hesitate to call them brushes because they weren't, but they involved a bamboo stick and either a sponge or a few bits of plastic stuck on the end, so they were sort of like brushes in that regard. Painting implements! That's what I'll call them. We were agog.

Anyway, I should say firstly that these inks come in some great packaging: squat bottles in boxes decorated with the likes of purple plums, scarlet strawberries and violet er… violets. Well, this is an arts supplies company! The colours are jewel-like and vibrant and because they don't dry too quickly they give you plenty of time to titillate your artwork.

And titillate we did! This is where the - ahem - 'painting implements' came in. They were a surprisingly effective way of getting the ink from the bottle and onto the paper (130gsm medium surface cartridge paper, by the way) and experimenting with different effects. It was a great way of seeing how the inks behaved. Wetting the paper beforehand was also an interesting exercise, as the inks still retained their vibrancy.

So while they're a great alternative to watercolour paint, they're not as easy to blend. You can layer colours, but only when the first one is dry or, so Stuart warned us, they go a sort of uniform muddy colour! They're best used for what they are: vivid colour that can be used with permanent pens and other media to create bold, defined artwork.

Stuart was kind enough to take us step-by-step through a recent project, and here's what he had to say…

Within my Artwork I generally use water colour, oils or acrylics, but I have found myself using inks in the past purely for the immediate intensity of colour and flow of the medium when using a brush. So when asked to create a piece of work for Inktober I was more than happy to take part.

My practice is not of an illustrative nature so the way in which I use the medium may differ from how an illustrator might approach using inks for a drawing or design. I enjoy exploring and experimenting with the materials I use and do often enjoy juxtaposing different applications together within my preliminary studies, which then develop further within my exploratory process.

The following is a brief description of how to create this preliminary drawing study.

Drawing study part 1Draw directly with the ink onto dry paper using a brush suitable for the line required. It's a good idea to already have an idea of colours within the composition so you can use the appropriate coloured line; this will avoid muddying the eventual coloured fields.

Once the initial compositional drawing has been marked out, fill the individual fields with coloured ink, again using wet on to dry so as to control the ink's flow as much as possible.

Drawing study part 2While the ink dries, start to prepare the other surface for working. This should be a 'wet on wet' technique, which will become collaged surfaces to be added to the initial drawing to create added space, texture and depth. Firstly wet a sponge (a cloth will do, but I find a small sponge works very well), then move it over the area where you intend to apply ink. I was wanting circular shapes so wet a series of rough circular areas on the paper.

Now apply ink to the area you have wetted. You can use any application method you like; experimenting with different application methods is a great way to understand how the ink (or paint) works. I decided to use a pipette filled with ink to apply small drops to the area. This way I could attempt to control the amount of ink applied and also its flow once it dropped onto the paper. I did this with 3 colours for the smaller circles and 5 colours for the larger circle. Once the ink is applied and you are happy with how the effect is looking, leave to dry flat, or as I did with the larger one, you could catnip and move the paper around to try and affect the flow of the ink.

Drawing study part 3Once the ink has dried, cut out the circular shapes, with the actual shapes being determined by how the ink has dropped onto the wet paper. Then place onto the initial piece and reposition until you're happy with the final composition.

This is the finished artwork, and a good starting point to explore further with the composition possibly developing in to some larger studies and future paintings.

Drawing study Final

These are the inks and other materials used. Winsor & Newton Drawing Ink in a variety of colours, plus a pipette, various brushes, a sponge, water and cartridge paper.

Drawing study Final

25 October 2019

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