How to use White Ink for Line Work

Let's talk about line work!

First of all, watching video process of line work is amazing (that's why I always recommend to record your process and, if you are curious, here you can read all about my equipment), and the satisfaction in getting all those lines one next to the other... it's just wow, it really makes you feel accomplished!

White lines are so beautiful and they create a great contrast with your background, so in this post you're going to find all the materials I'm using when working with lines as well as a couple of tips to help you getting smooth white lines.


Ok ok, let's start!

First of all, this blog post is specifically about white ink - mainly on acrylic background, however, you can apply the same learnings to any ink colour you like and almost any background you wish to paint.

I know you're here for ink, however, if you are line beginner, I suggest starting using Uniposca markers before you dive in into ink.

Ink work is definitively more rich in terms of line density, however if you never worked with ink and nib before, it's better to gain some confidence with Uniposca markers or Acrylic Pens.

I personally prefer Uniposca markers as they come in loads of different sizes as well as colour variety, however on the market you can find soooo many alternatives.

White Uniposca Markers sizes: Thin & Medium (there are also bigger sizes available, but unless you are working on a very big artwork, you probably won't need them.)
If you prefer to work with acrylic pens, here's an example: Acrylic White Permanent Marker


I suggest using markers in the beginning because creating loads of parallel lines looks super easy, but if you never done it before you might need a bit of practice.
Also, when you create your line work wit a marker, the only thing you need to focus on is the movement of your hand, rather than dipping the nib and controlling pressure.

It should go without saying that you'll have a different style than mine when creating line work, so don't worry if your lines don't look exactly like mine, embrace your own flow and let those beautiful lines come out naturally.

This is the sort fo embellishment work that doesn't have any rule, so you can draw flowers, straight lines or very intricate mandalas and the work will look amazing!

Here's an example of line work with Uniposca markers


Once you're comfortable with your lines and want to work with ink, the first thing I suggest is to get a good ink.
A good quality ink will ensure the white colour to be bright and not fade away into your design.
Good quality inks are less watery than others, so your colour will be vibrant and create a good contrast with your background, both on light and dark colours.

About your ink
I have used Daler Rowney FW Artists in the past and really liked it, and now switched to Liquitex ink. No particular reason for the change if not availability near me, both brands are very good and I recommend them indistinctly.

Once you have your ink, the most important thing to know is that you have to shake it before you use it, as well as during a long painting session.
Sometimes I draw lines for 45minutes/an hour, and I'd say every 10/15 minutes, would be a good moment to stretch your hand and shake the ink bottle, so then it looks all nice and bright on your artwork.
If you don't shake it, the good pigments will stay at the bottom of your bottle and your lines are going to be very faint.


About your lines
There are 2 ways to create your lines (not talking about shape here, but how you draw parallel lines).
My favourite method is creating parallel lines and embrace errors (they will happen!) to decide the direction, as well as looking at the space I want to cover with my lines to create a balanced and harmonious artwork with the background.

Because I'm working on a sponge background, and sometimes the background is a bit bumpy and irregular, I like the freedom of creating lines as they come...
You can see in the example here below, that I only create the first main line and then work my way out in complete freedom, no other lines or directions.

Alternatively, as you can see at the very start of the video below, you can create some main lines and then feel in the gaps.
This is a good solution when you have a big surface to fill and need to define the main lines first and then go in to work the details.

Whatever is more comfortable for you, and whatever works for your background.
Always evaluate your background, the colour and composition as well as the bumpiness!


About your nibs
Before you purchase any nib, think about how you're planning to use them.
For example, if like me you're planning to create different thickness of lines?, are you going to use them on paper only or also on canvas?, a big section of your artwork or only few small lines?

If you never worked with nibs before I suggest buying a set, link this one for example, and see what you like, what is comfortable and what works with your movements.

I like working with a thin line and then add a stronger contrast with a thicker line, so the nibs I personally selected for my own work are these

You can find them here:
Calligraphic Perko 0,75mm Ornamental Nib
Calligraphic Perko 2,00mm
Calligraphic Perko 2,50mm

The last nib is 5,00mm and was part of a set.

I opted for these nibs because they can hold way more ink than others and when you work on a big surface it is pretty handy not having to reach out for ink every second line.

If you see in the images below, there is a gap between the two metal pieces and that allows the nib to hold more ink.

In addition to holding more ink, the round point allows really good quality lines on bumpy surfaces too, which is great for sponge backgrounds, and it's also less aggressive on a canvas.

When you dip the nib in the ink bottle, make sure it's not too loaded with ink, I always dip and reduce the load just by tapping the edge of the bottle.


This is the Nib holder I use


Now, time to test your nibs.
These are the line thickness you get with the nibs I use.

I personally never used on any of my artworks the 5mm size yet, I tend to focus on the 0,75mm and 2,00mm. However it could get really handy for a big artowrk.

As you can see from the video before, there is already quite of a difference between the small nibs (0,75mm and 2,00mm) and I think it's enough, however for less dense lines on a big artwork you might want to explore the big sizes too!

Working with 2 different sizes allows me to create a hierarchy between the lines, defining different spaces and sections, and then it also helps covering up the conjunctions if they're not too precise.
The colour intensity of the beginning and the end of your line might be slightly different from the middle (this is absolutely normal and has nothing to do with the quality of your line, it's just how ink behaves!) and I personally like to create a more unified effect, so there's where a thicker line becomes handy.

One thing worth mentioning is that, depending on the quality of your ink, and the contrast between lines and background you might want/need go over your lines a second time.
But this is completely up to you, the time you have, the size of the artwork, the density of your lines and in general your sense of aesthetic.

For some of my artworks I only done one layer of line, while for some others I've done up to 3.
If you decide to go over your lines, do so when the first layer is fully dry and move your hand slow, so you can replicate the first layer.


The shape of your lines
As I mentioned at the beginning, your lines will be different than mine, your shape will be specific to your own style, you can fill the page or create few small lines.
Whatever you decide, make sure you have a vision of where your lines are going...
For example, if your lines are quite short you'll approach them in a very different way than if they were half a meter long.
This is because the movement you'll have to do to achieve the shapes have to be comfortable for you, your hand, nib and the position of the artwork too.
If you are working on a big canvas, think about where you'll be while you draw the lines, can you hold that position for long? Can you rotate the canvas or can you move around the canvas?

Don't feel overwhelmed, but these are simple questions to ask yourself before you start with an idea and then half way while drawing a line you realise you physically can't get there.
And if you ask yourself these questions before you start then you'll be more confident in your line work.

Because at the end, it all comes down to confidence. The confidence that comes by knowing your tools, your ink, the space around your artwork. Once you know where your line is going and how you can get your nib from A to B, then you're all set.

For example, I'm left handed, so I work right to left, bottom to top. Otherwise I'd cover my lines while they're still wet and make a mess.
Or... if I'm working on paper I know I can apply a certain amount of pressure on my artwork and can rotate it as much as I need. If I'm working on canvas (because there is nothing underneath) I have to be more gentle and ensure a good line movement without moving/lifting the canvas every 2 seconds.

Test your ink and nib, understand what movements are easy for you and what is best avoiding.
Fill a page with random lines and test it out, because that's really the only way you'll gain confidence in creating your lines!



Additional Tips:

Keep next to you a small brush and a bit of water, so if you make a mistake you can erase it as long as the ink is wet.
Deep breath, no panic, it's ok, clean your ink and go on.
Prepare water and brush in advance so you don't risk to let the ink dry while you run around gathering water and panicking at the same time - trust me, I know that feeling, I've been there!! :D
(If you've painted your background with watercolours, be careful when you do this as you might lift up the background colour too)


Embrace the errors.
First of all they aren't really errors because nobody is telling you how your line should look like.
But if you feel like you create a line that doesn't work for you, then either delete it or... simply change the direction of your lines.
Creating line work should be stress-less, at all times. And if it's not, than it's time to take a break and relax.


Which brings me to the last point... The quality of your lines will get better with a lot of testing, but it will get worse if you're tired.
I know you want to create a billion of amazing lines now and fill all your artworks with lines, however learn to rest your hand your shoulder, eyes and mind .
If after a while your lines get all wobbly... it's time to stop. Get some rest, make yourself a nice cup of tea, and come back to your artwork tomorrow!

Lines are for relaxing, not for stressing out.

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