7 Must-Know Pen and Ink Drawing Techniques

7 Must-Know Pen and Ink Drawing Techniques

Pen and ink. It can sound so permanent. But, trust me, it doesn’t have to be! There are so many wonderful ways to control this medium, and its presence can add emotion and fine details to any drawing. Plus, knowing different pen and drawing techniques can translate into adding an extra special touch to a greeting card or scrapbook page.


Before we delve into technique, let’s talk about materials. This is what I used to complete these exercises:

  • Drawing paper
  • Black sumi ink
  • Nibs in a pen holder
  • Brush
  • Archival ink pens.

The type of instrument you use will affect what your line quality and overall look of your work. It also will make some exercises easier than others. A nib and nib holder, for instance, will give you precise lines of varying (depending on what type of nib you use). Brushes will cover more area but aren’t necessarily as good for fine details. It all depends on what look you’re trying to achieve.


Linear hatching is one of the most basic pen and ink drawing techniques. To create volume and shading, draw a series of straight lines. Try varying the distance between them and the thickness of your line to create different effects. If you’re going for something that’s in the shade, marks that are close together will read as dark.


Like linear hatching, cross hatching uses straight (or nearly straight) lines. With this technique, however, lines intersect and form tiny crosses— hence the name! Building volume works the same way as linear hatching, where the distance between lines and intersections will make certain areas appear like they are shaded.


This is the perfect technique for conveying form! Cross contour follows the object’s outline and fills out the shape. It makes your drawing look more 3-D with curved lines that give the illusion of form. As with cross hatching and hatching, the way to shade is the same.


Ink wash is my favorite of the pen and ink drawing techniques. Instead of using a pen, you use a brush to fill large areas with color. Work in layers and apply the lightest wash (ink that’s diluted with water) first. Gradually, you can add more and more value (more ink, less water) to forms and add dimensionality to your drawing.