One of the most beautiful tools for drawing is the classic dip pen. Paired with a bottle of ink, the humble pen can be used to create highly expressive drawings. The pen itself can be fashioned from sharpened reeds, feather quills or more commonly, metal nibs attached to wooden handles. I use an extra fine # 513 Hunt Globe Bowl pointed nib. It's made of hardened steel, but has enough flex so I can vary the line thickness.
If you’ve never tried using a dip pen before, or if like me and you’re reacquainting yourself to its charms, here are 5 Tips to help you enjoy this timeless instrument. Have fun drawing!
1. Stick to smooth surfaced papers. Hot pressed Arches or Fabriano cotton papers are good. This Pine Cone was drawn in my Moleskine sketchbook and the pen glides across the paper effortlessly. Try to avoid textured papers as the metal nib will snag onto the fibres and spatter the ink all over.
2. Try to purchase ink with a built in pipette. The pipette is super handy because it lets you suck up a few droplets at a time and deposit them straight onto the tip of the nib. This avoids overloading the pen which can easily happen when you're dipping straight into the bottle. An overloaded pen makes it difficult to control the flow of ink and can lead to a big inky mess!
3. Keep scrap paper handy. When you load ink onto your pen, it’s helpful to first make a few test lines on your scrap paper to ensure the pen is flowing smoothly.
4. Ink dries rapidly and your nib will clog unless you keep it clean. Use a moist rag for wiping excess or semi dry ink off your nib as you’re working.
5. Choose your ink carefully. If you plan to brush watercolour over your line work, you’ll need Indian ink which contains shellac. Also, look for inks that are rated excellent for lightfastness. Those inks will contain real pigments like Carbon Black and won’t fade when exposed to light.