The Beginner's Guide to Dip Pen Drawing: 10 Lessons Learned

As a beginner, I jumped in using dip pens without doing any research and damaged my new tools. Today, I will share a few things I wish I had known to make things easier as I started drawing with dip pens.

Why are dip pens popular among artists?

Dip pens are known for their sharp dark lines. These pens are very responsive to pressure and are a fun tool for different line weights and designs. Lines are expressive when using a dip pen, helping you create striking drawings. If you want to improve your line work, this is the pen for you.

Dip pens are considered a timeless art form that has always been popular with artists.

What are the dip pen drawing materials?

• Pen Nib Holder
• Ink nibs
• Indian Ink
• Bristol board with a smooth finish
• A rag to wipe off any excess ink and to clean your nibs
• A cup of water to clean your dip pens

Here are ten things I wish I had known before starting to draw with a dip pen:

1. Not Preparing Your Nibs Correctly

One of the most common mistakes beginners make when using a dip pen for drawing is not preparing a new nib correctly. When you get your nibs, clean them with hot water and dish soap. I like to use hot water, dish soap and an old toothbrush to clean it. This method removes any oils, to protect them from rusting after manufacture.

If you forget this step, the ink might not flow smoothly and can be difficult to work with.

2. How To Submerge The Ink Nib

Place your pen directly into the ink to dip it. Don't go too deep and get ink on the handle or nib holder. Dip your nib past the hole at the top centre (reservoir) to pick up some ink onto your nib.

3. Control Your Ink Flow

Practice controlling the amount of ink on your nib by dipping it lightly or wiping away excess ink on the side of the inkwell. If you are not careful, you risk dropping ink onto your drawings.

4. Choosing The Correct Ink

It's necessary to choose an ink that's designed for dip pen use. These inks are usually thinner and less viscous, allowing smoother and more controlled lines. They also tend to dry quickly, reducing the risk of smudging or smearing.

The inks that I like to work with are Speedball - Super Black, Windsor Newton Ink, and Art Spectrum Indian Ink.

5. Use The Right Kind Of Paper

Using the wrong type of paper can result in bleeding or damage to your pen nib. Choose paper that is designed for use with dip pens, such as Smooth Bristol Paper. It has a smooth surface that allows the ink to flow smoothly and evenly.

Dip pens will scratch the surface of coarse, textured paper, ripping at the fibres with their tiny nibs.

6. Practice Your Grip

Hold the pen with your thumb, index, and middle fingers, and rest your ring and pinky fingers on the paper for stability. Draw with the nib facing down, not upwards. However, drawing upwards can be used to create extra fine lines, so use it accordingly.

7. Vary The Pressure While Drawing

Try experimenting with pressing the pen down hard and lightly. Draw lines and shapes to get a feel for the pen and ink before moving on to more complex drawings.

8. Clean your nibs regularly.

Your ink nib should be clean and free of residue from previous use. Don't allow your ink to dry and cake over. This will damage your nibs and make them unusable. If you take a break while drawing, clean your ink nibs with water and wipe them with a rag.

Clean the bits of paper at the end of the nib that has accumulated while drawing too.

9. Don't submerge your nibs in water for hours. They will rust!

As a newbie, I let the ink dry on a nib and decided to soak it in water to loosen the ink. It did not work. My ink nib rusted and the nib holder got damaged irreparably.

10. Practice makes progress

If you're new to using a dip pen for drawing, it can take some time to get the hang of it. But with practice and patience, you can master this traditional tool. Practice doing the upstroke, downstroke, crossed lines, shapes and forms while maintaining consistent pressure and angle. Next, move onto varying pressure and thicknesses of lines.

Once you have a feel for the pen, you can start drawing more complex subjects.

Too long, couldn’t finish reading?

Want to stay inspired to keep drawing? Stay up to date with my newsletter for weekly tips on art, drawing and making a habit of it.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published.