Created over 2,000 years ago, India ink is made up of carbon nanoparticles that have a unique effect on paper. Illustrating with this material is more than a means of creative expression; the possibilities are endless and unpredictable.
In this tutorial, award-winning artist and illustrator Mika Takahashi shows us how to explore the possibilities of India ink to create mesmerizing marks:
How to create ink strokes with India ink on watercolor paper
To begin with, you will need a small bowl of water and a bowl of Indian ink, as well as watercolor paper. Choose some old clothes that can be stained. If necessary, protect the table and nearby furniture with an old cloth to keep it from getting dirty. However, one important rule: let yourself get dirty. Don’t hold back. It is precisely in the "messiness" that the creative potential of this technique lies.
Apply the water delicately, with a brush, on the watercolor paper, creating small wet areas. Then, dip the brush in the Indian ink and apply it to those areas, observing how it behaves and the different types of shapes it forms. Experiment with different methods of application, shaking the brush a few centimetres above the paper or touching the paper directly.
The more water you use, the bigger the stroke will be. And, if there's more pigment, the effect of the stroke tends to be more solid.
How to create spots and textures on drawing paper (Bristol)
In addition to watercolor paper, drawing paper (Bristol) is a good choice for working with Indian ink. You can do this by dipping a cotton ball into the ink and applying it to create a very different stain effect to brush mark.
You can also experiment with gauze pads or a piece of plastic bag, for example. Each material allows for an effect, a texture, and a density you can use to play with the ink on paper and get creative. There are no limits to this technique, let your creativity guide you.
Take risks with different materials and analyze the results to understand which ones you like best and what they achieve.
Digitize the results you like the most
Whenever you finish painting, scan the result and make a file with all your work. Make a note of the materials you have used and record the steps of the process. This is one of the best ways to document your experiments and what you learn. But remember: the results, by the very essence of this technique, will never be identical.
Did you like this tutorial? Learn how to create a composition with India ink from start to finish, using a brush for precision, taking advantage of contrast, light and shadow and, thus, transmit emotions through traditional methods with Mika Takahashi on her online course India Ink Illustration with Japanese Influence.