Illustration

Illustration Tutorial: Ink Strokes And The Sumi-e Technique

Award-winning artist and illustrator Mika Takahashi shows us how to explore the possibilities of India ink by getting our hands dirty to learn how paint, water, and different papers react

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.

Illustration Tutorial: Ink Strokes And The Sumi-e Technique  4
Apply water to watercolor paper

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.

Illustration Tutorial: Ink Strokes And The Sumi-e Technique  6
Apply the paint over the water

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.

Illustration Tutorial: Ink Strokes And The Sumi-e Technique  8
The more water you use, the bigger the stain that will form on the paper

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.

Illustration Tutorial: Ink Strokes And The Sumi-e Technique  10
Use cotton to create effects

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.

Illustration Tutorial: Ink Strokes And The Sumi-e Technique  12
Materials like gauze also work to create effects

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.

0 comments

Log in or sign up to comment

Get Domestika's news delivered to your inbox