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Values and Textures with Ink Lines

November 8, 2011

You can control the value in an ink drawing by changing the amount of space between the lines. In the image above there are four value transitions between the white of the paper and a square filled with solid ink. The first square on the left is the lightest value with lines going in one direction. In the next square horizontal lines are added. In the third there are diagonal lines within each grid intersection, and in the fourth square diagonal lines are added in the opposite direction. The limitation of this value change is that there is a line between each value so you wind up with straight bands of tone.


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To create a smoother transition you need to gradually introduce more space between the lines. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. In image #2 above the lines are drawn so that they gradually become thicker. Another choice is to make the line widths the same, but drawn closer together as in image #2b. You can also break up the lines entirely into dots and dashes, as in #3.

Images #4 and 5 show tapered lines made with a brush marker and hair brush. This technique is often referred to as “feathering.”

Dots can also be used in an effect called “stippling” in the same manner, as in #6. I prefer to shift each row, like a woven pattern, so that it creates a more even tone. In image #7 you see a sort of dry brush effect that was actually drawn with a bamboo stick, and in #8 I’ve used a brush to vary the line thickness and altered the ink value within the line itself. These marks give you not only value changes but also an implied texture.

Image #9 shows lines made with a fine tip marker (.005 Micron.) In image #10 you see an optical effect of a moiré pattern caused by the angle of diagonal lines. It’s an interesting effect but hard to control.

In this detail from an engraving you can see how line thickness alone conveys a value change from light to dark. The wavy lines help illustrate the texture of the wood grain, which also works well for the wrinkles in fabrics. The bright areas that were scraped away can be mimicked on a good quality sheet of paper or scratchboard.
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I use all of these methods, sometimes in various combinations, to control the values in my ink drawings. I also like to use a sheet of paper with printed rows of lines 1/8″ apart that I place underneath the drawing to help me keep the lines straight. I have another sheet with both vertical and horizontal lines that helps with placing dots and keeping them evenly spaced.

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2 comments

  1. Brings me back to 1998 when I was first starting to learn the art of the pencil and all the cool things you can do with a simple piece of wood with lead in the middle. Thank you for sharing!


  2. Thanks for the tutorial! 🙂



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