Creating value in pen and ink drawings

Most people are somewhat familiar with the process of shading with a pencil, but not everyone knows the drawing techniques for creating value with a pen.

There is one main difference between shading with a pencil and shading with a pen: with pencil, you can apply shading by increasing pressure - in other words, pressing the pencil harder against the paper in the areas that you want to appear darker. With the exception of ball point pens, you can't use the pressure technique in pen and ink to create value. Instead, you must use one of the techniques demonstrated below.

You might be surprised to learn that, aside from the pressure technique, the basic drawing techniques for creating value when drawing with pen involves exactly the same strokes as when using pencil. The basic strokes include hatching, cross-hatching, scumbling, contour-hatching, and stippling, as shown in the examples below.

Ink hatching circle


a row of lines, all facing in the same direction. More dense and concentrated in the areas that appear darker.

cross hatching with ink


similar to hatching, except with the addition of criss-crossing lines.

Scumbling with ink


tiny, squiggly circular lines - sort of like "controlled scribbling"


Contour-hatching with ink


follows the contour, or curve or outline, of the object. In this case, the hatching is rounded to match the shape of the circle.

Stippling with Ink


placing many, many dots on the paper to indicate shading. Probably the most time consuming of all the methods, but creates some neat effects. 

Creating value with pen and ink

I've included this side-by-side comparison to further illustrate the results of the different drawing techniques. It's best to familiarize yourself with all of them, so that you will intuitively know which one will best suit the subject matter in your drawing. You can combine any of these techniques into the same artwork, to create some neat effects!

Read more

There are many different drawing papers available for creating pen and ink artwork. Learn about several different kinds of art paper that you can use to make your pen and ink drawings!

If you want to make detailed pen & ink drawings, check out this in-depth overview of this popular drawing medium, along with techniques, materials needed and examples of pen and ink art.

For inspiration, view the realistic pen and ink artwork of Sue Pownall. Her detailed ink drawings capture the essence of her surroundings as she travels the world.

Check out the detailed pen & ink drawings of Eli Helman. In this exclusive interview, he discusses the process and inspiration behind his elaborate pen and ink art.

Oops, accidentally spilled some ink? Learn how to remove ink stains.

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