Multi-coloured dip-pen


For the last few months nearly all my sketching has been in bamboo dip-pen and multi-coloured inks. I love the juicy draggable lines I get with the dip-pen, the wide variation in width and saturation, and having a range of coloured inks has changed the way I draw.


I’m identifying different elements and ‘planes’ for different colour treatments, helping to give the sketches greater depth. The coloured lines can ‘sit back’ more effectively than black or grey when I add a paint wash (see the tiles and trees below), and are much clearer, more saturated and more defined than the lines I got with my coloured pencils or brush-pens. The bamboo pen delivers a huge amount of ink when needed, and I can lift off excess ink using a tissue, creating interesting printed effects.


I’ve already posted about modifying the dip-pen to improve ink flow.


It took me a while to find the perfect ink pot; it had to be lightweight, tall enough to get a good ink dip, and with a watertight hinged lid. A piece of sponge in the pot makes it ‘non-spill’, it holds the ink steady, but releases it when you dip the nib.  


I’ve made a pot-holder from a plastic telescopic pen case (26mm internal) and some bookbinding tape, making them very stable and easy to handle and access. I usually have three colours with me, and one extra pot filled with just water; useful for dipping the nib between colours to keep them clean. Any more than four pots gets a bit complicated!


I’m using De Atramentis Document inks which are quick drying, waterproof and designed for mixing. I’ve blended a green (foliage and clothing), an orange (skin tones and stone/bricks/roof tiles), and a blue (clothes, shadows). The fourth occasional colour is my old favourite Lexington grey, although I’m using this less and less. Blending the ink colours and working out specific mixing quantities was good fun…


The inks also mix on the page creating unintended and mostly lovely effects.


It’s all led to a big change in my style. I feel as if I’ve taken off some dark glasses, or that the sun’s come out in all my sketches, even when it’s raining!


About Ed Mostly

Enthusiastic daily sketcher based in Bath Uk
This entry was posted in bamboo dip pen, coloured ink, inks, kit, line drawing, urban, urban sketching and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Multi-coloured dip-pen

  1. Jason Chan says:

    Beautiful! Are the ink lines drawn in after the watercolour washes or before? If before, are the inks waterproof?

  2. miatagrrl says:

    Gorgeous sketches, Ed, and as usual, ingenious hacks to solve your issues! You should do a presentation or workshop on your discoveries at the next symposium!


  3. Viktoria says:

    Love the inkpots! I have plenty of dip pens I never use, now I am tempted to get them out! And the drawings are wonderful. I think you have evolved quite a bit since I started following you, practice really pays off!

    • Ed Mostly says:

      Thanks Viktoria. The sponge/ink-pots work well for the bamboo dip-pen as it’s fairly blunt. When I’ve tried with metal sharper nibs they tend to get stuck in the sponge!

  4. Patsye says:

    The boat! Extraordinary. Great work. I too have seen your progress and am wild about that boat. Patsye

  5. Gail Colvin says:

    What a wonderful and unique style that you plus supplies results in!

  6. rosjenke says:

    These are wonderful sketches. You have a unique quality.

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