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Art Supply Resources



Inks are an excellent medium for line drawing, wash illustration and lettering work, and are suitable for most drawing surfaces. Inks can be made from pigments or dyes. Pigmented inks are typically permanent, smudge-proof and water-resistant. Colored dyes lend brilliant hues but they tend to fade with time. Dyes are not recommended for permanent work.

Inks are made from solutions of carbon particles suspended in water and mixed with a binder such as shellac. Depending on the binder, they can dry to a matte or glossy finish, be opaque or transparent and can be mixed with each other and overlaid to create an infinite variety of shades and tones. Inks can also be water- or oil-based. Black drawing ink, sometimes referred to as India or Indian ink, is the popular ink for pen drawing as well as in calligraphy. Originally sepia ink was prepared from the ink sac of a squid or cuttlefish and was the vogue in 18th century European brush drawing. Today it is made in with modern methods.

Inks are primarily applied with brushes or pens. They are sold in glass or plastic bottles with eyedropper caps, or in squeeze-bottles with narrow necks. Both allow you to fill a pen easily without spillage. There also are inks specially made for technical pens, graphic design use and airbrush applications. All brushes and pens that come in contact with ink should be washed immediately when work finishes because, once dry, ink is very difficult to remove.


Most technical pens are refillable but many use their own compatible ink cartridges that should never be refilled from a bottle but discarded once empty. Inks for reservoir type pens are available in filler bottles. Some drawing inks contain a high proportion of shellac that dries quickly and can clog the fine filament inside the ink delivery system within the nib. The most suitable ink is one that is free flowing but quick-drying, with good adhesion qualities. Some water-based dyes do not have sufficient viscosity for technical pens, causing the dye to flow too freely from the nib and flood the drawing. These should be avoided if possible.

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