How To Draw With A Fountain Pen

How to Draw with a Fountain Pen
How to Draw with a Fountain Pen

Can you draw with a fountain pen? In a word, yes. As an artist, you can draw with anything you want to draw with. From crayons to pastels, to charcoal, to ballpoint pens, and yes, to fountain pens as well. 

While you can draw with just about anything, you were probably more interested in learning whether or not you could produce professional-quality artwork while using a fountain pen. 

The answer here would be yes as well. Fountain pens give you the ability to draw in ink in a way that a ballpoint pen could never hope to replicate.

Fountain pens are elegant, designed for writing in calligraphy or for drawing, and give you a great deal of control over the weight of each line that you commit to paper. Is drawing with a fountain pen challenging? It is for several reasons, chief among them being the fact that you are working with ink. While it is challenging, it's definitely worth the effort due to the fantastic artwork that you can create when using a fountain pen.

Fountain Pen Drawing Techniques

If you want to learn how to draw with a fountain pen, the first thing you will need to understand is that a fountain pen will put wet ink down on your paper. While ink from a ballpoint pen is a liquid as well, it is ink designed to dry very quickly.

On the other hand, the ink that you use in a fountain pen will remain in a liquid state long enough to allow some movement after it has been put down on paper. Some good things can happen as a result of this, and some bad things can occur as a result of this.

Let's start with the benefits of having liquid ink on paper. The main advantage here is that it will cause a natural variance in your lines that you cannot achieve with a ballpoint pen. But why would you want something less precise? Because it adds a level of interest to your work.

The randomness of liquid ink on paper can create some amazing happy accidents! On the downside, it's also straightforward to accidentally smear the ink you have put down on paper by touching it before it has thoroughly dried. Nothing ruins a beautiful ink drawing faster than a big smear mark in the middle of it.

So, what do you need to understand about drawing with a fountain pen before you get started? First, drawing with ink is much different than drawing with pencil, charcoal, or any other type of dry media. 

Ink is not very forgiving. If you make a significant mistake with ink, you won't be able to fix it, and your drawing will be ruined. 

The other challenge when drawing in ink is learning how to create shadows and to create different shades of grey. If you are doing ink and wash, you can simply add some water to your ink and treat it like a watercolor to create different shades of grey. But, with a fountain pen, you can't do ink and wash. So, what can you do?

There are a few ways that you can create the appearance of shadows using a fountain pen. They are stippling, and hatching, or cross-hatching. We'll get into hatching later, for now, we'll focus on stippling. What is stippling? It's using the fine point on a fountain pen to create multiple tiny dots on a paper.

When dots are placed close to one another, your eye will blend them in with the paper creating an illusion of shadow. The closer the dots are to one another, the darker the shadow.

Mark Making Techniques In Pen And Ink

When you are drawing with a ballpoint pen, it's possible to treat it a lot like a pencil if you want to. You can draw up and down, apply more pressure or less, etc. But, with a fountain pen, you have to be more careful about how you use the pen. 

For one thing, you never want to push the pen on the paper away from you. This will cause the ink to flow out too quickly, creating a blotch of ink. Not only will this ruin your drawing, but it can also damage the tip of your pen. How do you make marks with a fountain pen then? You do it by pulling the pen toward you.

One of the true strengths of a fountain pen is its ability to create heavier or lighter lines depending on the amount of pressure you apply when you are drawing. This ability allows you to draw with different line weights quickly, which is essential in any ink drawing. 

If all of the lines in an ink drawing have the same weight, the drawing will end up looking flat and boring. With a fountain pen, you don't have to switch pens to change the weight of the lines you are making. 

This gives you the ability to work quickly, which can add a beneficial level of spontaneity to your work. Being able to use only one pen to create multiple line weights is also helpful if you like to carry a sketchbook with you, so you can draw when inspiration strikes.

Hatching Techniques You can Use When Drawing With a Fountain Pen

If you want to learn how to draw with a fountain pen, then you are going to have to learn all about hatching and cross-hatching. 

What are hatching and cross-hatching? Hatching and cross-hatching are the main methods for creating shadows when you are drawing in ink. 

The simplest explanation is that they are lines that are placed close to one another to create the illusion of a shadow. 

In hatching the lines, all go in one direction. In cross-hatching, the paths cross over one another in an “X” pattern.

While using hatching or cross-hatching is simple in theory, to use it effectively, it takes more practice. You have to decide what style of drawing you are trying to create. 

Are you creating a precise drawing that you want to look extremely neat when it's finished? Then you want to use short, controlled hatching with similar or uniform line weight.

If you are looking to create a more random-looking drawing, then using a messy style of cross-hatching works well. Don't forget that hatching and cross-hatching can be used to create an interesting texture in a drawing as well as creating the appearance of shadows.

Line Variation When Using a Fountain Pen

Line variation is significant when you are drawing with ink. When drawing with pencil or charcoal, you can blend creating different tones. With pen and ink, you are unable to do so, so you have to find other means of creating the appearance of shadows. 

If you can't do this, then you are going to end up with a flat looking drawing. How does this relate to line variation? It relates because you will probably be using hatching and cross-hatching to create shadows. 

By varying the weight of the hatch marks, you can not only control the depth of the shadow, but you can also add some interesting textures.

How else should you utilize line variation when drawing with a fountain pen? One great trick is to use heavier lines on objects or people that are in the foreground, then lighter lines on objects or people in the background. 

The heavier lines on the foreground subjects will make the drawing look clearer up close, which creates the illusion of depth.

Combining Ink Drawings And Watercolor

Combining ink drawings with watercolor is one of the biggest reasons that you should learn how to draw with a fountain pen. Ink and watercolor were practically made for one another. So, how should you combine ink and watercolor? You should do it in any way that you want to! 

While you can combine ink and watercolor in a myriad number of ways, there are a few things to keep in mind. The most important rule is that if you are doing watercolor washes over ink, you need to ensure that the ink is completely dry before you start in with the watercolor. 

If it isn't completely dry, then it's going to end up bleeding into the watercolor. While you might choose to go this route intentionally, more often than not the bleeding ink ruins the vividness of the watercolor paint, which ruins your drawing.

If you decide that you want to add watercolor to your ink drawing, you can either paint a wash over dry ink. Or you can add a splash of color then draw over it with ink. 

You can use the precise placement of the watercolor paint, or you can be messy and let it flow around and create interesting, random effects. 

Just keep in mind that if you are planning to use watercolor as part of your drawing, you will need a heavier weight paper to prevent the water from warping or even destroying it. 

You also need to remember to use waterproof ink when you are going to be adding watercolor to your drawing. If you don't use waterproof ink, your drawing will quickly turn into a muddy mess.

Different Ways To Hold A Fountain Pen

Part of learning how to draw with a fountain pen is learning how to hold the pen. With a ballpoint pen, you are more likely to hold the pen more vertically. 

With a fountain pen, holding it at a roughly 45-degree angle will give you better results. You probably think that you won't have as much control over your pen when you hold it this way, and you would be right. 

But, that's kind of the point here. You want to hold your pen loosely, and you want to make marks that are quick to create a more attractive looking drawing.

How To Maintain Ink Flow With a Fountain Pen

If you want to maintain good ink flow with your fountain pens, there are some simple steps you can take. The most important thing you can do is to properly clean your fountain pen after each use. 

Leaving ink in a fountain pen is a death sentence for it! Ink will dry and harden and block the tip of the pen. The good news is that running your pen and the tip through some warm water with soap after each use is all that it takes to keep it clean and in good working order. 

When you are drawing and want to keep the ink flowing, make sure that you draw from north to south, that is you draw pulling the pen toward you and never pushing it away. If you do this, you should be able to keep the ink flowing, and the creativity flowing as well!

Why Fountain Pens Are Better Than Ballpoints

Why are fountain pens better than ballpoints? Because they are so much more flexible in what they can do! Sure, you may prefer a ballpoint pen, and there's nothing wrong with that. 

This is art, after all, and you should use whatever tools make you most comfortable. If that means drawing with a ballpoint pen, then go ahead and do it. But, even if you love drawing with a ballpoint pen, you owe it to yourself to explore what a fountain pen can do.

Fountain pens give you the ability to quickly put wet ink down on paper, and they allow you to promptly vary line weight while you are drawing. They are so much more versatile than ballpoints. 

The best way to think of it is this, ballpoints were designed for writing, fountain pens were designed for drawing.

Fountain Drawing Ideas

Are you curious about what types of things you can draw with a fountain pen? How about anything you can imagine. Fountain pens are so versatile that once you learn how to use them properly, you can draw anything with them. 

They work well for precise, technical style drawings, but they really excel at quicker sketch-like drawings. No matter what you want to learn to draw with a fountain pen, the key to success if to practice. 

Once you learn how to vary line weight, and how to use stippling, hatching, and cross-hatching to add shadows, you'll be able to create amazing artwork with a fountain pen.


Ian Walsh is the creator and author of and an Art teacher based in Merseyside in the United Kingdom. He holds a BA in Fine Art and a PGCE in teaching Art and Design. He has been teaching Art for over 24 Years in different parts of the UK. When not teaching Ian spending his time developing this website and creating content for the improvedrawing channel.

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How To Draw With A Fountain Pen