Dipping into the Ink Well

Dipping into the Ink Well

Old-Fashioned Techniques to Create New Works

Leaving the modern world behind in drawing and illustration means putting down those cartridges and re-discovering bottle inks. Used with dipping nibs, they can either bring flair to your work, or become your greatest nightmare with a single spill. Being creative is fraught with danger! But if you dare to dip a steel-tipped nib in a bottle, you may soon discover the outright joys as well.

Of course, basic black is a must-have and here’s the advantage in using dipping pens. You can load them up with permanent or India inks, which won’t damage the nibs. Technically, by permanent, I mean pigmented and water resistant. These are preferred when used in combination with washes and when you don’t want works to fade, especially if working in colors. Of course, they’ll also permanently stain clothing and surfaces along with leaving long-lasting color on your hands.

If you decided to go beyond black, there’s an array of colors available from various manufacturers. It’s best to select the bottle colors you’ll need because mixing doesn’t always produce the right results and they may not blend at all.

My favorite brands include Pelikan, Speedball, and Higgins. Any of these should work well for illustration and calligraphy. Basic colors beyond black include blue, purple, and brown. At premium prices, you’ll also find shades of green, red and blue from Pelikan.

One last item on your list. Dipping into ink bottles leads to those dangerous spills. It’s also a bit messier. I recommend picking up a dropper at the art store so you can transfer the ink into a small bowl or divided paint tray.