6 Reasons You Should Try Pen and Ink Drawing Today

Doodling with a ballpoint pen on an enveloper. Draw everywhere!

Drawing with pen and ink is an amazing, liberating experience. Unfortunately, many people will never try it because they’ve become experts in one medium (e.g. watercolors, pencils, acrylics and so on) but there are so many reasons that they should! And by they, I mean YOU.

In the examples that follow, it may sound like I believe that pen and ink is far superior to any other medium. I don’t. I just really love pen and ink. My aim is to encourage you to give pen and ink a try, not stop using whatever mediums you enjoy at the moment.

1. Pen and ink drawing builds your confidence

Pen and ink drawing teaches you to embrace your mistakes
Pen and ink drawing teaches you to embrace your mistakes

When you draw with pencil, the temptation is always there to use an eraser to fix or correct mistakes as you go along. For some people, this can hamper their progress because that safety net stops them from taking the risks that actually help them improve.

When you draw with ink, every mark you make is there to stay. The only way to handle marks that shouldn’t be there is to make them a part of the finished piece. In short, you have to embrace your mistakes and make them part of your artistic journey.

In time (or sooner if you’re pretty laid back) you’ll become more confident with each pen stroke because you’ll know that each mistake is part of your final image. Of course, as you practice, your skill increases and you’ll make less significant mistakes. 🙂

2. Ink drawing helps you to find your style

When you’re starting out as an artist, it’s easy to get caught up with trying achieve perfection and create photo-realistic drawings. That’s a fine goal but it’s not necessarily a good goal.

Being able to create a drawing that’s almost indistinguishable from a photograph is impressive but is it fun? For some artists, yes. For you? Maybe not. Only you can discover that by making marks on paper and finding out which marks you enjoy making the most.

You might find you enjoy drawing cartoons or caricatures more than realistic portraits. You might find you prefer creating impressionistic washes by using a water brush with water-soluble inks or you might find joy in creating form with just lines (hatching). I fall into the last group. I absolutely love creating drawings with just lines, hatching and stippling. I never tire of looking at the work created by all pen and ink artists but I know what I prefer creating myself. 🙂

3. Pen and ink drawing encourages experimentation

Practice squares on a utility bill envelope. Any paper is drawing paper for pen and ink artwork!
Practice squares on a utility bill envelope. All paper is drawing paper!

One of the issues I have with pencils is that they’re too easy to erase. Artists often become almost hesitant with each pencil stroke they create, as if they’re silently apologizing for making the mark on the paper.

When you’re drawing with ink, because the marks are permanent, you’re more likely to experiment with the different marks you can make. You might try scribbly drawings one time and the next you might try using broad strokes with a brush pen. All that matters is the satisfaction that comes from making marks.

Don’t be apologetic with each stroke you make! Draw like you mean it!

By the way… I’m not a pencil hater. They’re ideal for laying down a rough sketch before you ink but you shouldn’t become a slave to them.

4. Pen and ink drawings exhibit wonderful contrast

When you’re drawing with pencils, you have to work with a full range of pencils, often right up to charcoal sticks in order to achieve the kind of contrast that is easily achieved with ink. Black ink is always going to trump a pencil drawing when it comes to contrast because a high quality ink is really black – and that looks awesome on the right paper.

This contrast works exceptionally well with watercolor washes as they’re transparent and allow the white of the paper to shine through but the black ink lines are wonderfully dark in contrast.

5. You can be creative anywhere with pen and ink

Doodling with a ballpoint pen on an enveloper. Draw everywhere!
Doodling with a ballpoint pen on an old envelope. Draw everywhere!

Portability is one of the most attractive aspects of drawing with pen and ink.

You can create impressive sketches and drawings with nothing more than a ballpoint pen and the back of an envelope.

It’s easy to assume that a sketch book and an expensive set of pens might produce better results but it’s all about who’s using the tool and how they’ve mastered it.

A pencil is equally portable but it’s much trickier to paint on location with a set of oil pans than it is a couple of pens and a small watercolor tin.

I make no secret of the fact that I gained my love of drawing in pen and ink by doodling in school classes, years ago.

6. Pen and ink can be as affordable as you want to make it

When you’re starting out with pen and ink, all you need is a ballpoint pen and whatever paper you can make a mark on.

As your skills progress, you’ll want to explore different pens, papers and inks.

Many experienced inkers use fountain pens that can cost over $100 and specialist inks that are designed to flow in fountain pens but dry to leave beautifully black lines.

Papers can range from inexpensive photocopier paper to thick paper suitable for taking watercolor washes or liquid inks without buckling.

What you want to use is completely up to you and will very much become a part of your style. Personally I like to experiment with different pens which is why this site has a reviews section! I can’t resist trying new pens.

My lime green Lamy Safari and my Platinum Carbon Desk Pen are my current favorite drawing tools right now.


The beauty of getting started with drawing and sketching with pen and ink is that it’s something you can start anywhere.

Just start doodling with the next pen in your hand. Draw whatever you can think of. If you’re at a cafe, try drawing the people around you as stick figures enjoying your coffee. In time and with practice, your stick figures will start to look more like people. You’ll be surprised how quickly your skills will develop if you keep at it.

Utility bills have one positive aspect on our house – I never tire of doodling on the envelopes. As you gain confidence, make your doodles more elaborate. Get a sketchbook and start having fun in there. Nobody needs to see it unless you want them to!

Pen are available everywhere so it’s a skill that doesn’t require access to specialist art shops. Pick up a pen and give it a try today! 🙂

Please leave a comment below if this article inspired you!




4 Replies to “6 Reasons You Should Try Pen and Ink Drawing Today

  1. Hello Phil, what an idea. I think I should practice art in a more artistic way now how you have described. Art should not be held back by imperfections, I should embrace them.
    In fact I may make many imperfections, but that may in turn build a character that many people enjoy.
    Character is what separates us and makes us who we are. Building character is something I may need to work on through art, thanks!

    1. Go for it, David!

      Imperfections are often what makes art what it is. If I want perfection, I’ll take a photograph! I love seeing how people have constructed a scene or image according to their own vision of the subject – and the imperfections are often part of that representation.

  2. Wonderful article. I enjoy doing pen and ink drawings too. After reading your article, I think I’ll do one today after office.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the article – I’ll be updating this article soon(ish).
      I’ve neglected the site for a little bit due to pressures from work/COVID/family so I’m looking forward to adding some updates.

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