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34 Drawing Ideas with Pens: Adult AND Kid Techniques!

Most journal enthusiasts will eventually reach a point where words (and even washi tape!) just aren’t enough. You want to jazz up your art journal, junk journal, or heck, your everyday bullet journal with some ink drawings but you just don’t know what to draw.

Whether you’re working with ballpoint pens, dip pens, technical pens, fineliner pens, or an old Bic you found in the junk drawer, we’ve got loads of drawing ideas with pens ready to roll for you the next time you want to sharpen your ink drawing skills!

Choosing the Right Types of Pens

The first step to ink drawings is selecting the right types of pens for your work. Each type offers a unique line weight and quality and ink flow that affects the outcome of your art, so it’s a good idea to experiment a bit with different types of pens to find the perfect match for your ink drawing techniques.

Here are some of the best pens to help you sketch both your new drawing ideas and your old favorites:

  • Dip Pens: Dip pens are ideal for traditional ink drawings, offering not only thicker lines but also lots of flexibility in line width. With this tool, you dip pens into an inkwell, which allows for a rich application of ink.
  • Ballpoint Pens: Around for a long time, ballpoint pens are readily available and perfect for sketching and creating detailed work with a consistent line weight.
  • Brush Pens: With their flexible tips, brush pens are excellent for achieving a brush-like stroke and varied line thickness, from thicker lines to a very fine line.
  • Gel Pens: Known for their smooth ink flow, gel pens are an easy pen for adding fine details and vibrant colors.
  • Fountain Pens: Fountain pens are a classic choice favored for their elegant lines and controlled ink flow.
  • Technical Pens: Arguably the best way to achieve precise line work, technical pens offer fine line capabilities which are essential for architectural or technical drawings.
  • Marker Pens: Versatile in application, marker pens are suited for both bold strokes and fine line details. Pigment-based ink pens like the Copic Multiliner are waterproof, and archival and photocopy safe.

Understanding Ink Techniques

When it comes to ink drawings, there’s an entire realm of ink drawing techniques that allow you to express texture, shadow, and dimension in lots of different ways!

Stippling Technique

Stippling is an artistic technique used to create a pattern simulating varying degrees of solidity or shading by using small dots. The stippling technique is commonly employed in drawing, printmaking, and various forms of illustration where the artist uses a pen or a similar fine-pointed instrument to place numerous small dots on a surface.

When using a pen for stippling, the density and distribution of the dots are controlled to suggest light and shadow, as well as form and texture.

More dots are placed in darker areas to create a sense of depth or shadow, while lighter areas are represented by fewer dots. The human eye and brain blend the dots into a gradient-like effect.

The stippling technique requires patience and a steady hand, as the number of dots can be quite large, the placement quite precise, and depending on your new drawing ideas, can take a long time to complete. That’s why it may be easiest to start your stippling journey with easy drawing ideas and/or small portraits.

Hatching Ink Techniques

Hatching is a drawing style using a series of parallel lines to create the illusion of shade and texture in pen and ink drawings. The lines are typically drawn closely together, and the variation in the density of the lines can suggest different tones and degrees of shadow.

The basic idea is to use lines to simulate the values you would achieve with shading.

The closer the lines are to each other, the darker the area will appear, while more spaced lines will create a lighter effect. This technique can be used to add depth, texture, and dimension to a drawing.

Cross Hatching Pen Techniques

Crosshatching is a related technique where a second set of lines is drawn over the first set, typically at a right angle, to create an even denser shading effect. The more layers of hatching, the darker the area will appear.

This method can be particularly effective in creating a range of grays and blacks, which are essential for depicting volume and form when using black ink.

For more detailed guidance and examples of different ways to approach cross hatching, artists often turn to tutorials and demonstrations. This “Pen and Ink Crosshatching | A simple introduction” video goes over the basics of cross-hatching.

Experiment with a Spectrum

Swap out your black ink for a variety of colored inks. This gives your drawings a unique flair and helps accentuate specific details.

For precision, try using a tool like the Copic Multiliner, which comes in both black ink and a variety of colors.

Ink Outlines

Ink outlines can be a powerful tool in art, especially for defining shapes, adding high contrast, and creating a clean, finished look. Here’s how you can use ink outlines in your artwork:

  1. Sketching: Begin with light pencil drawings to plan out your composition. This step allows you to make adjustments easily before committing to ink.
  2. Choosing the Right Tools: Select the appropriate pens for your work. Fineliner pens or brush pens are popular choices for inking because they offer precision and varying line weight.
  3. Outlining: Once you are satisfied with your pencil sketch, you can start outlining with ink. Use steady, confident strokes to trace over your pencil lines. For more dynamic images, vary the line weight by applying different amounts of pressure or using different nib sizes.
  4. Erase Pencil Marks: After the ink has completely dried, gently erase any visible pencil drawings to clean up your artwork.
  5. Adding Details and Textures: Use ink techniques like stippling, hatching, or cross hatching to add texture and depth to your ink drawings.
  6. Experiment with Styles: Depending on the style of your art, you might opt for continuous, smooth lines or more expressive, sketchy lines. It’s always a good idea to try different pen techniques to find what works best for your artistic vision.
  7. Incorporate Color: If desired, you can add color to your artwork with watercolor, markers, gel pens, or other mediums. The ink outlines will help keep the colors from bleeding into each other.
  8. Practice: Inking requires a steady hand and confidence, which come with practice. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, as each one is a learning opportunity.

For more specific tips and ink techniques, you can refer to online step-by-step guides like “Technique Tips for Inking Over Pencil Outlines.”

Partnering Ink With Watercolor

Combining ink and watercolor is a popular technique known as “line and wash” or “pen and wash,” which offers the structure of ink drawings with the fluidity and vibrance of watercolor paints. Here’s how you can combine these two mediums in your artwork:

  1. Sketching: Start with a light pencil sketch to outline your composition on watercolor paper. This will serve as a guide for both your ink and watercolor application.
  2. Inking: Once you’re happy with the sketch, go over the lines with a waterproof ink pen. This is important because non-waterproof ink may bleed when you apply watercolor. Allow the ink to dry completely before moving on to painting.
  3. Erase Pencil Lines: If necessary, gently erase any remaining pencil marks to ensure they don’t show through the watercolor paint.
  4. Applying Watercolor: Begin painting with watercolors, being mindful of the inked lines. You can choose to paint loosely and let the colors bleed for a more expressive effect or paint carefully within the lines for a neater result.
  5. Layering: Build up colors in layers, allowing each layer to dry before applying the next. This will help maintain the vibrancy of the watercolors and prevent muddying.
  6. Details and Shadows: After the watercolor has dried, you can go back in with your ink pen to add finer details, enhance shadows, or reinforce any fine line that may have been obscured by the paint.
  7. Mixed Techniques: You can also apply ink after watercolor in areas where you want to add sharp details or textures that watercolor alone might not achieve.
  8. Experimentation: Don’t be afraid to experiment with the order of application. Some artists prefer to apply watercolor first and then define the painting with ink, while others start with ink drawings. Find what works best for your style.
  9. Protecting Your Work: Once your artwork is complete and dry, you can use a fixative spray to protect the ink and watercolor from smudging or fading over time.

For step-by-step guides, you can reference tutorials like the “Simple Beginner’s Guide to Pen, Ink and Watercolor Painting” or watch video tutorials such as “Tips for Ink & Watercolor Sketching! STEP by STEP” on YouTube. These resources provide visual examples and more detailed instructions for combining ink and watercolor effectively.

Partnering Ink With Acrylic Paint

Combining ink and acrylic paint in art can create dynamic pieces with a variety of textures and effects. Here’s a guide on how to integrate these two mediums:

  1. Surface Preparation: Choose a suitable surface that can handle both ink and acrylic paint, such as heavyweight paper, canvas, or board. (Watercolor paper can also be used but watercolour paper that is 200lb in weight or more will require a thin layer of acrylic primer to ensure the best adherence.)
  2. Initial Layer: You can start with either medium, but many artists prefer to lay down a base of acrylic paint first. Acrylics are versatile and can be applied in thin washes or thick layers, depending on the desired effect.
  3. Ink Application: Once the acrylic base is dry, you can apply ink over it. You can use ink for fine line details or to create washes if the ink is dilutable. Make sure to use a type of ink that is compatible with acrylics, such as acrylic ink.
  4. Layering: Continue to build up layers, alternating between ink and acrylic paint. It’s a good idea to let each layer dry before applying the next to prevent unwanted smudging or blending, unless that’s the effect you’re aiming for.
  5. Mixing on Palette: If you’re using acrylic ink, you can mix it with acrylic paint on a palette to create custom colors and consistencies. This can be applied to the artwork to maintain cohesion between the ink and paint elements.
  6. Direct Mixing: For certain effects, you might want to mix ink directly into your acrylic paint on the canvas while both are still wet. This can create interesting blends and gradients.
  7. Textural Techniques: Experiment with different tools and different ways of applying both mediums. For example, use brushes, pens, or droppers for ink, and brushes, palette knives, or sponges for acrylics.
  8. Finishing Touches: Once the main elements of your piece are complete, you can go back in with ink to add fine details, outline key pieces, or enhance shadows and highlights.
  9. Sealing the Artwork: After your artwork is completely dry, consider sealing it with a clear varnish to protect both the ink and acrylic paint and to unify the sheen of the piece.

For more detailed step-by-step guides and creative ideas, you might want to look into resources like the “Combining Paint, Acrylic Ink and Drawing” video on YouTube.

More Drawing Ideas With Pens

Here are some more creative ways to draw with pens:

Line Art

Use fineliner pens to create intricate black ink line drawings. Play with line weight by varying the pressure or using a different nib size.

Line Quality Experimentation

Experiment with varying your line pressure to create differences in thickness and character. Fusing thicker lines with a fine line design can add depth and interest to your ink drawings.


Start with light strokes that you can build upon, delicately layering to create depth and richness.

Start light and layer darker shades to build depth. You can also mix different colored inks to create custom hues.

Contour Hatching

Draw parallel lines that follow the contour of the subject to suggest three-dimensionality.


Use a loose, circular motion to scribble and build up tones. This can create a dynamic, energetic feel.

Ink Wash

Dilute ink with water on watercolor paper and apply it with a brush for a watercolor effect. Layer the washes for deeper tones.


Similar to stippling, but with a focus on color and pattern. Use colored pens to create images from small, distinct dots.

Doodling and Zentangle

Create abstract patterns or structured designs known as zentangles. These can be meditative and are often made with repetitive patterns.

Negative Space Drawing

Focus on the space around objects rather than the objects themselves, allowing the viewer’s eye to complete the form.

Mixed Media

Combine pen with other mediums, such as markers, watercolors, or pastels, for varied textures and effects.

Calligraphic and Gestural Lines

Use calligraphy pens to add expressive, thick-and-thin lines to your drawings, which can be particularly effective for dynamic figure drawing.

Comic Style

Emulate the style of comic books with bold outlines and dramatic shading techniques like hatching and stippling.

Abstract Art

Use pens to create abstract compositions, playing with form, line, and color without representing reality.

Illustrative Storytelling

Create a series of images or a single drawing that tells a story, using details and characters to convey a narrative.

Pen Drawing Ideas For Kids

Kids shouldn’t miss out on the fun with it comes to new drawing ideas! Drawing with pens can be a fun and engaging activity for kids, allowing them to explore their creativity with simple yet effective ink drawing techniques.

Here are some kid-friendly drawing ideas with pens:

  1. Doodle Art: Encourage kids to doodle freely, creating patterns, shapes, and characters. Doodling can be a great way for kids to express themselves without the pressure of creating a perfect drawing.
  2. Animal Drawings: Have kids draw their favorite animals using pens. They can be realistic or stylized, and kids can add patterns or designs to their animals for a creative twist.
  3. Zentangle Patterns: Introduce children to Zentangle, a method of creating images from repetitive patterns. It’s easy to learn and can be incredibly relaxing.
  4. Cartoon Characters: Kids can draw and create their own cartoon characters or try to replicate popular ones from TV shows or books.
  5. Nature Scenes: Encourage children to draw outdoor scenes, such as a park, beach, or forest. They can include elements like trees, flowers, and animals.
  6. Self-Portraits: Have kids draw self-portraits using pens. This can be a fun way for them to explore their own features and expressions.
  7. Fantasy Creatures: Let kids’ imaginations run wild by drawing mythical creatures like dragons, unicorns, or their own invented beings.
  8. Space and Planets: Drawing outer space with stars, planets, and spaceships can be an exciting theme for kids interested in astronomy.
  9. Underwater Worlds: Kids can create underwater scenes with fish, coral reefs, and mermaids, using pens to add detail and texture.
  10. Robots and Machines: Drawing robots or fantastical machines can be a great way for kids to explore geometric shapes and mechanical concepts.
  11. Mandala Art: Drawing mandalas can be a meditative and educational activity, helping kids learn about symmetry and geometric patterns.
  12. Story Illustration: Kids can draw scenes or characters from their favorite stories. They can also make up their own tales and illustrate them.
  13. Fashion Design: For kids interested in clothes, they can design outfits, shoes, and accessories using pens to add details.
  14. Optical Illusions: Teach kids how to draw simple optical illusions with pens. Consider starting with a classic 3D hand or endless stairs.
  15. Holiday Themes: Depending on the time of year, kids can draw themed artwork, like trees for Christmas or eggs for Easter.
34 Drawing Ideas with Pens: Adult AND Kid Techniques!

Who knew you could do so much with black ink, am I right?!

Did we miss any drawing ideas with pens? Or any favorite ballpoint pens, brush pens, dip pens, or other types of pens you swear by?

Be sure to share your favorite ink drawing techniques and tools in the comments!

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