Improve Ink Illustrations: 5 Practical Sketchbook Tips
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read


  1. Choose the right ink and paper
  2. Experiment with ink washes
  3. Practice hatching and cross-hatching
  4. Use a lightbox for sketch transfers
  5. Learn to embrace mistakes

Getting better at ink illustrations in sketchbooks is a journey filled with discoveries. It's about learning to work with your tools, experimenting with techniques, and embracing the unexpected. Whether you're a seasoned artist looking for a refresher or a budding illustrator wanting to improve your skills, these five practical tips will guide you to make the most out of your sketchbook journey.

Choose the right ink and paper

Starting your ink illustration journey begins with selecting suitable tools. It's not about having the most expensive ink or paper, but about understanding what works best for you and your style.

Finding your ink

There's a wide variety of inks to choose from. Some artists swear by the classic, bold black India ink, while others prefer the nuanced tones of colored inks. Don't be afraid to experiment:

  • Black India ink: Known for its rich, deep black color — perfect for bold, striking sketches.
  • Colored inks: Great for adding some vibrancy and variation to your sketchbook.

Remember, it's about finding the ink that fits your illustration style and helps you express your vision.

Selecting your paper

Just as important as ink, the paper you use can significantly influence your final artwork. Here are some considerations:

  • Thickness: Thick paper can handle heavy ink washes without warping. If you're into creating dramatic, high-contrast illustrations, this could be your best bet.
  • Texture: Smooth paper is excellent for detailed, intricate work; rough paper can add an interesting texture to your ink illustrations.

Again, don't shy away from trying out different kinds of paper to see what suits your style and your ink of choice. It's all part of getting better at ink illustrations in sketchbooks.

Choosing the right tools is a critical first step on your sketchbook journey. It's about finding the ink and paper that not only work well together but also help bring your artistic vision to life. So, get out there and start experimenting!

Experiment with ink washes

Once you've got your ink and paper, it's time to dive into the world of ink washes. This technique can add depth and dimension to your illustrations, enhancing your sketches with a range of tones and textures.

What is an ink wash?

An ink wash is like watercolor painting but with ink. You dilute your ink with water to create different shades, from light grays to deep blacks. It's a technique that offers a fantastic way to add a sense of depth and dynamism to your sketches.

How to create an ink wash

Creating an ink wash is simple, yet it gives you a vast array of possibilities:

  1. Prepare your ink: Mix a small amount of ink with water. The more water you add, the lighter the shade. It's a good idea to test your wash on a scrap piece of paper first to make sure you're happy with the color.
  2. Apply the wash: Using a brush, apply the wash to your sketch. You can build up layers of wash to create different tones and textures.

Experimenting with ink washes is all about playing with different dilutions and layering. And remember, practice makes perfect. The more you experiment, the closer you'll get to mastering this technique and getting better at ink illustrations in sketchbooks.

So, don't be afraid to play around with ink washes. It's a simple yet effective technique that can add a whole new level of depth to your sketches. Who knows, you might even discover a new favorite technique!

Practice hatching and cross-hatching

Now that you're becoming comfortable with ink washes, it's time to add another technique into your sketching toolkit: hatching and cross-hatching. These techniques are the bread and butter of ink drawing, allowing you to create depth, shadows, and texture in your sketches.

Understanding Hatching

Hatching is a technique that involves drawing a series of parallel lines. The closer the lines are to each other, the darker the area appears. This technique is excellent for adding shading to your sketches and is quite straightforward to learn.

Getting Familiar with Cross-Hatching

Cross-hatching involves drawing a second set of lines over the first, creating a grid or cross pattern. This technique allows you to build up even more depth and texture in your sketches. It might take a little more practice, but once you've got the hang of it, you'll see a significant improvement in your ink illustrations in sketchbooks.

Mastering the Techniques

Here's a quick guide to getting you started with hatching and cross-hatching:

  1. Start Simple: Begin with simple shapes, like a sphere or cylinder. Practice hatching and cross-hatching to create a sense of light and shadow.
  2. Experiment with Line Spacing: Play around with the spacing between your lines. You'll find that closer lines create darker areas, while wider spaces result in a lighter effect.
  3. Try Different Angles: Don't limit yourself to straight lines. Try hatching and cross-hatching at different angles to add interest and complexity to your sketches.

Remember, getting better at ink illustrations in sketchbooks is all about practice, patience, and exploration. So, grab your sketchbook, and let's start hatching!

Use a lightbox for sketch transfers

Have you ever found yourself wishing you could transfer a sketch from one page to another without losing any of its original charm? Meet your new best friend: the lightbox. This magical tool will help you significantly improve your process of creating ink illustrations in your sketchbook.

What is a Lightbox?

A lightbox is a flat box with a side of translucent glass or plastic, illuminated from behind. In the world of ink illustrations, it's a game changer. By placing your original sketch on the box and a blank sheet of paper on top, you can easily trace your original drawing, thus creating an exact copy.

How to Use a Lightbox

So, how does one use a lightbox for sketch transfers? It's as easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Prepare Your Lightbox: Turn on your lightbox and adjust the brightness to your preference.
  2. Position Your Sketch: Place your original sketch on the lightbox.
  3. Start Tracing: Lay a blank sheet of paper over your original sketch and start tracing your design. Don't worry about making mistakes—the beauty of this method is that you can always start over without ruining your original sketch.

Using a lightbox for sketch transfers is a simple and effective way to improve your ink illustrations in sketchbooks. It allows you to experiment with your original sketches without the fear of messing them up. So, why not give it a try?

Learn to embrace mistakes

Remember, art is not about perfection; it's about expression. This is especially true when you're getting better at ink illustrations in sketchbooks. So, the next time your pen slips or a line goes awry, don't panic. Embrace it. You might be surprised by the result.

Mistakes are Opportunities

Mistakes are not the end of the world—in fact, they often open doors to new possibilities. A stray line could lead to a new element in your illustration. An unplanned blotch can become a shadow or a texture. Embracing mistakes is all about shifting your perspective and viewing these unexpected occurrences as opportunities for growth and innovation in your art.

Turning Mistakes into Masterpieces

Here are a few practical steps to turn your ink illustration mistakes into something amazing:

  1. Pause and Assess: When a mistake happens, take a moment to step back and look at your artwork from a different angle. Can this error become part of the illustration?
  2. Get Creative: If the mistake can't be incorporated as it is, think outside the box. Can it be transformed into something else? Could it be a bird, a cloud, or a tree?
  3. Keep Going: Sometimes, the best thing to do is to keep drawing. As you fill in the rest of the sketch, the mistake might become less noticeable. It might even add to the overall charm of your work.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is to keep practicing and learning. Embracing mistakes is just part of the journey of getting better at ink illustrations in sketchbooks. Remember, every great artist had to start somewhere, and they all made mistakes along the way. So, take a deep breath, pick up your pen, and let's create something beautiful.

If you're looking to further enhance your ink illustration skills, don't miss Rachelle Meyer's workshop, 'Top Tips For Sketchbook Studies.' This workshop offers valuable insights and practical tips on how to make the most of your sketchbook, ultimately improving your ink illustrations and overall artistic growth.