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    Pen and Ink Techniques – Colour

    pen and ink techniques, crab, cancer,

    Last week’s blog explained the importance of pen and ink techniques to scientific illustration, and showed how to use line and stippling.  This week explains how to use colour with pen and ink illustrations.

    Introducing colour to pen and ink

    Sometimes monochrome illustrations can feel gloomy, but the commissioner still needs accurate line illustrations.  A good solution is to introduce colour.  This gives the illustrations the feel of an old-fashioned hand-coloured engraving; which can be very effective.  It also has the benefit of being, for the illustrator, incredibly easy.  All you need to do is to put a watercolour wash over a completed line drawing.  And if you know you’ll be using this technique, do the pen and ink work onto watercolour paper instead of cartridge.  Below is an example of an oil seed rape flower, done for a high-end oil producer’s label.  The stages are pencil, pen and ink, then colour wash.

    pen and ink techniques, rape, crops,
    Oil seed rape process drawing


    Pests and Diseases: Ink with colour wash

    In these illustrations of pests and diseases done for Alan Titchmarsh’s  “How to Garden” series; I’ve simply put colour over an atonal line drawing.  In some cases, most of the information comes from the pen and ink (bark beetle), in others the information is carried by the colour and paint (leaf fungal wilt).  Occasionally, the ink work and painting carry equal importance as with the diseased hellebore (hellebore).

    beetle, galleries, pen and ink techniques, coleoptera
    Bark beetle damage, pen and ink with watercolour wash
    wilt, leaf wilt, pen and ink techniques, pest and diseases, garden disease,
    Fungal wilt pen and ink illustration with watercolour wash
     pen and ink techniques, hellebores, plague,
    Hellebore black death; line drawing with colour


    Diagrams: Ink with colour wash

    These next illustrations are detailed diagrams, and the watercolour wash is only there to lift them and add a little interest.  The vivarium appears in The New Amateur Naturalist by Nick Baker.  The Beehive is from Keeping Bees and Making Honey by Benjamin & McCallum.

    Vivarium illustration: ink with colour
    pen and ink techniques, apiculture, hive, skep, bee keeping,
    Beehive construction: Ink with colour


    Stippled illustrations with colour wash

    These pictures below (also from the New Amateur Naturalist) are highly finished pen and ink illustrations, and most detail and tonality is provided by the stippling.  The watercolour gives them interest, but didn’t need to be worked into in any depth.  In both cases, the watercolour was only two washes; one to give colour (leaving the palest areas white) and a second one to show a suggestion of shadow in the darkest areas.

    pen and ink techniques, crab, cancer,
    Crab with top wash of watercolour


    bones, mammal, pen and ink techniques,
    Rodent skulls, stippled with colour wash


    My favourite ink and colour piece

    My favourite piece done using this technique was the cover of HomeGrown: A Growing Guide for Creating a Cook’s Garden by Marta Teegan.

    vegetable gardening, pen and ink techniques,
    Garden vegetables in a trug; stippled ink with colour wash

    There was a lot of debate about whether the illustration should rely on the ink for tone, or the paint.  We decided on paint, and I think there’s a really satisfying freshness to the illustration.  It’s avoided being overworked in either medium, and I think that’s why it’s retained it’s lightness.

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    Lizzie Harper