I wrote recently about some new art supplies that I bought. Among those supplies are some new color inks. Though I’ve worked in many types of paint I’ve never worked with color inks. I’ve used plenty of black ink but not color. This year I think I’m going to work on developing a color ink style. I’m not sure how that style will end up looking but at least for now it’s all about making brush strokes in ink.

I bought three big bottle of ink a few years ago. Process Cyan, Flame Red, and Process Yellow were my three colors. I’ve used them over the years mostly in single color drawings. Instead of drawing in black ink I’d draw in blue ink.

Since I bought big pint bottles of those inks (around $15 a bottle) I had to pour a bit of the ink into a smaller container to work from. I ended up using these half cup Rubbermaid containers (I call them cubbies) that I had lying around the place. They worked well. I only put about an once of ink in the container so there was plenty of room to dip my brush and then roll the brush point on the side of the container to point the brush. That’s what you have to do after you dip a round watercolor brush in ink. Roll it on a piece of paper or some such to bring it to a point.

After I bought the recent batch of inks (the first recent batch, turns out I got two batches) I bought some more cubbies to go with them. So when both of them arrived I poured each bottle of ink (these ones are only one ounce bottles for around $5 a bottle) into a cubby. I also made sure to place a piece of tape on the lid and write the name of the color and the brand of ink. That way I alway will know what I’m dealing with. A lot of these inks need to be stirred too. So the cubby makes that easier.

After I emptied the ink out of their bottles there was still a bit of ink residue in them. So I ended up filling the ink bottle up with water to make a wash of the ink. It’s funny because the bottles still look like they have ink in them, the pigment is strong in the water, but if I brush that “Ink” onto paper it makes a really light colored wash. “Wash” means watered down paint.

Now I use those bottles of color to make a toned ground on paper. I don’t need to point the brush when doing that. I just dunk a thick and chunky brush into the ink wash and drag it around the paper. I use three or four colors to make an ink wash. It’s for when I don’t want to work on white paper. I want the paper to have a little bit of color to it. I toned some art card paper and then made drawings on them.

After that first batch of inks I bought at the Dick Blick website I ordered another batch from the Jerry’s Artarama website. They had a couple of different brands than Blick. I bought FW inks at Blick and then Abstract and Amsterdam brand inks at Jerry’s Artarama. It turns out that the Abstract brand is by Sennilier who makes a very nice black India ink. It’s one of my two favorites. Turns out I also had a couple of one ounce bottle of Liquitex ink that I forgot about.

After I ordered that second batch of inks I knew I had to order some more cubbies. It turns out that the Rubbermaid containers I had (and the six I just bought) were being discontinued (I wondered why the price on them rose) but they had a new model with black lids instead of red lids. I read a review of them on Amazon that said the two models, though the same size, weren’t compatrable with each other. I found this odd but ordered a set of ten black lidded ones anyway.

It was shortly after that I discovered I had about six more of the red lidded cubbies that held dice in my dice collection. Coincidentally I just purchased some dice bags to put some dice in so that made me notice the cubbies in a tucked away area of the dice collection. I also had another four red lidded cubbies that I kept little snacks in. I decided to use the red lidded ones for ink and the new black lidded ones for snacks and whatever else.

Then the black lidded ones were delivered and guess what? They’re compatible. You can swap lids with the red ones and stack them all you want. The lids and bottoms of the containers snap together so the stack becomes stuck together. That’s helpful. That reviewer didn’t know what he or she was talking about. I’m still planning on using the black lidded ones for snacks.

The last thing I did was to make a swatch set. I do this with my markers too. I have a digital master sheet of small rectangles that I print out on bristol board (or whatever paper I’m planning to work on) and then I fill in the rectangles with a color. That way I have a visual reference guide to work with. I don’t have to guess what a particular marker, or in this case ink, looks like as I can look at the swatch sheet and see. That helps a lot.

I made a mistake the first time I tried to make a swatch sheet. I printed out the page of rectangles but I forgot that the ink from my inkjet printer isn’t waterproof. That’s okay with alcohol based markers, like Copic Markers, but with water based stuff (like these new inks) the black line of the box will bleed into the ink or paint. So I started making strokes with my brush and ink and the black line started bleeding into the color. I thought it would be okay since it only bled a little but in the end it was distorting the color too much. I had to start over.

I knew the only solution to this problem was to draw the boxes in pencil or waterproof ink. After a quick experiment with an ink pen I decided to stick with a pencil. I measured out and drew a grid on a 9×12 inch piece of Bristol paper. After that I made my ink strokes and wrote the name and brand of each color underneath the swatch.

I decided to use ink strokes of color rather than fill in the grid with a solid color because I plan on using this ink in strokes. I’m still not exactly sure what style I’ll develop with them but I think it’ll be built around brush strokes. Either way it took a lot of prep work to set myself up to use these nineteen color inks. But that’s the way I am. When I want to try something new I dabble in it at first but then when I want to continue beyond dabbling I have to put things in order. It’s good to make things as easy as possible. That way I’ve got a chance at getting something done.