I was thinking about ink today. It’s an important part of my drawing. Since a lot of my work comes out of a comic book tradition I use a pencil and ink method of working. That means that first I draw something with a pencil and then go over the pencil drawing with ink. That way of working originates with the fact that it is easier to consistently mass reproduce a black ink line as opposed to a grey pencil one. Hence a comic book or strip is usually reproduced from an ink line. I say usually because due to new technology and better printing these days comics can be made from a pencil line.

I first started learning to use ink back in my college days. I can’t even remember what brand it was. It was probably whatever I could get my hands on. I remember soon after college I decided to get a nice big bottle of ink. I think it was a liter. I didn’t look at the label closely enough though and ended up buying non-waterproof ink. At the time I had only ever seen waterproof ink and didn’t even know to check.

The way I found out it was non-waterproof ink was because of my hand making stamps. As I inked my hand was resting on the paper. Just like as if you were writing. Except to draw in ink I have to spin the paper all around and work from different angles. This means my hand can often rest on areas I have put ink on. This doesn’t matter with waterproof ink but with non-waterproof ink it does. The moisture from my hand (it must have been summer) picked up the non-waterproof ink and each time I put my hand back on the paper I made a little stamp of the ridges on the side of my hand.

Needless to say I was a bit stunned when I looked down at the paper and saw the mess I was making. The tough part was that I had to continue using that ink for a while. I spent about thirty bucks on the giant bottle and being that I was just out of school I didn’t have the money to replace it. I carefully placed a scrap piece of paper under my hand as I inked so the moisture from my hand wouldn’t touch the ink. Eventually I got some more waterproof ink. I still have most of that non-waterproof ink left.

Something I used to have to be concerned about was how well the ink resisted lifting up when erased over. Since the pencil then ink method leaves a lot of stray pencil marks on the page you have to run an eraser over the whole page after you are done and the ink is dry. Thus erasing the pencil marks and leaving the ink marks. Except when you do this some inks go from black to grey. It’s usually not a problem but sometimes it is. So any ink I would try out would have to be given an eraser test. If it lightened too much then out it would go.

Luckily because of the advent of computers and 13″x19″ home printers I haven’t had to worry about the eraser test in about ten years. Now instead of inking over my pencils I scan my pencils in and then print them out on a separate piece of bristol (paper) in non-photo blue line. This way I can ink and not have to worry about erasing anything. Good show!

Higgings T-100 Drafting Film Ink was my ink choice for years. It had a nice consistency, was a matte black, came off the brush well, and did great on the eraser test. I liked it. So off course it’s hard to find now. I’m not even sure if they still make it. I don’t think much drafting is done on film anymore. I used to buy bottles of it every time I saw them but haven’t seen them in a while. I’ve seen bottle of it on some obscure web sites but the main web sites that I buy art supplies from no longer carry it. And they carry tons of stuff.

So I’m always looking for new black India ink to try. I’ve tried all the varieties of Higgins brand ink and none thrill me. Higgins Black Magic is the best but T-100 was much better. I tried some Dick Blick Black Cat ink recently but I found it a little thin and not as dense as I’d like.

A lot of people find many varieties of ink too thin. That is fairly easy to fix. Leave the cap off of it and let some of the water evaporate out. That can take a bit of time so some people boil their ink. I haven’t tried this. Usually I leave the cap off. That’s what I did with the Black Cat ink to make it more to my liking. I also recently did that with some Liquidtex acrylic black ink. It needed less evaporation than the Black Cat ink so I liked it better.

I did find a new brand of ink a few weeks ago that I like. Sennelier India Ink. It’s dense and flows well. No evaporation needed. Though it was a small bottle of it I bought. I notice that sometimes the small bottles need no evaporation while the larger bottle of the same ink do. Must be physics or something.

Different inks have different odors but the Sennelier ink definitely has a familiar one This ink smells like the airbrush paint that I used to use in college and not any other ink. I wonder what gives it that smell?

Those are the thoughts I’ve been thinking about ink lately. From density to smell. I cover it all!