Monday, August 31, 2015

Some Tips on Avoiding Ink Smears

By Wes Douglas

One of the most frustrating aspects of drawing with pen and ink is the accidental smear that results from not allowing ample time for the ink to dry. A smear can result from an object coming into contact or sliding across a wet part of a freshly drawn line.

I like to pencil in my sketch lightly and then trace over it with pen and ink. Of course, I am a little bit of a neat-freak and cannot wait to erase the grey lines of the pencil--sometimes a little too soon after inking the line--and create a smeared line. Other times I have inadvertently rubbed the heel of my hand across a wet line when I am working swiftly back and forth across the drawing and created a mess.

Thankfully there is no need to slow down the speed at which the sketch is drawn because there are a few tricks to keeping this from happening.

One good trick I learned was from an old sign painter. He would use a twirling baton (a metal stick with a rubber cap on each end) as a brace for his hand. The baton is placed with
one end against an unused portion of the drawing surface and the other end is supported by the left hand at a slight angle away from the artwork that allows for the drawing hand to comfortably reach the drawing surface with a pen. The drawing hand is placed midway up the baton and moves freely about the length of the baton. Other similar sticks that create the same kind of brace for the drawing hand include a dowel rod with a tennis ball fitted over the ends; or a walking cane with a rubber footing at one end. All of these methods help keep the drawing hand safely away from the drawing surface and especially the wet inked lines.

A second method of adding space between the drawing hand and the artwork surface is
what is known as a "Drawing Bridge." A Drawing Bridge is a rigid flat stick, such as an old ruler or paint stirring stick, with a wooden block at each end so that it looks much like a bridge. These are easily crafted out of objects commonly found in the home or at the local hardware store at relatively low cost. The nice thing about this method is that there is already a straight edge built in which allows for easy drawing of precision lines. 

A third method I have often used involves laying down a larger circle template and then placing the desired size template or ruler over the drawing. This permits separation from the drawing tools and the drawing surface to avoid any possibility of contacting the ink.

Finally, there are a few other ideas to protect the drawing surface from the hand and tools used by animators, sign painters, and airbrush artists. They will often get a pair of cotton gloves from the science surplus store, cut off the thumb and first two fingers of the drawing hand glove. This gives a sense of touch to the fingers that hold the drawing tool and protects the heel of the hand from contacting the wet inked lines. If all else fails and cotton gloves are not readily available, then the use of a forearm or a balled up t-shirt also make great supports for the drawing hand when placed just under the right-handed forearm.

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