Sunday Mailbag

April 29th, 2007 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: I have unsuccessfully searched the web and several art books on the simple topic of Inkwashing. I would like to know the technique for preparing the wash. Do you mix the ink and water ad hock as you are using it, or do you measure out 1 or 2 drops per ounce of water into several containers and create your own solutions for use later on? I have arbitrarily made some batches but it seems to me there must be some standard procedures??

A: I don’t do a lot of ink and wash illustrations anymore as it’s so much easier to just add the grays digitally, but I still do it every once and a while just to get that paper texture involved. It does have a certain look that digital has trouble matching.

I do both the “ad hock” method and the pre-mixing. I have small, one ounce plastic bottles for washes that I have labeled 75%, 50%, 25% and 10%. I mix up the ink and water based on those percentages (using an eyedropper) with the percentage number equaling the amount of ink content. That way I always have a consistent value when I want it. I usually start out with some of these set value washes first.

Then I will dip my brush into clean water and then into one of these bottles and water it down further that way. I add values to create volume or form, or sometimes atmosphere. I will often start adding a wash and, while it’s still wet, rinse my brush and continue the wash with just water in the brush to gradate the wash over some of the paper surface. Of course adding a second wash over a previous one will create a darker value, so you can layer it that way to build up tones and values in the piece.

I test out the wash on a scrap board first. Start light as you can always make it darker but not lighter. Do some test studies on your scrap board before attacking the final artwork.

Thanks to Nick Cirasella for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!

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