A lot of you have been asking how I create the black lines in my paintings (and how to keep them from cracking or smearing). And, I have to say, I’ve tried a lot of different supplies to find the right black lines to go over all of my mixed media layers.
I tried so many different pens and inks, but they either looked too painted on or the lines just didn’t stand out.
When I first started painting, I even tried a black Sharpie marker, which I did like the look of, but once I added my top coat, the lines smudged and completely ruined my finished painting (so frustrating… don’t make this same mistake!).
Here are 5 Supplies I Love for Black Lines (and the mistakes I’ve made with them so you don’t ruin your paintings)…
- Stabilo Marks All Coloring Pencil – Most often I use a black Stabilo brand Marks All Coloring Pencil for all of the black lines in my paintings. They come in all sorts of colors, but I love the black (especially for eyes and faces). It’s a water-soluble pencil, so some of the lines will smudge and bleed when wet, but I love that effect as I paint (it makes my lines look less painted on and more loose and natural). These pencils work over all of my mixed media supplies. I’ve heard you can go over your lines with a thin brush and water to keep them in place, but that’s never worked with my style, so I just let them be imperfect.
- Sumi Ink – I loved using sumi ink for my black lines. It’s a black ink, a bit more liquid than acrylic or india inks (really fun for drawing loose lines, especially with a calligraphy brush). BUT when I added my top coat, it completely smudged (this also happened with non-waterproof calligraphy ink). So now I only use waterproof inks in my paintings.
- Waterproof Black India ink and Calligraphy ink – Both of these inks are my go to inks when I want a thicker, bolder line or when I’m working on larger paintings. I love using them with a calligraphy brush (and sign my paintings with these inks, using a bamboo writing stick).
- Paint Pens – I’ve tried a lot of paint pens, and while I don’t use a black paint pen for my faces, eyes or features, I do love using them for small details to add variation to my paintings (like for dots or outlines on hair or wings). The Sharpie water-based paint pens are my favorite and since the tips get all gunked up, I take out the tip and dip the end that’s turned down into the color (I love the fluorescent pink and white too).
- Faber Castil PITT pen (black, brush tip) – Before I found my Stabilo pencil, I used these PITT pens for my black lines (and went through them like crazy because I’d ruin the tips). Now I still love using the worn out ones for extra depth on my eyes or to get a more subtle line. Then I use a new one for first layers of eyes and features in my larger paintings. My larger pieces are created on a heavier canvas, so initially the pencil just gets used up after a few marks. I go back to the pencil in my final layers to get the details just right.
So that my black lines don’t smudge or crack, I now use an archival spray varnish as my initial top coat. This also protects my artwork (Krylon and Golden both make good sprays… none of these recommendations are sponsored, it’s just what I’ve tried and loved).
I’m always experimenting with new art supplies. Playing helps me to paint with more freedom and loosen up — you can learn how in my Serendipity 1 – Develop Your Style online course (which starts January 1st) and Serendipity 2 – Loosening Up With Mixed Media (which is available as a self-paced course for a limited time).
I hope that all helps to keep you inspired!