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  1. #1

    Colored inks that won't bleed?

    So about halfway through this year I started arting again, and haven't really stopped. All in real media (as I can no longer do much at all in digital without serious pain).

    I've been experimenting a lot with inks, first india ink and grey washes, and later winsor and newtons dye based inks (these are non archival, but I figured getting a set would be fun to play around with and experiment). I'd probably keep using them except for one thing, most of them bleed, some worse than others. Some also seem to soak up pigment like a magnet, orange in particular has this problem. It likes to bleed, and it also likes to attract all the pigment in watercolor such that only a pale bit of water and orange remains unless you go over it a few times.

    While there are some fun applications for ink that behaves like this, I would really like to find a brand of ink that is archival, and waterproof (if one exists anyway), without having to pay an arm and a leg experimenting with many different kinds. Can anyone that has experience with inks help me out a bit here?
    Fish heads! Fish heads! Rolly polly fish heads! Fish heads! Fish heads! Eat them up! Yum!

  2. #2
    Generally the way to not have things bleed is to either use media with different types of solvents so they won't interact with each other, or use a media that when dried can not be thinned again. An example of this is acrylic paint, which might be an option; think about it.

    I understand that you are using water color, so this process might need some adjustment, but I think it'll provide provide some inspiration. I use a mixed media approach to get my colored line work to not bleed.

    Do your line work in colored pencil. If you keep your colored pencil sharp your line work will look pretty damn smooth, and you might be able to control the thickness and curves of your lines easier be "sculpting" those lines onto the page, instead of relying on a steady hand and committing to whatever gets put down on paper with ink.

    There's a catch do this though.

    So I start out with my construction drawing in Col-Erase Blue (or some other color depending on what I'm doing). I'm sure graphite would work just as well. It's just preference. Col-Erase smears less.

    Copic markers smear colored pencils quite a lot, so if makers and colored pencils share the same space the color pencils will have to go on last. I'll go over my construction drawing with a kneaded eraser, removing as much as I can and still be able to see my underlying sketch. Depending on what I'm going for I'll ink it with black multiliner, leaving any areas I want to "ink" with a different color. At this stage I can either put some colored lines down with colored pencil, keeping my colored pencil very sharp to get those nice controlled and solid lines, or I can just start filling it in with Copic markers and do the line drawing last. Just remember that if you do your line drawing first in colored pencil, then you don't want to zigzag over it with your marker because the Copic will smear your lines. Paint to the edge and it won't smear, or if it does it won't smear very much. (Notice I'm using a distinctly different term from bleed. Colored pencils won't bleed when wet, they'll smear.)

    The nice thing about this technique is I can then shade on top of my Copic work with color pencils, which are pretty opaque. I can add highlights, fix shading that I screwed up on, or take the shading to places where the Copic markers just can't go. It's a nice smooth textured look that I like a lot.

    Okay, so a few thoughts.

    Using watercolor instead of Copics, this is just a guess because I'm not that familiar with the medium, but I think you can do your sketch in graphite first, very lightly, put your water colors down, and then do your line work with colored pencils. I'm not sure how it would work if you did your line art first in colored pencil and then painted it in with water color. For all I know it might not smear like Copics do, even if you did brush all over your line art. Do an experiment.

    You'll definitely want to use as smooth a paper as you can get away with. If you want to have smooth colored lines using color pencils, the surface will need to be smooth.

    Also, it's okay to embrace the weaknesses of the media. If it bleeds it bleeds. Work with it to your advantage. I'd recommend this no matter what you do, but draw bigger! Make your artwork as big as you can. Letter/A4 paper is okay for one character if that character takes up the entire sheet. And I do mean the entire sheet. A lot of your character illustrations look like they were done on a half sheet. Drawing bigger means everything you draw is easier to control. Eyes become a hell of a lot easier to draw when your character is bigger. And undesirable aspects of the media you are working in become much less noticeable when your canvas becomes bigger.

  3. #3
    I definitely understand that bigger is better/easier. I'm in an awkward place right now where I either draw too big for the paper I'm using, or draw too small in an effort to avoid going off the paper. (I'm drawing on 7X10 right now). I've got some 14X17 (a bit wider than A4) and 9X12 (somewhere between A3 and A4) that I'm moving up to soon though. Just trying to finish off this 7X10 pad I have with thumbnails and smaller things.

    Watercolor doesn't do very well with smoother paper, well it can but it requires a long time of sitting undisturbed. I have cats so it's not really a viable option, though maybe something to keep in mind for that day when I have a dedicated art room (no cats allowed!)

    I like this idea of using pencils though. I use polychromos and they don't seem to mind getting wet. They hold a point really well, and I have on occasion used them for extra shading and detail combined with water color.

    I don't really mind inking personally, it's really fun to do brush inks, and I enjoy using nibs because it has helped me to become more confident in my pencil work and sketching. Depending on the kind of nib you're using you can "build" up a nice smooth line like pencil (the hunt 22 is really good for that for example) Most of my most recent stuff was using a bowel pointed nib though cause I have a billion nibs to experiment with and still haven't figured out what uses I like for them all.

    Usually I do the lines first, because whenever I color first it's really difficult to erase the lines underneath, and while it can create an interesting effect most of the time it's just unsightly. You've given me some ideas to try out though.

    I'll definitely do some more experimenting though, that's like 80% of the fun for me. Last night after making this post I discovered that putting a layer of white gouache down helps to prevent as much bleeding from the ink, so I may try adding some gum arabic to my watercolor to see if that's the cause, or if it's just the heavier gouache pigment keeping the water/ink from flowing around as much.

    I do hope that I can find some inks that don't want to bleed or suck up pigment, there are a lot of brands that claim to be waterproof, I just can't afford to buy one from every brand to tes. I do know that I dislike acrylic based inks (or at the very least, the black acrylic ink I have doesn't behave in a way I like, so I stick to india ink for blacks. It'd be pretty fun to be able to mix ink, watercolor, and colored pencil together. I love mixed media!

    Thankyou for the reply!
    Fish heads! Fish heads! Rolly polly fish heads! Fish heads! Fish heads! Eat them up! Yum!

  4. #4
    For the smooth paper problem would illustration board work? That starts to get kind of pricey though, and I have so much art being stored I can't imagine what would happen if my drawing surfaces were 10 times thicker.

    Also, more crazy thoughts. I don't do this anymore, but mixed media also includes ink/laser jet printers. What would happen if you printed the colored line out using a toner-based printer? I've used ink jet printers (mainly the Epson Stylus series of printers) that can print on water color paper, but if you can use a laser jet printer to print your lines out on the thick water color paper, that could be a thing you might want to consider. Obvious problems with this though: you will still have to do some stuff digitally, and the lines will have a half-tone dot pattern to create the colors, meaning it won't be as sharp or natural looking. The digital portion of this process won't be too painful though. Do the line art on paper, scan it, only color it in Photoshop, then print it. Pretty minimal work on the computer.

    I totally understand about how painful using a computer can be to create artwork. I'm guessing you are using a graphics tablet, like an Intous or a Bamboo. Way way way back when I only had an Intous to work digitally, the ergonomic solution I came up with was to prop it up at an angle, and have it cover the numpad on my keyboard. If you are interested I can find a photo of that particular setup. Even with that more ergonomic solution there's some problems with the new Intous tablets, especially the non-Pro Series of Intous tablets, which makes it more painful to work. I discovered recently after purchasing a Intous Art for working on my laptop that you can't control the pressure curve of the stylus. On my Cintiqs I have my pressure set up so 100% pressure output is actually only 75% of the stylus input. This way I don't have to push as hard to get 100% pressure. Wacom doesn't allow you to change this curve on the lower-tier Intous tablets. That really made me upset because it's just an arbitrary software limitation they put in there to punish people from buying a cheaper tablet, and it makes painting with the thing more difficult than it should be.

    Also drawing with a tablet sucks. The hand-eye coordination required to draw is not conducive to a graphics tablet where you are not looking at the surface you are drawing on. It's too much work to draw the same shapes that are so easy on paper, especially when you are still learning. I would only use an Intous for painting, never drawing something from scratch. Even with a Cintiq I still have have less fatigue working on paper, so I still do that quite a bit. The computer is great for painting, that's about it. (Okay, it's nice for sketching too because you can copy, paste, transform, and morph your sketches, but when i'm in the very early stages of a design I'm not at the point where i'm doing that kind of fine tuning yet.) I design faster on paper, but I paint faster on the computer.

  5. #5
    I've got a bamboo, the main issue with it for me (and any other drawing tablet that isn't directly on the screen) is that being unable to rotate the paper quickly makes my shoulder flare up, using too much mouse also sets it off quickly. I've got tendentious+impingement in my shoulder, though I'd probably describe as more like carpel tunnel, only my entire arm. Cause basically what's going on is the tendons are inflamed, and my shoulder is pinching them. When it flares up my shoulder burns real bad (that's the tendentious), and the rest of my arm feels like it's got carpel tunnel (that's the impingement pinching all the tendons in my arm).

    Part of the problem is my posture because using my drawing table, sitting in a stool goes a really long way to helping minimize some of my pain. But even in real media if I draw or paint for too long it'll flare up. I'm afraid it's probably not one of those things that will ever get better, since when it does flare up all all one can do to treat it is not use it, ice/heat it, take anti-inflammatories, and avoid movements that set it off in the future.

    The printing on watercolor paper thing is something I remember trying, but I can't remember the results. I know for a fact that you can do it with a copier machine (I had an assignment way back in highschool that was a mix of photoblue and collage on a paper, then copied onto watercolor to add color). So that is something that can work so long as the printer will accept water color, and it can be done in such a way that the artifacts so long as whatever you're printing out is smaller than what was scanned in.

    Right now I do still use the computer for certain things, usually for blowing up a picture or thumbnail for transfer. Though I also use it for corrections, and checking balance and stuff. After poking something on the computer I'll print it back out and transfer it using tracing paper. (Tracing paper is magic and super useful, I love it).

    Real media is a lot more satisfying for me I've discovered, so I'm not too sad about being stuck with it. Sure I miss being able to easily paint something with bright vibrant colors, but I also love mixing my own colors so given a few more years I'll figure out how to mix my own, and my real media will be as bright and colorful as my digital stuff.
    Fish heads! Fish heads! Rolly polly fish heads! Fish heads! Fish heads! Eat them up! Yum!

  6. #6
    I have tendinitis in both my thumbs. One happened at the tail end of college because I started going to the gym and using the elliptical machines, and about a year ago in my right hand using the mouse too much. I'm now using a vertical mouse and since then my everyday pain in my wrist is now gone. However, both my wrists have the same problem in that extreme yaw movements will cause my tendons to snag and it'll hurt. The best advice I can give is to always be in a situation where you are in the most natural position, putting the least amount of strain on your muscles when you move/draw/whatever. Stretch those muscles every 30 minutes (there's a few tendinitis/carpal tunnel exercises I do to stretch them out). It's manageable and I don't constant pain now, but the amount of movement I have in my wrists without pain has been reduced.

    Pain in your shoulder/arm sounds like there's an issue with how high your keyboard or drawing surface is. Take ergonomics seriously though. Research it and invest in it. Your chair and your desk are more important than what inks you use or how fast your computer is. And I would argue, that having a good ergonomic set up is more important that even having a computer! The best artists I know, and the ones that trained me generally didn't even use a computer.

    Actually, the thing I miss about traditional media is that the colors were better than what is on a computer screen (except now I have a reference-quality screen so I can't say that anymore). The key is that you want two blues and two reds to mix with. Ultramarine Blue is a warmer blue, so it's good for making purples, but if you add yellow to it the green will be desaturated. So to get a good cyan and really intense greens use Phthalo Blue, which is a cooler blue. Same thing for reds. Alizarin Crimson† is a cool red, and great for making purples and pinks, but to mix oranges you want to use Cadmium Red. Those two blues and two reds will give you a very wide gamut of colors.


    † I remember hearing someone that Alizarin Crimson has very bad fading when exposed to light if you get the wrong kind. There's some other pigments that are the same hue and have better lightfastness, so research that.

  7. #7
    While it doesn't show because I have such a poor eye for color coordination. I'm actually rather good at mixing colors to match. At the moment all I have are old leftover pigments, the colors I'm missing are on order...still gonna be another week before I get them, 'cause it's that time of the year. I'm aware of the pitfalls of pigments and inks that aren't as archival as others. None of my inks (save for the india ink) are archival to begin with so it's not something I'm terribly concerned with at the moment.

    My ergonomic situation isn't at all bad at my drawing table, it is as a matter of fact very good. The main problem really is just my posture and my desk (and my lack of a foot rest at said desk) these are things which I am keenly aware of, which is why I don't draw at my desk, and in general follow my doctors and my physical therapists advice.

    Either way, what is important to me right now is hunting down an ink that isn't inclined to bleed, if one doesn't exist that's ok I'll just continue on with more experimenting, that's all I've been doing for the past 6 months anyway, experimenting and testing, it's been fun.
    Fish heads! Fish heads! Rolly polly fish heads! Fish heads! Fish heads! Eat them up! Yum!

  8. #8
    I'm sorry for butting in like this, but I saw you discussing about ink/watercolor/pencil combo, so I couldn't hesitate to toss in my two cents.

    I used to do pretty much all my works in with that combo, since the those materials were generally easily available for me at that point in life. Inks can be indeed expensive, and especially with watercolor I know what you mean by some brand "not behaving" like one would hope. I'm also sad the inks don't usually come in very small bottle sets for the sake of experiment and such.

    I used to transfer rough sketches to another sheet of paper (with the help of a window in the lack of a lightbox), but I slowly came to adjust my lines light enough (pencil H or similar) so that I could erase the lines after watercoloring it. It worked. If any pencil lines remained (usually beneath very thick/several layers of watercolor pigment), I'd cover them with color pencil, which I used anyway for creating extra details and shading here and there. Finding the ideal kind of paper was a process in itself too. I saw you discuss working on a smooth paper, and while it is generally like Lorenith mentioned - too smooth isn't good for watercolor - look for ones with the name "illustration board", fairly thick (250gsm or more), suitable for both dry and wet media. I've found it ideal for inks, microns, pencils and watercolor alike. Not sure if it'll be your cup of tea, but there certainly is a middle ground with smooth/rough papers out there.

    I happen to have a bottle of green-blue Liquitex ink. While I don't think it's archival, it claims to be waterproof, so I went ahead to test it with your wet-on-ink workflow. I let the ink dry and brushed on top of it with a wet brush, did not notice bleeding. I'm using a 250gsm art board.

    Anyway, hope these thoughts could be of some help at least. I wish you luck with your experiments, may the gods and goddesses of art be favorable and let you find the ideal materials to work with!

  9. #9
    Oh nothing to apologize for, it's an open forum after all :3

    What brand of colored pencil do you use? The polychromos are rather translucent so I'm not sure how well those will work. (Though of course I can always give them a try!) I have to admit I have a fairly heavy hand, it's been a lifelong project getting my drawings to be lighter. It's not as much as a problem as it used to be, but sometimes I still get to overworking the paper!

    If it's available in your country, speedball does have a 10 color ink set of 15ml bottles

    The ink I'm currently using is Winsor & Newtons ink set No.1 (dye based ink in 14ml bottles). These inks aren't archival, but they can be fun to paint with. (oddly enough they don't seem to bleed if it's wet ink on dry ink, or I haven't noticed much bleeding). A few of them also don't really like to mix, well you can mix them, but as soon as you paint them down on paper they'll separate a little bit

    Those are the only two "small" bottles I know of, the value isn't very good per volume though.

    I've got a couple of different papers I can try, I think maybe I have 260gsm illustration board? (Bristol, 96lb with a smooth side and a toothier side) It's hard to say if it's the same, I'm not strongly versed in paper properties, and I know that paper standards differ in the US from everywhere else, which only makes it more uncertain.

    Thankyou for the input, and the blessing of art deities!
    Fish heads! Fish heads! Rolly polly fish heads! Fish heads! Fish heads! Eat them up! Yum!

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by lorenith View Post
    What brand of colored pencil do you use? The polychromos are rather translucent so I'm not sure how well those will work.
    I have a set of Polychromos myself, actually! I've found them be one of the least translucent brands (of what's generally available here). But yes, it can be tricky to not overwork the paper, once you get carried away with what you're doing! Try a mechanical pencil with hard graphite perhaps? Snapping the lead is a relatively straightforward feedback for applying too much pressure. ;P

    I've had W&N No.1 too, they're quite thick of compared to this Liquitex kind. I'm going to have a look at the Speedball sets, thanks for the hint!



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