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First Look into my Process - Wolf Time!

Hi guys! I've gotten a lot of questions about my process, which uses a combo of pen & ink and scratchboard techniques. Obviously there's a ton to cover, and I haven't ever made any sort of tutorial before! I thought it might be fun and helpful to my fellow ink lovers to give a bit more in depth description of how I complete a project. There really aren't too many tutorials out there for this method, so I might as well contribute something! So here goes, whee! :) Stick with me and hopefully I will get better at this with time haha!

This tutorial is best for those with an intermediate understanding of rendering in pen and ink, but is also instructive for beginners who want to see what they can do a little further along in their inking journey!

Grey Wolf with Materials

Materials Used:

  • Sakura Brand Pigma Micron in sizes:

  • Brush

  • PN (Plastic Nib)

  • 01 (.25mm)

  • 005 (.20mm)

  • 003 (.15mm)

  • Curved scratch knife

  • Pencil

  • India Ink

  • Ampersand Claybord

  • Optional: White cotton glove (to prevent your filthy horrible hands from smudging the claybord! Silly hands.)


First of all, before I get started I try to visualize how I want my piece to look before I look at reference images. It is very tempting to just dive right into drawing from a beautiful photo, so I think it's important to create thumbnails or simple sketches of the composition you want, the animals expression, etc before looking for a reference.

Once you have an idea of what you're going for, this will help you narrow down what kind of reference you need. I am very wary of making sure all of my references fall under Public Domain, are free to use images, or ones that I can purchase royalty free licensing for. Taking your own photos is ideal, but as a wildlife artist this can be extremely challenging for certain animals. This could be a whole other topic altogether, but it's important to remember that photography is an art form all on its own, and to respect the photographer's work. My artwork relies heavily upon reference, so it is extremely important that everything is above water legally, and I have the photographer's permission to use their photos.

Now onto the good stuff!


Step 1 - Initial Block In

Step 1 - Begin with a basic pencil sketch, loosely defining major points of shadow and value changes. I use the grid method to quicken this process so that I can get to the fun part, the inking!

Once you have the drawing, you are now ready to block in large areas of pure black. These are the deepest shadow areas of your piece, and putting them in early makes it easier to maintain contrast in your work.

Pay attention to the direction of the fur as you draw, even in this stage.

I use a brush pen, PN, as well as india ink for this step.

Step 2 - Large Shadow Areas

Step 2 - Expand upon the shadow areas. Using the size PN micron or similar, continue to add fur beginning in your large, blacked out areas. As you move closer to slightly lighter areas, switch to the smaller 01 size pen.

This mark making falls under a hatching technique. I am building small marks of varying lengths depending on the length of the fur, and overlapping them continually (Not across! The majority of fur is not cross-hatching) to build up the fur texture. Deciding on the mark making you use to build up tones and values takes practice, practice, practice. Specific methods for doing this will be covered in another post.

This step is fairly labor intensive as it involves the most marks to build shadows.

Patience is always the name of the game

with ink drawings.

Step 3 - Points of Interest

Step 3 - Render points of interest that require the most attention and detail. This is usually the eyes, nose, and ears of the animal in this case.

I enjoy doing this step early on, as it encourages me to push forward and finish the project. It gives the portrait a soul. And plus now the wolf has eyes to judge you, so you've gotta finish him.

During this step, I often switch between the smaller sized pens, 005 and 003.

After these points are rendered, I use the curved scratch knife to add fur texture around the edges of the wolf, as well as small highlights in the eyes.

Eyes & Ears Detail

Step 4 - Medium Values

Step 5 - Medium Values Continued

Step 4 - Onto the medium values! At this point I am using my favorite size pen exclusively, the 005.

This is where the most time is spent on any ink drawing of mine. Medium values make up a large amount of the animals fur.

It is extremely easy to lose your way at this point, and completely eliminate all contrast. As dear ol' Barty Crouch Jr. would say, CONSTANT VIGILANCE!

Step away often, redefine the largest areas of highlight and keep away from them for now. Luckily we are working on Claybord, so scratching away some of the ink is an option, but it needs to be used sparingly.

Step 5 - This is also rendering fur in medium values. You thought you could escape? No, you live here now. Your wrist doesn't hurt at all. You're doing great.

Try your best not to give up or move on to another project at this stage (which I never, ever ever do *cough*). Truthfully though, I'm often working on other projects at once due to this stage. Just don't forget about this guy! He's almost there!! He wants to be your wolf friend and love you forever and eat cheeseburgers with you on the couch!

Step 6 - Lightest Values

Lightest Values Detail

Step 6 - We're in the final stages of the drawing, the lightest values. All marks are made exclusively with the 003.

This step has the fewest marks, but in a lot of ways they are the most important. Because each individual mark is so visible, it is more crucial than ever that each is made with intention and purpose.

This stage also incorporates a stippling technique, in which the smallest/lightest hairs are rendered as dots. Smaller hatches can be overlayed on top so the two techniques are blended together.

This step should be done slowly and carefully. It is extremely easy to over render the lightest areas, so that the whole drawing loses contrast.

I'm also using the 003 to add whiskers. Whiskers a

Step 7 - Final Details

re easy to overdo, so treat each one with conviction and intention.

Step 7 - Final Details 2

Step 8 - Finished Up

Step 7 - All of the inking is finished. Now I switch to my curved scratch knife to lift out highlights and small details.

The first place I start is in the whiskers. Whiskers and fur that overlaps along the edges of the animal help to give the drawing character.

I'm very selective with where I add the whiskers and extra lines of fur, because they draw the eye.

I also tick away a bit at the large, pure black areas that we defined at the first step of the drawing. I don't lift away too much of the ink here, as I want these areas to still read as a shadow. Adding extra hairs in the darkest areas just helps to ensure that there are no flat areas in the wolf.

Step 8 - This step is a short one, and can be completed immediately after finishing the final details or after a few days away from the drawing.

Often because I've worked on a drawing for anywhere between a few weeks, to a few months, once it is finished my eyes need a break. It is easy to miss large areas that may have needed more time or attention.

I typically end up going back through and lightly scratching away between areas where dark and light meet, so that the value transitions aren't as clumpy. I may also notice a pencil line that needs erasing.

With that, you're all done! Millions of marks later! Whew. Once I have signed the piece, I finish up by varnishing the drawing to protect it from dust and UV rays. I personally use Windsor & Newton Satin varnish. It darkens and flattens any brush/pen strokes, but doesn't detract from the details like a gloss varnish would.

Grey Wolf, Ink on Claybord, 2019

Thank you for reading my first blog! I know there's a lot to improve upon when going into details about my process, but hopefully this helps you better understand ink & scratch board combo that I use for my work. Hopefully as I tackle more of these, I can go into more detail.

This was a ton of fun to write up! :) Comments and questions are very welcome!

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