How to Draw a Tree with Ink

Ink is a versatile medium that comes in a wide range of colours and formulations. The advantage of using ink from the pot rather than in pen form is that it can be applied with a range of different tools in a single drawing, with the qualities of those particular tools expanding the vocabulary of marks.

In most cases, you will not see each leaf completely. You will see extensions of each with overlapping views, and perhaps only a few leaves completely. That makes our work easier. Remembering our light source again and how it is reflected on the leaf clumps and the individual leaves.

To draw the tree below I used both ends of a brush and a dip pen to apply ink to 300 gsm hot press watercolour paper – a smooth but heavy paper that absorbs the ink well without disrupting the pen marks with too much texture. Experiment with different inks, using as good a quality of ink as you can afford – cheap inks can be too watery and may have a strong blue or brown bias.

1. General Shapes

I began this drawing with a pale sketch directly drawn in dilute black ink with no pencil guidelines. I diluted the ink by adding a few drops into a small cup of water and testing it on a piece of scrap paper until I was happy with its ton

2. Large Limbs

To avoid drawing too precisely I used the wooden end of the paintbrush to draw the major limbs of the tree, dipping the brush end into the pot of dilute ink and generously dragging limb-shapes across the page. While the dilute ink was still wet I dipped the brush end in the concentrated ink and dropped ink onto the lines.

3. Trunk and Branches

I added more ink to the dilute mix and using a dip pen and drawing nib, I began selectively contouring around the trunk of the tree and adding smaller twigs to the high branches, leaving plenty of blank space for the foliage.

4. Foliage

Finally, I added patterned masses of leaves in light ink, using the dip pen over the top of the dry ink of the first layer, this took longer than all previous steps combined.