Recently I received a phone inquiry from a young man in New Jersey about how to apply watercolor to a pen and ink drawing. Basically I have done this two ways.
One way is to do a pen and ink drawing , then add the watercolor on top of the drawing. In this case, you must first make sure that the ink is waterproof. I like to use traditional India Ink with a dip pen. But there are also several waterproof, fadeproof pens that will work well for this. The ones that have worked best for me are: RoseArt Superview, Uniball Deluxe, Uniball Vision Elite. I have tested these in the direct sunlight of a south-facing studio window and they have held up without any fading for at least ten years. Some that have NOT worked well are the Zeb Roller and the Sharpie Fine Point.
I use a rag watercolor paper, either cold press or hot press, of at least 90 or 140 pound weight. After I draw the sketch, I let it dry at least a day to ensure that it won’t lift at all. Then I paint over the top. See the examples.
The second way to combine watercolor with pen and ink is to do the watercolor painting first, then add the details with the ink on top. I used this technique for years when I created house portraits for clients. I would first do a pencil sketch, paint the picture, then add the ink. This allows the artist to paint very loosely and then add details which seems to be very popular with clients.
One neat technique is to scan your plain ink drawing into your computer, then print it on watercolor paper with black ink. Then you can paint on top of that with watercolors after it has totally dried and set. Allow at least a day for this. This only works with the black printer ink which is archival. Again, I have tested this in my studio window and it has not faded in ten years. To do this, you will have to trim your paper to fit through your printer and only use a weight that will go through the printer, probably 90 or 140 pound paper. You’ll have to test this with your own printer. Do NOT try to do this with the colored inks from your printer as those will definitely fade over time. Again, I have tested this. I have only used this with a regular home HP printer. If you have access to a full-size art printer, you will have to run your own tests.
Using the latter technique will allow you to scale your drawing to many sizes and is especially nice for note cards, postcards, and small works on paper. I am also assuming that you are using only high quality, non-fugitive watercolors. As a side note, nearly any watercolor will fade over time so they should never be exposed to direct sun for long periods of time.
I welcome any comments or questions about using this technique or any others that I have discussed in this blog.