Introduction: Easy Ink Art for Everyone

Stuck with trying to find a meaningful gift for that hard-to-buy-for person in your life? Looking for something special for your parents? Interested in stretching yourself a bit and engaging in some easy and effective art?

This instructable will tell you how to create a striking ink print from a photo of your choice. I have used old studio portraits of grandparents, photos of favorite buildings/fishing spots - you can find all sorts of ways to put the personal touch on this gift. Dont worry if you are concerned about your personal artistic skills. This is as easy as paint by numbers and the end result can be something really special.

Step 1: Materials


  • Watercolour paper - the type of paper you use for this instructable is important. It needs to be absorbent so watercolour paper is a good choice. I have tried using cheaper papers but the ink just blots and goes everywhere!
  • Brush - the paintbrush is also important - soft bristles and a fine tip are necessary if you want to get the details anywhere near right! I use a No.4 round watercolour brush, it was pretty cheap but works well.
  • Indian Ink - colour of your choice
  • Tape - scotch tape is the best as it is easy to remove. You can get special tapes for taping down watercolour paper, but its not necessary if you remove the tape quickly and carefully.
  • Stiff cardboard or board - to tape your picture to while working on it.
  • A photo - see the next step for more details on this.

Step 2: Choosing Your Photo

It is really important to choose the right photo. You want something that will look great as a silhouette, like a tree, a building or maybe a person. Too much detail will make the job ahead difficult. Start with something easy.

If you want to do a face, it needs to have distinct areas of light and dark. The picture needs to be simple as you only have two shades to work with here - light (the white paper) and dark (the ink). I find black and white photos the easiest to work with - particularly heavily shadowed partial profiles. For the video attached to this instructable I have chosen a stock photo of Audrey Hepburn which shows great contrast (clearly defined areas of black and white).

You can choose a favorite photo and only use one aspect of it - a single tree, or a face - so don't be restricted by the original picture.

The photos above are some of the ones I have used to create ink prints.

Step 3: Adjusting Your Photo (if Necessary)

Once you have chosen your picture/subject, you may wish to adjust it to make the printing easier. There are a huge number of programs out there that you can use to do it. I like to keep it simple and usually only use the basic options available in my photo viewer, or I paste the picture into Word and use the picture tools there.

I have used photos of my family in the past, and cropped them, changed to black and white, and increased the contrast to blow away all the grey to produce an end result that will make a good ink print. The key is high contrast while maintaining enough of the picture to make it worth while. If you are doing a silhouette the colour doesn't matter (like the tree above).

The photos above show you some of the photos in the previous step after they have been adjusted.

Step 4: Set Up

Size your photo to your needs (whatever size it needs to be to fit the frame/card you want) and print it out. Tape the photo flat onto your board.

Cut a piece of watercolour paper to the correct size. Make sure the watercolour paper is up the right way (usually smooth on the back, a little less so on the painting side) and tape it to one side of your photo. If you are right handed tape it on the left and vice versa. Lift the watercolour paper back across the tape like a page of a book.

The example above has already got a watercolour wash on it but this isn't necessary and can be added later if you want.

Place your ink and paint brush close at hand and get ready to start!

Step 5: Adding Ink

Finally to the fun part!

The video above shows the process from start to finish :)

Dip your brush in the ink - making sure its not going to drip everywhere, then start painting out the dark/black areas of our photo. Start on a large area of black and do just a little at a time. If you put too much ink on it will blot, so give yourself a bit of space to get the hang of this. When you have inked in a little bit, flip the watercolour paper over onto the ink and rub the area you have inked. When you lift it back off you should see ink transferring onto your watercolour paper. You will not get the finished effect first time, and may need to layers 3-4 lots of ink over the same area to get coverage.

The ink dries quite quickly so it is important to just do a little area at a time. It will be very tempting (believe me it is!) to put too much ink on to make the process quicker, but it will make large unsightly blots that you just don't want! Keep looking at your watercolour paper to make sure the picture is coming out how you want it. For areas of solid black you can paint it directly on to the watercolour paper once you have the outline, but this does produce a slightly different effect.

Do not leave the watercolour paper on top of the wet ink for too long - the inked paper will stick to the watercolour paper and you will end up with a mess.

Repeat the process, working your way slowly around the photo. When you are happy with the ink print on the watercolour paper you can add a border if you wish (see the end of the video), or leave it plain. Don't forget to sign your work!

When you have finished inking carefully remove the watercolour paper from the board and take the tape off. The longer you leave it on the more likely it is to damage your print.

Step 6: Finishing

Your ink print is now complete. If you wish you can add some colour to the back ground with watercolour paints, but wait until the ink is completely dry. The dry ink will hold fast so you can paint right over the top of it. There are loads of clips on YouTube about how to put a watercolour wash over a piece of paper but I can add an instructable to cover this if anyone wants.

If you are interested in a sky background, wash bit of blue (doesn't have to be even - uneven is more natural!) over your paper and use a tissue to lift some of the colour off (while it is still wet) to make clouds.

The alternative here is to paint up a bit of paper first and add ink second (as i did with the tree)- either way works!

You can also add text if you wish for that extra touch.

Step 7: Presentation

Once you print is dry it is ready to frame. These prints can be given as pieces of art, or made into cards (use up some of that extra watercolour paper you have).

Go forth and create!

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