Easy Ink Art for Everyone




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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    27 Discussions

    What kind of paper works best for the photo? i.e. glossy, flat, satin etc?
    I assume that the photo must be on photo paper so the ink wont move or absorb too much.
    Thank you for sharing this project, I really like it.
    Martin H

    1 more answer

    I use whatever is in my printer! Just standard a4/letter printer paper. I hadn't thought about using photo paper. I think the ink probably needs to be absorbed a bit or it will smudge - a fine line between not wanting too much absorption and not wanting it to blot I suspect.. I don't have any photo paper but you could try it and let me know!

    That is so cool. Thank you for sharing, I will be trying this! I do a bit of pencil sketching and I love B&W silhouettes of people.

    Really nice! I already am thinking of pictures to do this. Thanks for sharing.

    This is so clever, and the results are stunning! There's room for a lot of creativity with leaving out or adding elements, using colors, etc.

    At first I didn't understand why you inked over the highlights in her hair. But then I saw that the incomplete transfer adds new highlights! Do you manipulate that by the number of layers of ink you add?

    1 reply

    You sure can - with more practice you can use how much ink (and what direction you
    put it on) to create highlights where you want them!

    You are right about the room for creativity too - so many things you can do! Its a great way to get a bit of confidence before experimenting by yourself!

    Unique project! Excellent instructions and photos gives me the incentive to give this a go.
    Thank you for passing on your creative knowledge.

    My thought is that if you put a piece of clear plastic, such as transparency film, over the original, you would have less drying and more ink on your print. I will try it both ways and get back to you on it.

    1 reply

    I'll look forward to your feedback :) My gut says it will blot but am keen to see!

    Amazing! I can hardly wait to get the supplies and to search through my gazillion photos for the perfect project. Thanks so much.


    7 months ago

    Do you do a picture all in one sitting? Seems like you would have to. Nice idea. Hope I get the gumption to try it.

    1 reply

    I did. I'm sure you could do it in more though - just as long as you leave the tape in place so neither picture move! If you are going to do that you might want to do as Maxman suggested above and leave some extra paper for the hinge and trim it off when you are finished to avoid the paper tearing off with the tape when you are finished :)


    7 months ago

    I'm thinking you could leave some extra paper for the "hinge", then trim it off.

    1 reply

    Good idea - would avoid any tearing issues :)

    My daughter is hard to buy for and this is the perfect gift!!! My hands aren't always steady sooo just hope I can make mine as nice as yours!!! Great job!!!

    1 reply

    sometimes unsteady gives a better effect :) Good luck!

    One of the best "-ables" I've seen! Instructions and accompanying pics made it a pleasure to read and want to break into my inks...

    Thanks for sharing!!!

    1 reply

    7 months ago

    Very nicely done. Great instructable. Creative and tasteful. Thanks. Looking forward to trying it.