Ink Vs. Watercolor

By Mike Southern ; Updated September 15, 2017
You can use a brush with both ink and watercolor.

Inks and watercolors are both common drawing media, but each has strengths and weaknesses. Artists are often attracted to one or the other, but both can be used together to achieve unique results.

Solubility

You can buy either waterproof or water-soluble inks. If you use waterproof ink, you can let it dry and then apply watercolor paint over it—a common technique used in illustration. Watercolors are always water-soluble.

Application

While both can be applied with a brush, ink is also frequently applied with cartridge pens or drawing nibs. Nibs are pointed pieces of metal that hold a small amount of ink, acquired by dipping the nib in an ink bottle.

Technique

Watercolors are generally used for color washes without clearly defined lines. Inks can be watered down and used as washes, but they are most commonly used for line art.

Consistency

Inks are generally used at full strength, while watercolors always have to be mixed with water. This makes it a bit easier to get consistent results with ink, as watercolors always involve some guesswork.

Translucence

You can see marks on the paper beneath watercolors, even when they are applied in several layers. Ink is opaque unless it has been watered down for use as a wash.

About the Author

North Carolina native Mike Southern has been writing since 1979. He is the author of the instructional golf book "Ruthless Putting" and edited a collection of swashbuckling novels. Southern was trained in electronics at Forsyth Technical Community College and is also an occasional woodworker.