Pen & Ink Reproduction- Botanical Art

& Natural Science Illustration Tips

I just spent the last 2 weeks at the New York Botanical Garden teaching Pen & Ink. Pen & Ink is mostly used in the botanical art and natural science illustration for reproduction. The black ink on white paper makes it a one color process and can be reproduced economically. This is why most botanical and scientific journals are published in black and white. It is the same cost as the printed text. In the class I demonstrated techniques using the crowquil  and the rapidograph pen. I emphasized in the class that it is important for botanical artists and natural science illustrators to think of their end product first and work backwards. Here are some tips to think about:

  1. What do you want to make? A postcard, business card, spot illustration for a publication?
  2. How will it be reproduced? Via a printer, over the internet, desktop publishing or xerox?
  3. What kind of paper will it be printed on? Glossy, matte, thin or heavy weight paper?
  4. Making your image slightly larger will reduce wobbles and small mistakes. It also requires less work because the stipple and lines will converge as the image gets smaller.
  5. How much larger are you going to make it? if your end product is a 4 x 6 postcard is this too small to fit all the detail in? Should you make it 8 x 10 or 5 x 7.5.
  6. Proportion is key. If you plan on making it larger and reducing the image for printing make sure that the proportions stay in tact. If you don't the image may be cropped off and parts are missing…..yikes!
  7. Even though the work is done in black and white you can introduce color into the finished product by having the ink printed in a color and the paper does not have to be white.
  8. If you would like part off your image is "bleed" off the page make sure that you ink at least 1/8" on all sides that are to bleed off the page. If you don't, you can get a white stripe down the edge of the piece when the printer cuts the paper.
  9. Use a reducing lens, rather than a magnifying glass to see how the image looks smaller as you ink. This way you can tell if you are getting too dark, or not dark enough.
  10. Afraid to ink? Take a piece of tracing paper and place it over your drawing and "think like an inker". Use pencil to create thick and thin lines and make a "test run" to see if you like the way the image is coming out before you commit to the final.

I hope that you have found this useful. If you have any other tips or things that botanical artists or natural science illustrators should consider when working in pen & ink, let me know. I would love to hear from you.