Ink artist David Morales showed us his process in a FREE Live Demo, and the results he got from his techniques in just over an hour were stunning. Follow this breakdown of the process to get some extra guidance on crosshatching, value, and more!

Step 1: Sketch

The first thing David does is sketch the scene in pencil. Some ink artists go straight into using pen, but David prefers the precision of deciding the composition before committing to ink.

He chooses a specific section of the reference photo rather than drawing the entire thing. By selecting one attractive area from your reference photo, you have more control over the composition, and you can remove anything tedious or distracting. The result is a more powerful drawing.

Step 2: Introducing the Pen

Next, it’s time to go over the lines with the smallest fineliner pen you have. The beginning of this is pretty intuitive, but when you get into shading and rendering, David’s style comes into play.

It can be tricky to follow if you don’t know what he’s envisioning the result to be, so I’ll explain it here. We start with the fundamentals: David, like any skilled artist, sees the reference photo, not in terms of physical objects, but which areas are light value and which areas are dark value.

This artistic vision means that instead of seeing water in the photo, he sees different light and dark shapes, which will look like water when you see it from a holistic perspective.

To begin the shading in this step, realize that much of David’s aesthetic style comes from lines going in different directions and meeting. So when you start the hatching at this part, don’t let the first layer of hatching lines in one object go the same direction as the hatching lines in the object right next to it.

Even the cast shadows of trees and stems on the water distinct shapes in this style, and you should shade them in a different direction than the water.

David uses up to four crosshatching layers, depending on how dark the value needs to be in that area. For this water, the first layer is vertical, and the second layer is on a diagonal.

Step 3: More Direction

The second layer of hatching on the water rendered a shadowed lilypad by leaving negative space and adding a small outline around it. Already there is more depth in the image.

Then, for more interest, we put our hatching lines on the opposite diagonal when we begin shading the water on the other side of the white lilypads. The goal here is a realistic drawing in terms of light and shadow, but whimsically geometric.

Here is the completed Step 3. You can see the divide between the different diagonals on the second layer of hatching and how that creates dynamism in the composition.

Step 4: The Brush Pen

Here is where things get exciting. This whole time, we’ve been drawing with the smallest fineliner we have. Now, it’s time to bring in a brush pen and add some serious weight to certain areas.

We have to choose our lines carefully in brush pen because brush pens make such a big statement and could throw the picture off balance if we’re not careful. David begins by darkening the shadowy lines in the water.

Step 5: Darkening it More

Now we go a bit wild with the brush pen and block in the blackest black shapes. Don’t worry if you don’t get a perfectly even black because this style is focused on the appearance of marks on the page.

(David got a more even black than I did because he wasn’t trying to make a several-year-old pen behave when I should have thrown it out ages ago.) With those blacks established, you can add a third and fourth layer of crosshatching to any areas that need it.

Step 6: Adding Details

This part of the drawing is where David’s art style separates itself from anyone else’s. While most people would try to keep shadows on the water blended rather than rendered with lines, David scribbles them in with confidence, enjoying the geometric effect.

Even following the reference photo, I had some doubt about whether I would get a positive result at this stage. I wondered if I was making mistakes without knowing it when I realized the value of following another artist’s process. Each individual’s imagination is slightly different, so we can find more than one way to solve a problem if we tune ourselves in with how others think.

Step 7: Surprising Water Shadows

Here, I had to keep telling myself to trust the process, because like I mentioned above, I didn’t know how David was planning to tie these chaotic lines in with the rest of the picture.

I knew he would because his finished pieces look amazing, but I couldn’t connect point A to point B in my head. It didn’t help that my pen was worn out, but sometimes less-than-ideal supplies can make happy accidents, so I kept using it.

Progressing further through this step, we see hatching in many directions on the water, all serving to define the lily blossom in a sort of negative space painting technique. My flower isn’t as well-rendered as David’s because I didn’t know where the drawing was going at the beginning, and he did.

Step 8: Detailing the Lilypads

Real lilypads have little spots and blemishes and water droplets on them, so to make our lilypads realistic, we’re going to add little scribbles.

Step 9: Finishing Up

From the finished piece here, you will see the edges of some of the lilypads, a bit of hatching here and there on their surfaces, and other minor marks that add up to create more depth and realism. We have a very stylized drawing, but you will achieve something believable if you understand value and dimension the way David does.

Finally, a note on brush pens. I used a felt-tip “brush”, and I think David did too. It would be interesting to see what results you get using a brush pen with actual bristles.

To watch more ink drawing magic from David Morales, watch his Mini Workshop here

Elsa Wahlstrom is an illustrator and graphic novelist based in Minnesota. She specializes in all things cozy and calm, but adds humor where she can. When she isn’t drawing, she enjoys playing musical instruments, but you’re more likely to see her staring at some silly tree or something. 

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