How to make your own drawing ink and stylus

Learn how to make your own drawing ink and stylus from items found around your home! This video tutorial takes inspiration from and #UnexpectedGilcrease piece, the Codex Canadensis, which combines drawing living things from observation with your own imagination.

In the seventeenth century, a Jesuit priest named Louis Nicolas came to the New World as a missionary. During his ten years in New France (Canada), he made a handwritten and illustrated record of the indigenous peoples, flora, and fauna he observed. Among his illustrations are some unexpected additions, including a mermaid hybrid and a unicorn. Nicolas insisted that he had seen fantastic beasts and emphasized the importance of direct observation in his work. He also included an image of a tiger, likely another kind of wild cat. Today, the document stands as a testament to the artist’s interpretation as much as his skills as a draftsman. Find more information about the Codex Canadensis here.

How to make your own drawing ink and stylus

Materials Needed:
(Ideal) A fancy drawing pen
(Realistic) A plastic straw
(Ideal) Professional drawing ink
(Realistic) Home-brewed tea

Part 1: Drawing Stylus

Materials Needed: A straw, chopstick, scissors, tape, and a stapler

Step 1:

Bend the end of a plastic straw back on itself about half an inch from the bottom. Staple the straw just above the bent section, placing the staple in line with the straw.

Step 2:

Use scissors to cut off the end just below the staple. Clip off the corners to form a point like a pencil.

Step 3:

You can use a chopstick to provide support to your stylus. Insert the chopstick into the other end of the straw and tape it securely in place.

Step 4:

Your stylus is now ready to use! Dip the tip into your ink to draw and repeat as necessary.

Part 2: Drawing Ink

Materials Needed: Four black tea bags, hot water and maple syrup

Step 1:

Brew and steep the tea bags for fifteen minutes.

Step 2:

Remove the bags and add a teaspoon of maple syrup to the tea. This sticky substance will serve as a binder for your ink.

Step 3:

Stir the mixture. You can brew more tea bags to create a darker color if you prefer.

Part 3: Drawing from Observation

Drawing from observation is a skill that takes a lot of time and practice. One tip is to look at what you are observing more than the paper in front of you.

Choose something like an animal or a plant to get started. Take some time to merely observe your subject. Notice how the parts and proportions relate to one another. Try making a sketch without worrying about making it perfect. Instead, focus on the general shape and outline of the object.

When you are satisfied with your sketch, you can begin to make corrections and add details. Look for patterns or distinguishing marks that make your subject unique. Observe how the sun is hitting your object and copy the shadows as you see them.

Being an artist is not always about copying nature from life realistically. Once you have completed your sketch, start thinking about ways it could morph into another animal or imagined form. What if your composition was half-animal and half-plant? What if it became mixed up with a person? Take time to enjoy your drawing process and let your imagination guide the way. Your finished work will become an original creation for you to share with others.