The secret to looser ink and wash sketches

February 28, 2024 | Leave your thoughts

Ink and wash is a very popular technique for sketching and for good reason. It gives us lots of options for recording our scene in a limited time frame.

But there are three common complaints that I often hear about working this way:

  1. ‘I end up drawing too much in ink. I often get lost in the details and the more I draw the more I’m afraid that my watercolour will ruin my drawing.’
  2. ‘My work feels too cartoony’
  3. ‘I want to work faster and looser.’

Can you relate to these?

The secret to solving these three challenges is to think about edges and in particular to:

  • prioritise the important edges (and stop drawing all edges the same)
  • create a variety of edges (hard, soft, strong, weak, solid, broken)
  • use watercolour to define more of the edges (and stop relying on your ink lines to ‘do all the work’)

This is exactly what we look at in my Edges course and I’m excited to announce a group event for this course starting on 13 March 2024. This will be a chance to work through the course with an inspiring group of sketchers from around the world over 8 weeks.

As you move together through the lessons, you’ll notice your work will come to life with a sense of depth and focus. And you’ll draw inspiration from sharing homework and interacting with other students in the course. The SketchingNow community is known for its supportive and friendly environment – I can’t wait to share it with you!

Replays of previous livestreams are available in the classroom and these include answers to many common Edges questions, reviews of students’ work, and lots of bonus materials. I won’t be hosting any livestreams for this group event, but I’ll be in the classroom regularly answering all your Edges questions.

I particularly love this course as it includes a lot of important sketching concepts that will radically improve the depth and focus of your ink and wash sketches. And there are a lot of tips for creating more lively loose work!

Edges builds on the skills developed during Foundations and Watercolour and is an important course to work through before tackling Watercolour On Location (which we will be working through together as a group June- August this year!)

There is a broad range of subjects that are covered in Edges (both indoor and outdoor) – sketching monuments, scenes with layers of trees and landscaping, streetscapes, workspaces, houses, food, teacups and even sketching faces!

We also look at how to vary our lines including using different coloured ink, water-soluble ink,  watercolour pencils (instead of ink) and different thicknesses. I also explain one of my favourite sketching techniques – lost and found edges.

Here are a few of the concepts and techniques that you’ll learn in Edges…

How to decide what to draw in ink and when to rely on our watercolour brush strokes to define the edges. BTW Scenes with lots of trees/landscaping are perfect for developing these skills!

How to use hard and soft edges… and how to sketch food! 🙂

How to use water-soluble ink…

and watercolour pencil lines combined with ink and wash.

How to think about complex scenes as a series of planes which will help you prioritise the important edges and make colour decisions to create depth.

How to start your sketch with a few coloured shapes  and create a dynamic relationship between ink and wash!

How to create sketches with lost and found edges!

How to alternate between line and colour for looser and more expressive sketches.

How to use different line weights (and colours) in one sketch.

And how to vary edges when sketching ‘direct watercolour’- paint only!

All of these techniques will transform your sketches and give them greater depth and focus!

So if you want to improve your ink and wash sketches and say more with less, please join us for this group event.


Group Self-Paced Version of Edges

starting 13 March 2024

work through the course with a group over 8 weeks

Find out more about Edges

Note: If you have enrolled in Edges at any time, you can be part of the group working through the course. All you have to do is visit the Edges classroom via My Account/My Courses at and follow the instructions under the welcome video. Alternatively, look out for an email I sent through yesterday 🙂

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