How to get a strong white line on a black ink background?
April 21, 2011 6:29 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to draw in white over a black fountain pen ink background that I've applied to vellum Bristol. But I haven't found a way to do so that results in a sharp line.

I've tried Sharpie white paint marker (fine point), Daler-Rowney Pro White (applied with a thin brush), Gelly Roll white gel pen (medium point) and Presto Jumbo Correction Pen (fine point). The whitest is the Pro White, but I'm not adept enough with a pen to draw the kind of line that comes more easily to a gel pen.

Any thoughts on how to get a clean, strong white line on a background of black ink? The ink is Noodler's Heart of Darkness, which is very thick and black. I haven't yet tried a different ink.
posted by the sobsister to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Liquid paper, or housepaint primer.

Any ink will be too thin to be totally opaque in white, and won't get you the sharp line you want. You could try using white gouache with just enough water to be used with a brush, and going over it several times; or perhaps white gesso. But really, go for the big guns: the industrial solutions that were built primarily to be a truly opaque white. No artistic material solution will satisfy you.
posted by fatbird at 6:36 PM on April 21, 2011

I would go with Titanium White egg tempera and a fine point sable brush or white gesso: acrylic or my favorite is dry gesso but it's probably too complex to prepare for your application. Synthetic fiber round for the acrylic gesso.
posted by effluvia at 6:51 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for that. The correction pen I listed is like Liquid Paper, except that, after it dries, the white sits on the ink as if I'd piped it onto the page with a pastry bag. I'd love to have the control and low profile that the pens give with the opacity of the industrial solutions.
posted by the sobsister at 6:52 PM on April 21, 2011

I haven't found a useful solution-- white gouache is pretty good, though now I use a masquepen to map out white lines before I cover things with ink.

One that did work pretty well is this Noodler's White Peacock it's out of stock, but was pretty effective. You have to shake it for a few minutes though and as it's more like a gel pen ink, you can only use certain tools with it. I've got my bottle and pens around somewhere (too many art supplies), so if you'd want to try that message me-- I wouldn't mind selling it off so someone can get more use out of it!
posted by actionpact at 6:55 PM on April 21, 2011

You might try spraying the black surface with matte fixative. This will keep the edges of the white from micro-bleeding into the black and will give you a good surface.
posted by Old Geezer at 7:10 PM on April 21, 2011

seconding the house primer...kilz 2 is available at any hardware store for $15-20/gal...thin with water to taste and it will give you that low profile you're looking for...IMO, acrylic gesso is going to be too thick and plastic-y for your taste (like the liquid paper, but gooey-er). the primer is nice and chalky with a very fine grain and won't melt in water (after it's dry) like gouache or tempera...have them put it in the oscillating paint mixer for you for a few minutes as it tends to settle after sitting on a shelf for a while...
posted by sexyrobot at 8:07 PM on April 21, 2011

you may be more adept at a pen than you think. try the pro white (definitely your best bet ink-wise) with a very, very stiff steel nib (i.e., speedball #56) and maybe a ruler with a raised edge.
posted by MaddyRex at 8:55 PM on April 21, 2011

If I am reading you correctly, you've got black ink on a white board, yeah? If you want super crisp lines, scratch through the ink with the tip of an x-acto knife. Your lines will be incredibly thin if you use very light pressure. Don't cut, but scratch your strokes perpendicular to the blade.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 10:07 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

The standard/usual way to do that is scratchboard.
posted by bricoleur at 3:46 AM on April 22, 2011

That's what I'm talking about, sort of, except instead of white clay on a black backing, sobsister has black ink on a white backing. The technique should be pretty similar, and yield a great deal of precision and control, even if it is a little slow and unforgiving.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 12:03 PM on April 22, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks to all for the suggestions. I'll try them out.
posted by the sobsister at 4:02 PM on April 22, 2011

Scratchboard is white clay on a paper/cardboard backing. There's no black on it when you buy it. You add the black ink, usually with a brush. Once that dries, you scratch through the ink to the white clay. So, instead of laying white on black—where the white, as others have pointed out, will never have sufficient opacity to give really strong contrast—you lay down your black where you want it, and then expose the white with a stylus or knife or any other sharp tool. It gives very sharp, very detailed white against absolute black.
posted by bricoleur at 7:03 PM on April 26, 2011

you can buy pre-inked scratchboard, so you'll want to make sure what you're buying is not pre-inked if your intention is to draw in ink on the clay surface and then scratch bits of what you've drawn.

ampersand's claybord can also be used as a scratchboard surface. instructions here. they also make a pre-inked scratchbord.

(disclaimer: i'm part-owner of an art supply store, and sell this stuff.)
posted by jimw at 7:23 PM on June 6, 2011

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