Green Iguana, pen and wash on Seawhite’s NOT watercolour paper, (42x42cm)

Be creative with colour as you paint a green iguana using pen and wash with Liz Chaderton.

How to paint with pen and wash

The challenge with pen and wash is how to make each element play a significant role.

You are not trying to create a lovely pen drawing then colour it in, nor do you want a watercolour painting that you simply outline. The aim is for pen and colour to add up to more than the sum of the parts.

Paul Riley’s top tips for successful pen and wash:
  • Keep your pen clean, be it fountain or dip
  • When inking in, work from top to bottom
  • If necessary use blotting paper to keep work dry
  • When working monochromatic use dilute ink of the variety used for the pen work
  • Keep your watercolours paler than the pen work
  • Keep your watercolours clean
  • Make sure washes are bone dry before adding pen work and visa versa
  • Wash out fountain pens with detergent regularly
  • Don’t mess around with dip pens that don’t work. Change them for fresh ones
  • Enjoy yourself!

Paul's tips are taken from the May 2018 issue of The Artist.

Top tips before you begin:

  • Make sure your fine liner pens contain waterproof ink. Liz used Unipin in black.
  • Select highly transparent colours to ensure the line work remains visible. Liz used Talens Ecoline liquid watercolour. You could also use lightfast inks or Brusho.
  • With the tail receding into the background, you will need to make sure there is variation in the line strength and add weight to the closer and more important areas.
  • There is a danger that your line work could become too rigid, remember that you want to try retain the expression and looseness of a sketch.
  • Spend a couple of minutes spent on a thumbnail to help plan your painting.
  • Ponder your lights and darks along with the overall composition.
  • As you produce your thumbnail, think about what you want to say in your painting. If you do not know what you are trying to communicate, it makes it hard to know when to stop.

Having completed my thumbnail, I decided to crop in closer to the iguana. As you can see, my sketch is not a thing of beauty; it really is a working doodle.

Demonstration: Green Iguana

Reference photo (available from Pixabay)