Painting with ink

Tips for finding your creative streak with Zen Brush 2.

Zen Brush 2



The art of creating paintings that embody the delicacy and beauty of the East Asian ink brush is made easy the moment you get acquainted with Zen Brush 2. This powerful drawing app produces realistic brushstrokes simply from you gliding your finger or Apple Pencil across your screen.

If you’re wondering where to start, we’ve got three pictures to show you, each one made using Zen Brush 2. Read our tips and tricks on how they were painted using the app’s key features, be inspired and begin making your own beautiful Zen art.

Expressing brush pressure with 3D Touch

First, set the brush pressure so you can make the right kind of strokes depending on what you want to paint. If you’re using an iPhone with 3D Touch or an iPad with an Apple Pencil, set the brush pressure in the app to ‘Brush pressure by 3D Touch’. In this mode, when you add a little pressure you’ll make a thick line; strokes with light pressure create thinner lines. If you set the brush to the maximum size, the difference between thick and thin lines will become more obvious, allowing you to get more expressive.

The illustration on top was drawn with 3D Touch turned off. The one below was drawn with 3D Touch is turned on.

Remember to set the brush pressure sensitivity too. The lower you set it, the greater the difference between strong and weak strokes will become so you can have more contrast within your masterpiece.

Alternatively, if you want more uniform strokes (as you would for calligraphy), set the sensitivity to high. Less variation means you can make cleaner strokes.

Painting a tree

After you’ve configured your settings, you’re ready to start painting with ink. Choose the amount of ink on your brush from the options for Dry, Std or Wet mode. So, to start painting a tree, you could tackle the main portion of it using Std mode. With this mode, for standard strokes the brush glides easily and is ideal for drawing contours and capturing the shape of an object. Recreate the contours of the tree by drawing in a zigzag pattern while changing the brush pressure.

Then use Dry mode to paint delicate, thin branches. In this mode, there is less ink so it’s possible to express faint strokes that can add a little more visual impact to your picture. If you want to get an even better grip on expressing faintness, select a low brush pressure; you can also add gentle strokes by moving the brush quickly. The effect of shading and blurring of the ink is determined by the speed with which you move your finger or Apple Pencil – keep it in the same place and the ink will blur and darken.

When you’ve finished the tree from roots to branches, set the colour to Red and then switch to Wet mode so you can add some flowers for a subtle finish. In Wet mode, you’ll be able to perfectly portray the softness of your flowers with the blurring of the ink. Try experimenting a little beforehand; the level of blurring depends on your brush, brush pressure and how long you touch, so find the delicate balance and you’ll be able to master every stroke.

Colouring a boar

Painting with Std or Dry modes gives a clear indication of the boundaries with other colours, but in Wet mode you can smoothly blur boundaries. This will become your default mode for colouring and shading.

Here, we’ll colour a boar using Wet mode. You can select the colour shade from Deep, Medium and Light. First, select Wet mode and Light, then lightly colour in the whole boar. Once you release your finger or Apple Pencil from the screen, the next stroke will automatically be overpainted onto it; so, if you want to neatly paint the same colour, the key is to make one stroke without releasing your finger or the pen tip. Don’t fret about ink going outside the frame or if there are some portions where ink is missing; these will actually help it to resemble an actual ink painting.

Next, overpaint more ink to adjust the shadows and colour. Overpainting is one of the best ways to achieve the densities that are difficult to create with the app’s three available colour shades and painting in this way over the feet, ears and nose of the boar will give them that desired dark contrast.

To make clear boundaries when painting the boar, it’s necessary to switch to Std mode. Now, zoom in and add the finer details.

Drawing clouds

The app’s nifty eraser tool is not just useful for removing any mistakes, but also for adding white to your picture when needed. Just like the brush, the eraser can be set to Dry, Std or Wet mode and you can also pick the colour depth of the parts of your picture that will become white.

When adding clouds to a picture, the eraser tool is a dab hand. Turn on 3D Touch, set the sensitivity to ‘Very low’ and choose the maximum brush size in Wet mode. Then, make small circles using light pressure on a thinly coloured background. Create quick strokes to give the effect of cloud trails.

The eraser is also handy for adding highlights and you can use a thin, deep eraser to gently trace areas painted with ink to add shading to the picture.

Being able to paint with the eraser and switch the background without changing the picture are two of Zen Brush 2’s most powerful features, helping you to achieve a form of expression few other drawing apps can. Experiment with the tips mentioned here and lose yourself in the joy of creating Zen art.

    Zen Brush 2