Inktober began life in 2009 when Jake Parker set himself the task of improving his inking and to get into the habit of drawing every day. Since then, October’s event has grown into a worldwide phenomenon and thousands of artists participate in the challenge to create 31 drawings in 31 days.
Fun as it is, Inktober can be tough for participants. Creating a new piece of art every day for a full month takes up a lot of time, and requires a lot of creative energy. This is why we’ve put together a list of our 25 top tips for surviving Inktober and creating the best possible collection of ink drawings.
25. Choose your weapons
Really, you can complete Inktober with whatever tools you have lying around (and by tools, we obviously mean drawing equipment), but if you can afford new gear then we recommend splashing out.
Inktober.com has a list of the Jake Parker’s favorite art supplies, so that’s a logical place to start when looking to buy. The following is a full list of the tools you might want to consider buying to see you through Inktober:
- Waterproof ink – to create lines that won’t be affected by color wash
- Mechanical pencil – for under drawing lettering and simple outlines
- Micron pen – for perfectly neat fine lines
- Flex nib pen – to give variety and weight to your work
- Stub nib – to cover large areas quickly
- Colored ink – for variety in your work (assuming you use color)
- A brush or brush pen – to create washes with watered down ink
24. Steal from other artists
Well, sort of. Steve Jobs once said "Good artists copy; great artists steal". The quote, originally accredited to Pablo Picasso, might sound controversial but it’s a fact that many artists follow this mantra.
The truth is, being completely original is incredibly difficult in today’s world. Trying to create art from within is pretty much impossible without outside influence seeping through, so why not just accept this and take advantage of all the incredible art that already exists in the world.
In art school you’re encouraged to study the masters, and this is the exact same concept: study other artists and intentionally look for inspiration in everything around you. If you saw an artist during last year’s Inktober that you admire, steal the interesting way that they draw faces, or use their color palette.
You probably have a schedule at work, right? Maybe you’ve also got a calendar to schedule non-work events and appointments? Why? Because schedules keep you focused. So, why not apply this to Inktober?
Put your art on your to do list and make sure it’s a task that gets ticked off every day.
22. Less is more
Your art doesn’t have to be perfect; that’s not what this challenge is about. Instead of trying to be the Van Gogh of the ink world, just have fun with it.
Pressure can limit creativity, and you only have one day to crank out each piece, so you’ll enjoy Inktober much more if you’re not torturing yourself over imperfect lines. Focus on expressing yourself as an artist rather than displaying technical brilliance: it’s true that less is sometimes more.
21. Stop caring so much
It’s almost impossible to be objective about your own work, but we’re going to tell you to do it anyway. Every artist is super tough on themselves and we all tend to become emotionally attached to our pieces, but that can really stifle creativity.
It’s a proven fact that personality traits associated with psychopaths correlate with creative achievement, so embrace boldness and emotional objectivity and your art is certain to improve.
20. Don’t be scared to start from scratch
That being said, you should settle for creating work that you’re not particularly proud of. If you hate a piece, or if you make a mistake, scrap it and start again.
You might actually spend more time trying to fix a drawing that isn’t working than you would on starting again, so don’t be scared of doing so. You’ll be glad you did at the end of the month when you can look back on every image with pride.
19. Dust off your gym kit
A 2013 study showed that people who exercise regularly are more creative than those that don’t, so you might want to renew that gym membership.
Research published in Journal Frontiers in Human Resources states that divergent and convergent thinking (the former is thinking of multiple solutions for a single problem, and the latter involves thinking of a single answer to a problem) is improved with physical activity.
18. Get zen
It’s a known fact that our minds start to diminish as we age, but some scientists now believe that people who practice meditation on a long-term basis lose less grey and white matter. Studies have been conducted since the 1950’s, and as well as reducing anxiety, depression and pain, meditation seems to keep brains sharp.
Even if you’re young, starting to meditate now will help keep you at the top of your art game in the coming year. It’ll also help you to focus, which should help with creative block.
17. Tidy desk/tidy mind
This is a cliché, but with good reason: it really does make a difference to your productivity. Chaos inhibits our ability to focus, so clutter could very easily get between you and a successful Inktober. You’ll also save lots of time if you’re not searching through piles of paper, pens and other desk mess for your sketch pad.
Chances are you’ll be completing Inktober from home, so it’s more than your desk that’ll need a spring clean. Go into October with a tidy home, and make sure that you’ve done the washing up/put the laundry away/taken the bin out before you try to get stuck into drawing.
16. Avoid multitasking
We all know the stereotype that women can multitask and men can’t. Well, in art we’re of the opinion that nobody can. Your creations need your full and undivided attention, and your Inktober offerings will definitely suffer if you don’t give it your full cognitive capacity.
The first thing to ditch is your cell phone. If it’s on your desk while you work, can you honestly say that you won’t absentmindedly check Facebook? Will you be able to resist messaging your dear old mum back if she texts? Leave it in another room during the time that you’ve scheduled drawing for: Whatsapp can wait.
TV is another no-no, but music can help with focus. Don’t pick a playlist that’s full of your favorite party bangers though, as that’s sure to distract you. Low key tunes are best for focusing.
15. Switch up your workplace
Creative block happens to all of us, and there seems to be days where it feels impossible to even sit at your desk and create. Maybe in some cases it’s not your project that’s boring you, it’s your environment.
Take your sketchbook to a local café and spend the morning sketching, or take a stroll in a park to get the creative juices flowing. It might even be enough to move to a different room every now and then throughout Inktober: the dining table might seem fresh and new after holing up in your study for a couple of days.
14. Accountability increases productivity
This is certainly the case in most working environments, so it seems logical that accountability could also benefit creativity.
Before Inktober begins, try and recruit a buddy to do it with you; that way, you can keep each other on track throughout the month. It might be enough just to know that you’re not alone in the process, but for extra motivation try to plan meetups where you can work together. Watching another artist work their magic could keep you on your toes and push you to try harder. After all, nobody wants to see a friend doing better than them!
13. Choose a theme
Jake Parker always posts a list of 31 prompts to help get your creative juices flowing during Inktober, but if you’d rather choose your own theme you’ll need to plan ahead a little.
Firstly, don’t go too niche or specific; is the theme of cats eating snacks really going to afford you enough variety to last you all month? Switching themes half way through will make your collection feel less cohesive, so you need to pick a topic that you can get creative with.
You don’t need to plan your entire month’s drawings though, having a loose idea for around a week’s worth of work is enough to get started with, without tying yourself down for the month.
12. Always be prepared
During Inktober, take your pen and sketchpad everywhere with you. There are two main reasons for this: creativity and productivity.
Inspiration could also strike at any time, so even if you’ve already chosen a theme or have planned what you’ll draw each day, you don’t have to stick to that. If you see, hear or experience something that just has to be drawn, let your creativity flow and just go for it. You can also slack off a bit if you’re running out of ideas: ask people in your office what you should draw, or put the question to friends over dinner, then quickly sketch their idea to finish later.
Practically speaking, Inktober is a busy time for an artist, so you need to take any chance you can to be productive. You never know when your train will be delayed or if you’ll find yourself stuck in a lift. With a notebook in your bag you can use that time to doodle and to practice, which will save you time in the long run.
11. Practice before bed
In the run up to Inktober it will obviously benefit you to practice drawing with ink, especially if your skills are a little rusty. Getting practice in beforehand will speed up the Inktober process and will stop you getting frustrated about making mistakes on your submissions.
Studies have shown that just before bedtime is a great time to practice anything that requires motor skills, and drawing falls under this. Get in the habit of doing some sketching while you sip your hot cocoa in your pj’s, and your skills will be improved ready for Inktober.
10. Get a good night’s sleep
This tip is nothing revolutionary, and everyone knows that we need sleep to perform at our best. But, it’s so important that we’re including it anyway.
Again, it comes down to those all-important motor skills. Getting plenty of rest replenishes the brain and solidifies the skills that you need in order to draw, so don’t stay up all night binge watching TV when there’s inking to be done.
If you find that you’re getting fatigued during drawing, there’s nothing wrong with a quick power nap to top up your energy levels.
9. Early morning brain power
You know in the morning when you wake up and you feel really refreshed and awake? Don’t waste that on work, use it for Inktober instead. Even if you’re not usually a morning drawer, you might find that waking up an hour early will help you squeeze your inking in, and that your early morning brain power can be utilized much better than by checking your work emails.
Just don’t tell your boss that we recommended this!
8. Good posture makes for good inking
No, really. Your physical posture can have a significant effect on your motivation and your emotions, so it’s important to be mindful of it. In fact, hunching over can actually make you feel more stressed and less powerful.
An expanding posture is great for creativity, so make sure you’re sitting upright when you’re drawing (or even when you’re brainstorming). Invest in a decent chair for your desk and beware of trying to work curled up on the sofa.
7. Drink matcha tea
By the end of the month you’re likely to feel drained and will need a boost to get you over the finish line. Caffeine is a life saver for most people, but it can make you jittery and there’s always the dreaded slump that follows the buzz.
Matcha green tea is a much better alternative, as it will still give you an energy boost but for a longer period and without the crash. Drink a cup at the start of your day, and you’ll feel energized for 4-6 hours. Your mood will be better, your brain will be sharper, and you’ll feel less stressed. All of those things are absolutely necessary if you’re to survive Inktober.
6. Switch up your diet
Picasso is just one of a many successful artists that attribute some of their success to diet; his doctor prescribed a diet of fish and spinach to boost his abstract thinking powers.
Although this alone isn’t going to make you a world famous artist, a healthy diet will go a long way towards giving you the brain power you need if you’re going to spend a full month working those creative muscles.
Stick to unprocessed food and include lots of the following into your daily diet:
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
- Fish high in Omega 3 fatty acids
- Cruciferous greens (leafy greens, Brussel sprouts, broccoli etc.)
- Wholegrains (brown rice, whole wheat bread etc.)
- Beans and pulses
- Nuts and seeds
5. Create every day
Obviously during Inktober that’s exactly the idea, but we’re talking about before the event.
Get into the habit of doing even just a little bit of art every single day: be that a sketch on the bus, part of a painting that you’ve been working on, or even a quick doodle in a boring meeting. Practice is, of course, important, and persistence is the real key to creative achievements so you’ve got to keep working at it. It’s also been proven that the brain structure changes when you’re creative every day, and this can make a big difference to how successful you are with your art.
Start putting this in practice in September, and by October it will be second nature to create every day.
4. Work during your peak times
Peak working times differ for everyone, and you’ll need to figure out when your creative juices flow the most. If you’re pretty much useless in the morning then don’t try and force it, and if you’re full of creative energy on Sunday afternoons then make the most of that time.
The nature of Inktober means that you’ll probably have to create outside of your peak times, but by identifying them you can at least aim to schedule your inking in according to your preferred working hours.
3. Fill that blank page
There’s nothing more horrifying for an artist that a blank page which feels impossible to fill. What should you draw? Where should the first line be? How do you get started?
Well, just start. The creative muscles need to be warmed up, so treat that blank page as your opportunity to stretch. Your drawings don’t need to be perfect, and they don’t actually need to have anything to do with your plans for your final piece. It’s about taking those first steps of your creative session.
2. Use the hashtag #inktober for online inspo
If this is your first Inktober and you don’t know where to start, begin with the official hashtag of Inktober. Here you’ll find a treasure trove of past work, which will give you a great idea of what you can expect from your maiden Inktober voyage.
Twitter and Instagram are your go-to sites for the hashtag.
1. If all else fails, cheat
Well, not literally. If you want to take part but are really pressed for time, you can sketch your drawings ahead of time and just do the inking during Inktober. Sticklers for the rules might say that this is kind of cheating, but as long as you don’t touch the actual inks before October we think it’s ok.
Having a load of sketches ready will really speed the process up for you, and you’ll be much more eager to finish them off no matter how busy you are.
By following these tips you’ll be well prepared for Inktober, your art will be the best it can be, and all being well you’ll keep a hold of your sanity throughout the month! Good luck, and happy #Inktober!
Do you have your own failsafe Inktober tips? Let us know in the comments.