Skip navigation

Wow! One of my students gifted me with one of his old watercolor books and I have been pouring through all sorts of ideas on techniques he (Valfred Thelin) suggests.  I settled down to try one of them this week and had a great time!  Lots of chuckling. He spoke of drawing ink sketches with a razor blade and waterproof black ink and then painting them. You put ink in a saucer or ashtray with a low rim; he suggests an ashtray as good for this. I used an old saucer. Something deeper makes a mess as you reach in to dip the blade of the razor in the ink.  Then, all you do is dip the blade and begin drawing with it. I had to dip and draw a lot. Sometimes the blade would drop more ink, sometimes only a hairline.


The above drawing was my first attempt. He suggests that it is a quick way to get a subject down on paper and that the marks of the razor blade enhance any movement and adds to the interest of the subject. He uses ink to sketch people and sporting events a lot. I was not real happy with the above horse but did like the interesting marks it made. The darker marks were made by sliding the entire blade across the surface with several strokes. The thinner lines were drawn by tilting the blade and using one corner to draw with.


I  drew a herd of horses and decided this was the one I would use for a painting. Thank you to wet canvas for the photo references for this. I used two different ones and combined them into one composition.


I began by laying large washes behind the horses.

razorbladehorses finished painting

I finished by painting each horse and splattering the foreground.

I will use this technique again. I like the loose and sketchy line the razor blade leaves on the paper. I do think it enhances the movement of a piece.

The book I used is titled “Watercolor: Let the Medium Do It” by Valfred Thelin with Patricia Burlin.


  1. Leslie that is absolutely the coolest thing I’ve seen in a long time. Your illustration came out awesome! I’ll definitely have to give that a try.

    • Hi Tim,
      I believe you could have some fun with this. You do beautiful ink drawings. Be prepared to do a lot of dipping as the blade does not hold a lot of ink. I also had to let go of my idea of wanting perfection. I drew these on Arches 140lb coldpress paper in the event I wanted to paint them. In some places where the ink was in a thicker blob, there was some bleeding of ink into color like around the mane, hooves and tail of the lead horse. It did not seem to affect the finished painting negatively and I rather liked that washing of ink into color. Thank you for the comment! I also like drawing with ink and an eye dropper:

      • I will check the eye dropper out too. Sounds interesting. The razor blade technique reminds me a little of using a nib pen. I have to say, when you added the color, your picture just jumps right off the paper.

  2. the end result is a fantastic watercolour, Leslie, full of motion and life… What a great use of a razor blade too…A cutting edge design I’d call it… (*cough*… apologies ) 😉 xPenx

    • Hi Pen,

      Ha! No apologies needed. I wish I’d thought of that line. You are so good with words! Thank you! 🙂

  3. Very, very nice. There is a nice movement to the scene, as there should be given the subject. Fun to try new stuff, hmm?

    • I love trying new stuff, Yousei. Everytime I read about something new, it is a constant reminder, as a teacher, that there are more ways than one to work with watercolor. I’ll never know it all or be able to try it all, but what fun to gather all these skills! …or try all these other mediums and applications that watercolor can be used with. Thank you! 🙂

  4. This is so interesting. I love ink drawings. Wonderful horses and I like the one that you said that you didn’t. Maybe not totally correct but it adds to the interest.

    • Thank you for that “like” on my first attempt, Gretchen. I don’t think these razor blade drawings will ever be exacting and they do draw the eye, at least for me. They have a looseness and a “suggestion” of what is there and going on. I like them better than when I draw with a nib, even with as little as I’ve tried so far. Thank you for the visit and the comment!

  5. Wow! That’s a stunning herd of horses painting! I didn’t know where you were going with that first horse but clearly you figured it out, re-did him and ended in spectacular fashion! I really love the pintos and white horse in back as great color variety.

    The razor blade technique sounds very frustrating and maybe not for me! 🙂

    • I like these drawings as sketches, especially after the washes are added to them. I got tired of painting browns, so tried to use color to direct the eye toward the lead mare. Ha! You caught me! It takes a little time to get used to the constant dipping of the blade but i liked it. It was a fun experience. Thank you, Cindy!

  6. Very nice technique, Leslie. Great painting.

    bigsurkate, on a mountain top in Big Sur

  7. What a wonderful herd of horses. I haven’t heard of this technique before. Klutz that I am, I might be leery of wielding a razor blade. LOL I love the addition of the watercolors. It adds to the movement and vibrancy of the piece.

    • Ha! THe artist that included this in his book said he drew like this when he drew locals and bands at the local bar. He suggested that no one bothered him while weilding his drawing blade. 🙂 Thankyou, Ruth.

  8. The movement in the final piece is amazing! I observed this technique of using a blade by an artist about 30 years ago in India and had forgotten about it. After that I am reading about it only today, brought back some memories .loved your work and look forward to more with this technique Leslie!

    • That is so cool that you were able to observe an artist drawing like this, Padmaja. I want to practice some more of these this summer when on break from classes. Thank you!

  9. Sounds like a wonderful book. I’m sure I would have managed to slice that paper to ribbons. Love your composition and the end result is truly stunning.

    • I thought the same thing, Sherry, but I don’t think I slit the paper anywhere. 🙂 I used 140lb coldpress. Thank you!

  10. I just travelled via Penpushers site, Leslie, and I’m pleased I did. A wonderful design, full of movement, and a great testament to the razor blade technique. (I resisted Pens pun 🙂 )

    • Ha! Thank you, Mike for visit and comment. You could have used “cutting edge”, also. I have looked everywhere under Mike R and wordpress to try and locate a blog. All I could find is your gravatar. Do you blog?

        • MikeR
        • Posted May 27, 2013 at 9:50 am
        • Permalink

        I haven’t blogged for a few years now, Leslie, I found it hard to find the time. So now I just look in and comment when I can. 🙂

  11. Very nice painting. And thanks for the book reference.

  12. Leslie, You always have interesting techniques to share. I really like the feeling of movement in this ink and watercolor painting. I like the thick and thin lines the razor blade causes you to make. You always have wonderful, interesting, informative posts.

    • Thank you, Carol. I like those varying line widths, too. The real interesting thing was trying different strokes to get different marks. Sometimes i had to move my hand a different direction than I wanted in order to make a mark. The ink came off the blade better with a stroke upward and outward. I’m used to drawing top to bottom, so it takes some getting used to. I’m sure that element is what creates the interesting line work though.

  13. this is just excellent!!!

  14. interesting! You’re always trying new things, Leslie – good for you! I am a bit boring compared to you. I just stick with medieval watercolor – end of story..hahaha It’s great to try new things like you do and develop a unique style! I really like this painting.

    • I do not think you are boring at all, Frank. Your work is beautiful and I am totally convinced you do a great job of teaching other artists. Watercolor is challenging and there is certainly a lot to learn and I have not learned but the tip of the iceberg. Thank you so much!

  15. As always you offer such wonderful paintings, and the like 🙂
    This ink drawing is superb, especially when one considers the
    way in which it was created 🙂

    Have a lovely Thursday Leslie 🙂 😉

    Andro xxxx

  16. I love the movement in this, and the horses are amazing! I’ve never had the opportunity to know a horse, but they seem to like me the few times I’ve been close enough to say hello. The foreground-most beauty looks especially spirited and would likely require careful persuasion, perhaps with a fresh apple and a gentle voice. Beautiful work 😉 ~Scott

    • I do think these were probably domestic horses, Scott. They looked too well fed and their coats were pretty shiny, so I bet an apple would do the trick! 🙂 Thank you for the comment, Scott!

  17. Love the composition in this.

    • Hi Keith. Thank you! I actually had to use two photo references for this one.

  18. Leslie! You are always coming up with fabulous ideas! I sure will try this!!
    I love the gentle tones contrasting with the sharp, crisp lines of the black ink! Well done!

    • I wish they were my ideas! Ha! I’ve drawn with a stick before but didn’t even think of trying this until I read about it. Thankyou, Isabelle!

  19. Extraordinary. I would not have imagined you used a razor. Expressive, strong and delicate, all at the same time. Looking forward to seeing your next razor drawing.

    • Thank you, Chris. I remember we spoke of different items we could draw with, before. Patience is always the key, I think. …and an ability to go with the line you render with another implement. I do want to try drawing people with a razor blade.

  20. This is wonderful and beautiful, Leslie.

  21. So lovely!

  22. hi there,
    I am doing a website about Equine Assisted Learning for a client and came upon your b&w drawing here. We’re wondering if you would give us permission to use it if we make the image clickable to your site here and also write image credit below it? We’d sure appreciate it. It’s for a very good cause!

    Gorgeous work by the way!

    • Yes, of course you may use this image. Thank you for your interest in my work. Anything that promotes good care for horses and education for people interacting with them is commendable. I have contacted you through email.

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] drawing with ink and razor blade […]

  2. […] to lay in the inking. I drew and scraped in the mane on the foreground black and blue horse with a razor blade. I also drew some of the fine lines on the background horses with the tip of the razor blade. The […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: