Drawing With Ballpoints
Since the first version of this site went up (Aug/2006) many people have asked to know how to use
a ballpoint to create fine drawings. Others have mentioned a tutorial video in order to help explain, but even sometimes to help them 'believe'.
Further down the page is explained how to do it (roughly) in words, but the best way maybe to see it in action.
Recently over the course of a ballpoint drawing commission I documented it's construction through photos, narration, and close up video capture in normal time and sped up time. I've shown how to do the main technique I use and a few tips sprinkled in. Hope my voice isn't distracting. My illocution needs drastic improvement.
Tips for Ballpoint Drawing
- Use one ballpoint for filling areas and another for the half-tone, detailed areas.
(After using a ballpoint for a time for filling areas, the ink finds its way out easier than usual, a build up occurs and this is bad for detailed areas as a blob of ink can suddenly make its way onto your paper without warning. This is good however when you want to quickly cover an area in that colour).
- If photo realistic effects are your aim, be prepared to spend a lot of time on a small area for a long time. It is time intensive work, you need to be motivated to find the energy, so it helps to really WANT to draw the image you have in mind.
- Start a drawing (if you are right handed) from the top left side as your right arm will be resting on the paper or surface and it could ware or fade down any ink already on the paper under your right hand / arm.
- With the above said, I find it a good idea to actually start with the hardest or most important part of the drawing. This may be the eyes, or a central feature of the drawing. It's a good idea to start with this for a couple of reasons: 1) if you leave it until the end, being the hardest bit - if you make a serious mistake - you would have wasted a lot of effort and time to that point. If you make an error on the hardest bit at the beginning then at least you can start again without wasting too much work. 2) once you have completed this part the rest will seem easier as your confidense will be in place!
- Touch the paper you draw on as little as possible. Rest your hands when working on tissue or other pieces of paper.
The natural grease and oils in our skin can easily transfer and be absorbed by paper,
and over time the build up of this in the paper will have an effect on the application of ballpoint ink.
- Use the 'right' kind of paper depending on your desired result. Personally I always use bleech white flat surface card. If you use 'rough' surfaced paper (that may be aimed at charcoal or watercolour artists) the shading you do will be interrupted by the bumps in the paper - this may help you achieve your desired result if you are drawing something with a similar texture - like brickwork or foliage. Also it's best to use thick paper or card because if you press into the paper (like doing a solid colour area) the paper will warp and can even break. Card will abrorb the pressure without the said results.
My Ballpoint Drawing Technique
Personally I have never felt the need to use any other kind of ballpoint than the standard Bic Biro medium.
It's fine enough for sharp detail and loose enough to realease ink at a constant rate for filling areas.
I have been often asked what technique I use when drawing with ballpoint. Firstly, I have developed my current technique from the
rather simple but common method of cross hatching over eleven years. Now I gently stroke the surface of the paper with the end of the nib
in a quick repetitive action. Skimming the surface lightly leaves a light line. Each line or stroke is as close to the former as possible,
creating what appears like a smooth gradient.
(Someone asked me how I could see the individual lines). When I draw my head is a little too close to the paper, so I can see it.
Unfortunately my long vision is beginning to suffer, and my bad posture has helped cause repetitive
stress syndrome in my arms and hands.
It is important to remain relaxed and allow the motion of the hands gripping the pen to do all the work. Don't "tighten up" or become concerned.
On each pen stroke you can adjust the pressure of the nib in a certain area very slightly to create a gradient along
each line, so as long as you place the pressure in the correct areas, after a time of drawing a surface is created that represents shading.
I also make each stroke follow what would be the contours of the object I am drawing as it exists in 3D space. For instance in the image above if you look
at the 250% image, you can see that the lines are flowing in the direction the fabric is lying on the man's chest. This obviously, can help the photo-realist effect.