Tips on using Ballpoint Pens for your artwork

Ballpoint pens are a common sight in an office setting, but aren't the sort of thing you'd expect to be using for drawing. It turns out though that they are a fairly popular medium despite their apparent drawbacks. With a little practice, they can be a very useful tool for an artist.

Availability

When it comes to art supplies, one of the biggest problems an artist will face is simply finding enough of them. In the case of ballpoint pens, this isn't a problem at all, as most stores will carry them in black, blue or (less commonly) red and green. It's also easy to find stores that carry them in large, cheap bulk packs. Overall, these are probably easier to buy cheaply and in large numbers than anything else you might be drawing with.

Strengths

Lines drawn by a pen are bold and uniform, which makes them very well suited to inking a penciled drawing. Once the ink has had time to dry, you can usually erase the pencil marks behind it for very clean line art. Additionally, since the lines are so bold and strong, they make for very clean scans and are thus an excellent solution if you're having trouble scanning your drawings.

Weaknesses

Nearly all of the downsides of using ballpoint pens come from the fact that they use ink. It's nearly impossible to erase ink in general, and the marks made by ballpoint pens tend to share this trait. This means any mistakes or smeared ink will need to be removed either by graphic editing programs or white out. Don't even try erasers that claim to remove ink -- they not only won't remove the lines, they'll often spread the ink around, making a bigger mess than you started with.

A problem fairly unique to ballpoint pens is that it can be hard to get the ink to start flowing if the pen hasn't been used in a while. The best solution to this is to have a piece of scrap paper around, and if the pen doesn't work properly, scribble randomly on the scrap paper to encourage the ink to flow again.

Tips

  • When working with a pen, don't lift the pen from the surface until your line is done or you need to move your hand. The main reason for this is that there is a chance of leaving a mark when you set the pen down to start the line.
  • Coloring with pens is time consuming, as large areas of solid color will take longer to dry and smear more often than line work. Instead, use cross-hatching techniques to add shading.
  • Always keep an extra ballpoint pen or two on hand in case the one you're using decides to stop working in the middle of your drawing. Pens have a limited amount of ink, and it's not always apparent how much is still left.
  • Be mindful of how much pressure you're using. Too much pressure can prevent the ball in the tip from rolling properly, while too little pressure can keep it from coming in contact with the ink.