16 Tips for Ballpoint Pen Drawing

Here are some quick tips on how to draw using ballpoint pens that can save you plenty of time & headaches!

1. Use Photo Reference

Take the time to find good photo reference of the subject matter you want to draw. Developing an understanding of how something looks on a 2D surface can really speed up your learning process. I recommend that you use black and white photos are edit color photos into black and white so its easier to see the dark areas vs lights.

2. Pick a Drawing Subject You Enjoy

Don't feel the pressure to draw things that aren't in your interest. If you like animals, draw animals, if you enjoy landscapes draw landscapes. The more you find yourself interested in a subject outside of drawing itself the easier it will be to stay focused and enjoy the process.

You don't have to feel super passionate about the subject, but ideally, you want to feel some pride when you create a beautiful drawing.

3. Start with Pencil

Use light guidelines to draw in your subject, laying in your foundation with a pencil will allow you to erase away early mistakes that can cost you down the road. This will also give you more freedom and looseness in your initial sketch.

As you get more experienced you can move away from using a pencil, especially if you are someone who wants to do outdoor sketching and don't want to carry an extra drawing tool.

4. Define broad shapes first

Avoid details in the beginning and just put in the broad shapes. Break things down into their simplest forms and lay the foundation for fun detail and texture work later on

Getting the broad shapes down quickly can help you catch the wrong proportions before you invest too much time into a drawing. Catching early mistakes will also help you in staying motivated because you won't feel like you failed.

5. Be Forgiving

Drawing is a challenging skill to learn, dont expect yourself to be amazing right off the top. Its a great sign that you are doing the research on how to draw because it will save you years of struggle, but it still takes practice.

Learning to draw is enticing because it's challenging if this were easy you wouldn't get a sense of fulfillment or pride when you actually get better. Do you feel proud of yourself when you go to the washroom? Probably not, because its so easy anyone can do it. The early struggle will be met with tremendous joy once you see yourself make progress.

6. Add Lines Lightly - Gentle strokes

As you develop an image, start by applying gentle strokes and building up the piece. This will help create a smooth finish that will look high quality instead of a rushed doodle. Practice applying smooth and gentle strokes with your pen.

7. Take your time

Falling in love with the process of drawing is key to really get the most out of art-making. Give yourself plenty of time to finish a drawing so that you don't feel the pressure to finish quickly. This will also give you the room to make mistakes and make the entire experience more relaxing.

8. Work left to right

If you are right-handed, try to work left to right (vice versa if you are left-handed) to avoid smudging the ink. How quickly the ink dries depends on the pen you use and your paper of choice, learn your tools so you know how long it takes to dry.

9. Learn How to Shade

Taking the time to learn different shading techniques can help your work look more complete with less work. I wrote a full article on how to shade that you can check out below.

10. Pick a Focal Point

Pay attention to where the darkest darks are in your photo reference & where you want the focal point to be. Your focal point should be the highest point of contrast in the image so spend more time building up darks in that area.

If you are drawing a subject that has eyes, the eyes usually become the focal point because the contrast of the pupil and the whites of the eyes naturally create that contrast. If you are doing scenery work, pick a place on the drawing that you want to be your focal point and apply more texture in that area.

11. Add texture

Learning how to draw different textures is some of the most fun you will have when drawing in ballpoint pen. Artists swoon over details such as finely rendered hair or the bark on trees.

If you know what subject matter you enjoy drawing, you can take time to study the specific types of textures that are present in that subject. For example, if you enjoy drawing trees then maybe you want to spend a day studying the different types of bark and how to render them (rendering is when you apply shading to an area to bring it to life).

12. Be Patient

Drawing takes time and learning to draw takes even more time. You can speed up the process of drawing with tutorials and courses (which is why I make them) but try not to be in a hurry. I know it is tempting to fantasize about how great things will be once you get better, and you will get better, but rushing the process will only make that harder to attain.

The students that learn the quickest are the ones who both put in the time but are also patient enough to give themselves room to grow.

13. Test different Pens & Papers

Finding the tools you enjoy can be of great help, this is especially true when working in inks. The texture of the paper can have a very profound effect on how the lines come out and it really comes down to personal preference which one you decide to use.

BUT! Never let ‘not having the right tools’ become an excuse not to draw. Any ballpoint pen and paper can be used to create amazing artworks. The best part of working in ballpoint pens is that its a cheap material and you can develop great art almost anywhere.

14. Carry a Sketchbook

Using a sketchbook on a regular basis can really help you develop the habit of drawing. Even if you just leave it on your desk as a reminder for when you come home, this visual reminder can keep you on track to becoming a ballpoint pen master.

15. Share the Love!

Drawing can be such a fun hobby because it is something that can be done at home alone but you can also meet up with friends at a coffee shop and draw together. Maybe consider getting an art buddy and learn how to draw together, find someone that can help you develop faster.

16. Love the Process

In the end, the only thing that matters is enjoying the process of creating art. The fulfillment will always come from being in the mode of making art and learning how to really enjoy it can skyrocket your learning. This is true no matter what level you get to.

Make sure to find ways to make this as enjoyable as possible for yourself, put on music that you enjoy and find a space that makes it pleasant to work.

I hope these tips were useful, these are all things that I wish I knew when I first started and now you are ahead of the game!