I have been admiring artists who create beautiful detailed work using nothing other than cheap ball point pens from office supply stores. It got me thinking… ball point pens come in a nice, if somewhat limited range of very bright colours and the packs of eight or ten colours that I’ve seen at Office Works seem to be relatively inexpensive. I wondered if I could use them for colouring. I had already a small number of bright colours in a drawer… some PaperMate Inkjoys that come in pretty colours. I popped into Officeworks and picked up a 10 pack of Staedtler ball point pens and an 8 set of Kokuyo ball point pens to try. I did a quick swatch out of all the colours and found, sadly, that despite the pens coming from different manufacturers, the ink colours were all very similar. On the bright side it means you just need to buy one large pack with as many colours as you can find and you’ll pretty much have every colour available. The Staedtlers had the most variety but the Papermates had a much darker purple and a more intense pink.
I didn’t feel quite bold enough to use them in my colouring books yet so I decided to colour a test drawing. Since I am working in a new art journal, one dedicated to mostly inky art work, I thought I’d try them out in that. I did a quick sketch of this cute teacup dragon licking a drop of tea off it’s foreleg. I outlined it with a light blue ball point pen and erased the pencil lines.
I found the ball point pens needed a little time to master. Trying to make a gradient of colour took a little practice. You need to brush the tip of the pen on very lightly on the paper to get a light shade and lightly scribble or cross hatch to intensify the colour. The other issue was a ballpoints annoying habit of depositing a yucky glob of ink every so often onto the work. Apparently it happens because the ink sometimes builds up in a blob around the ball. The answer was to have a little scrap piece of paper next to my hand and wipe off the glob before it ended up on the work. I managed to get into an automatic rhythm of this and my work stayed mostly glob free. I found that crosshatching was the best way to mix colours… as in the teacup where I didn’t want it either blue or brown but some neutral colour in between. I finished the work with white gel pen dots for sparkly dragon wings.
The end result was a cute, very bright little dragon. I think I might redraw him for a potential colouring page. (I haven’t seen a teacup dragon in a colouring book yet… I’m looking for original ideas. 🙂 ) I found I really enjoyed colouring using this method and I will be using ball points again in future… in my own work and in colouring books.