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Stipple Drawing Basics

    • 15 posts
    January 15, 2014 8:57 AM EST

    Stipple drawing is an artistic technique where the artist places an intricate series of small dots together to achieve continuous tone in a drawing. The dark or light shading on the subject being rendered will be determined by how dark or light the artist applies the dots. Practice on simple geometric shapes before attempting a self portrait or that large oak tree across the meadow. The degree of perceived solidity of the subject being portrayed is defined by how far or how close the dots are arranged. To create dark tones and deep shadows, follow the techniques below.

    1. Make larger dots
    2. Create darker dots
    3. Draw dots close together

    The denser, tighter the spacing of the dots, the darker the tones will appear. Conversely, to simulate light areas on a subject, make the dots finer:

    1. Use a soft touch when making dots
    2. Place the dots farther apart from one another

    Pencil Stipple Drawing
    When using a pencil, tap and twist. Tap the pencil straight down on the paper and twist the pencil tip onto the paper. This will assure a dark and evenly rounded stipple mark. Using the softest, darkest pencil from the end B range of pencil leads will help.

    Pen Stipple Drawing
    Pens come in a wide range of nibs (or pen tip size) and contain any mix of ink product, so shop around and find what feels most comfortable. When using a pen, there is no need to employ the tap and twist technique. The mere touch of the pen's nib to the surface of the paper will produce a stipple mark. Concentrate on a straight landing of the pen tip to the paper in an effort to avoid tails on the end of your stipple dot.

    Paper
    Stipple on white, hot-pressed (smooth) surfaced paper for the best results. A fibrous paper will tend to blur the ink and a cold pressed (rough) paper will slow down your hypnotic mark-making staccato. The combination of black ink against a white ground will produce a dramatic clarity not achieved with other media. This resulting high contrast will produce splendidly in publication, even on low budget projects using inexpensive papers on an ancient home printer running low on toner.

    Color
    For something completely different, a sheer transparent layer of watercolor paint over the high contrast black/white stippled page can soften the look to breathtaking highs.

    Although modern technology has made it no longer necessary to spend hours dotting pen to paper, the stipple drawing technique is not likely to go away. It remains an ideal technique for work done under the microscope. Plant sections, macro-sized segments such as flower parts and seeds and the varied textures and veining found on the top and back of leaves can be clearly delineated by the look of stipple. The tradition remains appealing by today's generation of botanical artists, paleontological illustrators and natural science illustrators for its ability to show details crisply and simply.