Are Ballpoint Pens Good for Drawing?

For artists looking to experiment and broaden their drawing skills in various media other than graphite, ballpoint pens offer a reliable alternative to traditional graphite.

Are ballpoint pens good for drawing? A ballpoint pen is suitable for drawing with and can produce some unexpected results. In fact, a ballpoint pen is an excellent alternative for creating smooth shading, cross-hatching, and the layering colored inks—expressive gestural drawing on paper. Continuous line drawing, blind drawing, and figure drawing are all suited to the medium of ballpoint pen.

In this post, I will describe many ways in which you can take advantage of the qualities ballpoint pens can introduce into your drawings. Read on to find some of the techniques and ideas you can apply to the excellent medium of ballpoint pen.

Are Ballpoint Pens Good for Drawing
Are Ballpoint Pens Good for Drawing?

Easy Ideas for Ballpoint Pen Drawing

When drawing with a ballpoint pen began as a high school student in the 1980’s. I was looking to develop alternatives to sketching with graphite and color pencils. So I decided to fill a brand new sketchbook with drawing created in ballpoint. But before you can begin drawing with pens, it is a good idea to think about the basics of drawing with a pen and some of the techniques various artists employ.

Basics of Drawing with Ballpoint Pen

The Youtuber Ms. Cooper explains several strategies you can employ before you begin drawing in this excellent video. The first thing you may want to consider is cleaning the point of the pen. Why is this an important consideration? You don’t want to leave ink blotches on the surface of your drawing. Blotches on paper can be avoided by rolling the pen over a scrap sheet of paper before you begin to draw.

Next, you will want to consider the type of shading you wish to apply. Hatching and smooth shading are excellent ways to draw with, and both can create excellent drawings.

Smooth shading is an excellent technique to try with a ballpoint pen. First, it is advisable to apply moderate pressure to the surface of a sheet of paper as you start the shading process. I would suggest at this stage in the drawing that you draw in one direction. 

Some artists at this stage prefer to smudge off the surface of the pen as they are work. However, I suggest that you just work directly, to begin. If you choose to practice this technique, a value scale is an excellent way to create smooth shading.

To apply smooth shading, apply quick light marks in one direction onto your sketch. Smooth shading tends to leave white gaps on the sheet, so make sure you fill them in as you draw.

To enhance your smooth ballpoint shading, you can opt to layer different color inks on top of each other. Think carefully about the colors you what to combine. Complementary colors are a good choice if you are looking to create exciting combinations of vale and color with ballpoint shading. Remember to leave no gaps or white spaces.

Line Variations When Drawing With Ballpoint

When first drawing with a ballpoint pen, you will need to consider another essential consideration: the thickness and strength of the line you want to draw. Ballpoint pens are very responsive to the amount of pressure you apply with the pen.

The artist Alphonso Dunn practices by drawing lines of a consonant thickness by drawing with a uniform amount of pressure on the pen—an excellent way to draw lines in ballpoint. Next, vary the amount of pressure you place on the pen to create a more irregular type of line on your sheet of paper.

Drawing with broken intermittent lines is also an effective way to add variety and visual interest to your drawing. The drawing of natural form and the human form are excellent subjects for this drawing technique’s rendering.

As you progress, you can apply these techniques to the drawing of various subjects. I suggest you begin by drawing some basic 3D shapes such as a Cube, Sphere, or Cone. Variations in line are effective ways to add value to your drawing and practicing using a pen when drawing.  

Firstly outline a simple basic shape such as a sphere or circle. To practice line variation with a ballpoint pen, begin by adding light areas of value using light strokes of a pen onto the shape. This approach will enable you to create light regions in shadow onto your drawing. To learn draw 3D shapes, read my post: How to Draw in 3D.

To add darker shadows, simply apply more pressure with the pen. Drawing exercises such as this will create bolder lines and lighter areas where you use fewer lightly draw lines and get the artist the knowledge of adding value to your drawing when using a ballpoint pen.

Can You Sketch With a Pen

Ballpoint pen, in particular, is suitable for the drawing of a variety of different subjects, including:

  • The human figure and anatomy. Structure and form of the human body, including the skeleton, skull, and bones.
  • Drawing of natural forms and the Landscape. The world around you is a beautiful source of inspiration from trees and mountains to the smallest shells and seedpods.

City and urban sketching. Ballpoint pens are excellent tools for creating quick gestural sketches on the city’s location for the urban landscape.


Ian Walsh is the creator and author of and an Art teacher based in Merseyside in the United Kingdom. He holds a BA in Fine Art and a PGCE in teaching Art and Design. He has been teaching Art for over 24 Years in different parts of the UK. When not teaching Ian spending his time developing this website and creating content for the improvedrawing channel.

Recent Posts