Ballpoint Art: Blending Color

Learn how to blend colors in Ballpoint Art Pack: Creative Techniques and Explorations for Drawing with an Everyday Pen!

blending 1, Ballpoint Art Pack

Blending colors with ballpoint is a process of layering by way of crosshatching the colors of the pen.  The colors that come directly from the pen tend to be bold, and the spectrum is represented mainly with primary and secondary colors: red, yellow, blue, green, orange, purple, pink, and brown.  The blues, reds, and greens tend to have lighter and darker versions that can be useful for shading, but this is a limited range compared with the color range of, say, a 500-color pencil collection or 200-color pastel set.

blending 2, Ballpoint Art Pack

The way to achieve more complex colors is to layer them through crosshatching. The ink in ballpoint pens is fairly viscous, making it not very transparent, so layering in with dense marks won’t blend new colors so much as quickly darken the drawing (there is not really any lightener in the form of ballpoint ink, except maybe in gel pens, so even though the colors are quite opaque, they darken as they layer). Crosshatching with light strokes creates a light, thin, and slightly transparent mark. Hatching a second color on top of the fist—say, blue over yellow—creates the sense of green in the overlapping and blending of ink, as with layering watercolor, but the sense of green is also created because in between the overlapping strokes is still visible pure versions of the yellow and blue. Up close, the colors are distinctly separate, but at a distance, the brightness of each color gives the impression of blending; like CMYK dots in a zoomed-in comic page, they separate into distinct colors, but at a distance, they blend together into a more complex and subtle palette. So when layering colors in ballpoint, it is important not to make heavy marks, but light, thin strokes.

blending 3, Ballpoint Art Pack

When starting a color drawing, it may help to begin with a pencil sketch. The reason for a pencil sketch, as opposed to a preliminary drawing in ballpoint, is that every color is very visible at the end, so each object should be outlined with the specific color it will be drawn with, and it can be difficult to switch between several colors while trying to focus on building a composition.

blending 4, Ballpoint Art Pack

Once the initial color lines are laid down, the first layer of color can be blocked in. These colors should tend toward the brighter and warmer side of the final color. In this case, the red building is the warmest color in the image. The color is not the red of the pen, but a deeper, cooler red, verging on purple in spots. The wall is in two main shades, a bright red on the left face of the building and a darker, cooler color on the right. The color on the left more closely resembles the red from the pen, so the first layer of color can be applied more boldly here.

blending 5, Ballpoint Art Pack

On the right, the same red will have to be layered with purple to cool it down and resemble the color from the image, so the red should be applied more lightly. There is less red on this side than on the opposite wall, so more of the white paper needs to be exposed to display the purple that will be added in the second layer. The sky gradates from a dark blue to a light. It’s not just a tonal shift, but also a color shift, from a purple blue to a slightly lighter more green blue. The colors don’t need to be that specific, as the shift from a purple to a blue can be enough. The lighter of the two should be applied first.

blending 6, Ballpoint Art Pack

The second layer of color will be darker and cooler. (It’s easier to cool down warm colors than to warm up cool colors.) The pressure of the marks should be enough on this layer to make the form as dark as it needs to be. If the second pass of color does not make the surface dark enough, it’s fine to work back and forth between the first color and the second one, building up the drawing until the balance of color and value is correct. (The red in the right wall had to be worked back and forth between purple and red a number of times to get the rich tone, and the same with the two blues used in the sky, whereas the left red wall was finished with only two passes, as were the Dumpsters in the foreground.)

blending 7, Ballpoint Art Pack

The last step is to add the darkest, coolest colors. This layer is built up slowly so as not to overwork the shadows and turn them into black abstract shapes. Seeing the detail underneath (as in the windows on the left wall) creates a better sense of space, and it places the shadow on a three-dimensional surface.

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The Art Of Ballpoint Cover Page ArtGrab a pen and explore hours of masterful and intricate art anywhere!

Now in an all-new format, the creative technique exercises from The Art of Ballpoint by illustrator Matt Rota are reconfigured into this useful art pack which includes an informational book and companion sketchpad featuring prompts and drawings to get you started.

Ballpoint Art Pack includes a wide range of ballpoint techniques that demonstrate line drawing and crosshatching, shading and tone, photo-realism, drawing texture and pattern, working in layers, and mixing media with ballpoint. Glide through this inspiring book and enjoy the intricate and impressive works created from an everyday tool.