Stippling is a technique that has been around for centuries. The Italian engraver Giulio Campagnola is credited as the inventor of stippling as an artform but its true origin is actually unknown.
Stippling art is a method of drawing that is a bit like engraving and pointillism done with a pen, ink, or pencil.
The technique involves the use of hundreds to thousands of tiny dots or dashes used in place of straight lines to create smooth gradations of line, tone, and shade.
An example of stippling is to take a picture and photocopy it, then take a pen and go over each dot on the copy. The more you go over the dots the darker and more defined your stippled lines will be. It can also be done with paint or ink.
What are some stippling artists that I should check out?
There are many stipple artists that do great work! Here’s just a few who will blow your mind:
Lesser-known artists can be found on Instagram utilizing stippling in their artistic process. Have a look at over 100,000 Instagram posts under the #stipplingart hashtag. While these artists are less known, the quality of their stippling art is of the highest quality.
How do you start stippling art?
With stippling art, there are several ways to begin the stippling process but the simplest is with a good quality pigment based pen or felt pen.
Something that is easy to apply dots by just dabbing the pen on paper. You do not want to sit there and draw tiny dots as it will get hard on your fingers and your hands will cramp.
The key thing to keep in mind is the more times you apply pressure when stippling, the darker your stipples will be.
A common misconception about the stipple technique is that stippled lines must look like dots because the word “stipple” implies the word “dots.”
However, this is not true at all. Stipple simply refers to an application of pigment onto a surface; it doesn’t matter whether these applications are dots or lines.
To start making stippling art, all you need to do is get stippling supplies, stipple on your surface of choice, and stipple away. Ok I oversimplified the process so here it is in a little more detail:
- Find or create a thumbnail sketch of the image you wish to create as a stipple art.
- Find a medium to use. You can use practically anything such as pencils, pens, markers, or paint. For my example, I will use my trusty Sakura Pigma Micron pens as I love these things more than anything and they will apply a nice dot of black pigment on any paper surface I like. I like to use a 05 size Sakura Pigma pen.
- Grab some paper.
- Lightly pencil in the sketch using a light 2H graphite pencil, or an HB pencil if it is the only thing you have.
- Go over the lightly drawn lines using either simple dots or small dashes. Keep the dots and dashes loose and random. They don’t need to line up perfectly.
- To emphasize shading or thickness you can apply more dots and dashes closer to each other. Pack them in tightly and you will easily create shading effects.
- Stippling is very close to how a bubblejet printer applies paint to a surface or how old newspapers and comics were printed. So if you can envisage those, you can see how your image should look. Have a look at my simple example of an apple below using the above technique.
Which pen is used for stippling art?
As mentioned earlier, I like my Sakura Pigma Micron pens but any pen will do. Felt tip pens are a great option for stippling as they are cheap, available in lots of colors, and come in fine-tipped pens.
You can also stipple using ballpoint pens but you will find these will be much harder to create a consistent dot across your drawing and the level of color in the ink may differ between each stipple, some will be darker than others.
Another option is to stipple using a soft pencil. This is a great stippling tool as it comes in lots of colors and you can stipple over pencil sketches too. You will find it too hard to create stippling art if the pencil is too hard.
However, I do have an article that lists the best pens for stippling that you may want to review and see if the pens listed there are suitable for your budget and needs.
Benefits of Stippling art
The main benefit of stippling art from my own experience is that it is one of the most relaxing methods of drawing that I have ever undertaken. I find quickly jabbing in little fast dots of pen and ink to create an image is a therapeutic exercise.
My daughter sat there watching me draw the tomato example above and said it was like watching an ASMR video. My son who never draws got up from his iPad and asked if he could have a go as well.
What is some stippling art for beginners?
Stippling people and faces are actually quite challenging and I would steer away from it if you are a beginner as it could scare you off the technique if the results are not as good as you had hoped.
Stippling art examples
I have displayed below some stippling art examples from online such as Instagram and the like. If you don’t know where to start, perhaps find a simple stippling drawing you like and copy it.
Stippling art ideas
- Life drawing (fruit, bowls, plates, and glasses)
- Tattoo designs
- Reproducing traditional art (your favorite art) as stippling art
Tips for improving your Stippling art technique
- Be relaxed when stippling, don’t try to recreate an exact image.
- Focus on where the shading and highlights are.
- Step away from the drawing regularly and look at it from a distance to ensure you are on track.
- You do not need to work fast, take your time and focus on the small area you are working on.
- Keep your early attempts simple. Gradually move to more complex designs as you become more proficient.
Why you should start practicing stippling art today
I found undertaking stippling art to be a very rewarding experience, I would recommend you give stippling a go too! The more stippling drawings I made the better I got at traditional drawing.
I found that it improved my ability to define shadows and their relationship with lighting. I also found that it stopped me from trying to rush the completion of a drawing. I started taking my time and enjoying the process.
Of course, I found it to be a very calming exercise that is perfect for the artist who wants to de-stress or work on anxiety or depression using art.
Joseph Colella (Joe Colella) is an Editor and Writer at WastedTalentInc. As a frustrated artist with over 40 years experience making art (who moonlights as a certified Business Analyst with over 20 years of experience in tech).
While Joseph holds a Diploma in Information Technology, in true wasted talent fashion he spent years applying for various Art degrees; from the Accademia di Belle Arti (Napoli), to failing to get into the Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) at the University of Western Sydney.
While he jokes about his failures at gaining formal art qualifications, as a self-taught artist he has had a fruitful career in business, technology and the arts making Art his full time source of income from the age of 18 until 25.
His goal is to attend the Julian Ashton School of Art at The Rocks Sydney when he retires from full time work. Joseph’s art has been sold to private collectors all over the world from the USA, Europe and Australasia.
He is a trusted source for reliable art advice and tutorials to copyright/fair use advice and is committed to helping his readers make informed decisions about making them a better artist.