Dipping and Stippling Do NOT Mix

I’m counting this sorry-looking — and very blemished pear — as one of my cringe-worthy failures. It was an exercise in stippling that didn’t turn out too well.

The Blemished Pear (2)
My Very Blemished Pear

Stippling is, of course, a technique whereby shading is accomplished by use of lots of little dots. Up close, a drawing might look like just a lot of dots, but as you step away, you’ll see various shades. Don’t try it with this particular drawing, though. You won’t see anything but a big mess.

Inktober 4 Sea Dragon (2)To say that I don’t like stippling would be an understatement. I use it only when I must, which is, to say, when I’m studying an art lesson that involves the technique.

Now, there are times when I play around with dots, but those dots are more decorative than anything else, just a way of having a little purposeless fun. I often do dotting, as I call it, when I’m making silly little monsters.

On my Inktober Sea Dragon (2017) I used a little dotting here and there.

But dotting and stippling are two different things. And, by the way, stippling is not the same thing as pointillism, although the two techniques are similar and are often confused.

Stippling involves making lots of dots. They are supposed to be evenly spaced — according to all the instructions I’ve read — but for the life of me, I don’t really understand how to make that happen. OK, so maybe I’m being a little melodramatic here. Even so, while I understand the concept behind stippling, I’ve never yet gotten a good grasp on how to do it properly.

Stippling is time-intensive, to say the least. At least, if you’re doing it right. The technique involves using only the tip of the pen, holding it straight up and down, touching the tip to the paper to form a dot — never a slash, a dash, or a drippy-looking dot — and remembering to (a) always keep the base of your hand resting firmly on the paper — but not in a spot with wet ink — and (b) take frequent breaks to rest your hand because — if you’re doing it right — you’re going to get tired.

One of the best tutorials for stippling that I’ve found uses this exercise template:

Stippling Template by Jake Romano

Here is his tutorial: Ink Tutorial #1 – Stippling Basics

Unfortunately I didn’t come across this helpful video until after my morning drawing practice, and having stippled my way to a rotten pear, I’m in no mood to pick up a pen and do any more stippling.

The pear was, obviously (or maybe not so obviously) a similar exercise for stippling. This exercise is from Drawing Dimensions: Shading Techniquesand here is the template shown in the book:

Pear Template

As instructed, I drew the pear and the shading template in light pencil, and then did my best to complete it.

My first mistake was making the template too small to really be useful. But who could blame me? I didn’t want to sit at the table for hours doing a stippled drawing of a pear. Like I said, this isn’t a technique I ever want to use for anything. So, I made a small little template.

Of course, the bigger mistake was attempting to do this with my new dip pens! Yes, I know how ridiculous that was. Truthfully, had I made a larger template and used one of my bold pens or a Sharpie, I could have come away with a stippled pear that actually looked like a pear. But I’ve promised myself I’ll practice with those dip pens every day until the day comes when I can actually use them.

As you can see, today was not that day. I’m starting to think that the day I learn to use dip pens is never going to come, and I should probably just pack them up and put them away.

In other words, don’t expect to see any dip pen drawings next month, and for that matter, don’t expect to see much — if any — stippling. You might see a few dots here and there if I just happen to be in a dotty mood, but they’ll be made with a Pitt Artist pen or a nice, thick Sharpie.

For what it’s worth, no, I’m not giving up on my dip pens. Between now and Inktober, I’ll continue practicing with them, and I’ll keep working on inking techniques. Who knows! Maybe I’ll surprise myself, but don’t count on it.



  1. I actually don’t get on at all with the technical pen type, I love dip pens just because they make a lively line and blob and splatter. I can touch the still wet lines with a damp brush and create shadows that way, or even accidentally (or not) wipe it and make marks that way. But then, I’m not a very precise kind of drawing person. Still, I have to admire you, I won’t even consider trying stippling. And maybe your pear is a failure as a stippling exercise but you still learned more about what you like and don’t like and what you can do and what doesn’t work with a dip pen. It all goes into the experience kitty, and sharing it saves me having to try!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. LOL… glad I saved you from the torture of stippling with dip pens. I tried the same exercise yesterday but with cross-hatching. The results weren’t any better. I used to use dip pens for calligraphy, and I don’t recall ever having so much trouble. With drawing, though, it’s turned out to be a real struggle. I was hoping to use dip pens next month for Inktober. I don’t think that’s going to happen. 🙂

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  2. I always find it nice to see an artist share what didn’t necessarily work out how they wanted it to; I have trouble doing that myself. I like how you get into an analysis of the whole process you went through and your experiences. Best of luck as you continue with the dip pens!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Anna. My dipping practice today went a little better, but it’s still not easy. I was hoping to use my dip pens for Inktober’s daily ink drawing. I don’t think that’s going to happen LOL. It’s good to practice with them. Since drawing and painting is still relatively new for me, I think it’s good to share the experience with others. Artists with more experience can then offer advice and encouragement on my failures, and those same failures often lend support to other new artists like me who are relieved to know they’re not alone in this learning process. Of course, it’s said that we learn more from failure than success, and sharing my experiences helps me look at what went wrong and why. When I write about something that didn’t work out, I often see things I could have done differently, so, yes, it is a learning experience.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. 🙂 Yes, it’s fun to try different things. Sometimes it’s frustrating when something doesn’t work out, but that’s all part of the fun, too. Learning what does and doesn’t work is always helpful.

      Liked by 1 person

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