Ballpoint pen Art: Steps on creating  hyper realistic portrait with just a  pen

ballpoint pen art

How to create hyper realistic portrait

Before I start I want to let you know that this method also applies on pencils. Ballpoint pen art is  best known as making art with the use of ballpoint pen.  Like I always say: There is no boundary  and no formula when creativity is involved. You can make art with almost anything you can put your hands on. 

Ballpoint pen art is trending these days. I once got a message from a young artist, asking me for tips on how to create realistic ballpoint pen art. He mentioned he draws with pencil but he wants to learn ballpoint pen art because of the fact he saw other artist using it and also maybe because he thought they look nice. Learning ballpoint pen art is good, but learning it because others are using it, is not good enough. This brings me to my next point.

Find your weapon

In ancient gladiator fight, every contender is allowed to pick the weapon they function effectively with. In the bible David preferred using a sling-shot to fight a giant and he succeeded. This same applies on art. The trick is you need to find out if you are either a pencil person or pen person. It is necessary to know how to use both, but as an artist, specialization adds uniqueness to your art.

Your uniqueness is on your “signature” . When you hear of kelvin okafor or Diego Faziothe first thing that comes to your mind is pencil art. That’s their signature, that’s their uniqueness. How do I know the right weapon? How do I know if I am a pen person or a pencil person? That answer is in your hands.

See: Why the ballpoint pen beats pencil for sketching and shading.

If you are a newbie or a learner, I suggest u start with pencil. Pencil gives room for mistakes more than pen. You can sketch with pencil and shade with pen. (Here are tips that will get you started)

Some people are like “pen art must be really difficult to pull off”; well, not as difficult as you think if you know the trick. It’s all about practice. 

The uniqueness of pen art

One unique thing I appreciate so much about ballpoint pen art  is that it gives your art a clean look. My major reason for adopting ballpoint pen was because of the smudging nature of pencils. When I make pencil art I had to do it over and over again. It smudges off easily and I had to use fixative to make it stick.

Another reason was i had to sharpen my pencil every time especially with  charcoal pencils. The first time I used soft charcoal pencil, I sharpen up to half the pencil size before I could use it, because it kept breaking each time i try. I still make use of charcoal pencil for some of my client. But if I’m to choose I always prefer pen.

Best pen for shading

You want to try out pen art and you’re confuse on the kind of pen to use?  From my own experience ballpoint pen is easy to manipulate when shading. The broad ballpoint  pen tip makes it easier to control the ink flow, from light to dark value. So go for ballpoint pen. 

Ballpoint pen art techniques

There are different types of shading techniques in ballpoint pen art. If you are a beginner to shading techniques, I’ll want you to check this out.

Before we go ahead, here are some Ballpoint pen art tips  to get you started.

  • Shade with the side of the ballpoint pen tip.
  • Start with light shade and gradually move to dark tones..
  • Start your sketch with a pencil and shade with ballpoint pen
  • Have different ballpoint pen for light tones and dark tones.
  • To shade over wide areas with either cross-hatching, hatching or diverse hatching (click here to know about different shading techniques).
  • Give attention to details, the imperfections on the face is actually what makes your art. realistic.
  • Be Patient, don’t be in a hurry to finish.
  • Practice is the key to perfection.

Making hyper realistic portrait with ballpoint pen

I made a portrait couple of weeks ago and i’m going to be  explaining  with step by step progress shot on how it was made.The materials are: Black ballpoint pen, blue ballpoint pen, pencil, eraser and emboss paper.

Before you start, you need to get a model to draw from. Try with your own pictures.  Do exactly what you see on your model. You can add creativity but make sure you get the vital information on the face so your object can look like the subject (model).

Step 1: Make an outline/ sketch of your model and start shading

ballpoint pen arr

One of the most important parts of drawing a portrait is getting your sketch right. The sketch is like a skeletal system of your work. If you get your sketch wrong your whole shading will be wrong. This is the part I put more of my attention. I’ve had some bad pretty bad experiences, where I make nice realistic work only to find out I made mistake on the sketch. It pained me that I had to start again. This happens when you put more priority on shading than sketch. I used hb pencil for sketching. To make the sketching process easier, you can draw with grid guide-lines, but I personally prefer to sketch without grid.

When you start shading, I’ll suggest to start with the facial organs like the mouth, nose and eyes. Those are the vital parts of the face. This is not a formula, you can start from any part of the head.   Here I started from the lips, and from the picture you can see I gave attention to the details on the lips.

Step 2: Shading the nose and eye.

ballpoint pen art

As you shade the nose, be conscious of highlights and shadow cast. Most times the nose gets a lot of highlights. This is because the nose is smooth and bulges out more than other organs of the face. The nose often has a shadow cast just below, depending on the position of the light.

While outlining the nose, I made sure I used very thin lines. There should be a pronounced outline to carve out the shape of the nose. You should know how and where to use different types of tones. That’s why it is vital to start with light tones.

The white part of the eye is not suppose to be white. Make a light shade on the white part of eye and leave space for highlights. Give attention to the wrinkles of the eye and hair pores.

Step 3: Shade the eyes with dark tones

ballpoint pen art

What makes your art realistic is the idea of adding the right tone.  Using dark tones makes you art  solid. The trick is knowing how and where to apply it. Apply darker tone to the pupil and remember to leave space  for highlights too.

Step 4: Working a bit on the skin texture

ballpoint pen art ballpoint pen art ballpoint pen art

The skin is as important as the facial organs. The skin texture you create can also add to the realism of your work. Before you shade the skin, you can map-out with your pencil, where should be light and dark.

Use cross-hatching to cover the skin areas, and you can use the little gaps in-between to create skin pores (Get more information about shading techniques).

Step 5: Work on the skin and part of  the helmet strap

ballpoint pen art

Working on the  strap is as simple as putting details on the face.  The key here is patience. I had to put the lines on the strap one by one till I am done. The  rules of light and shade still applies here. On each strap you need to observe where the light hits and where the light doesnt. Darken where the light doesn’t touch and give a lighter tone on where light hits.

Step 6: Adding another layer of details on the face skin texture

ballpoint pen art

Like I said, the imperfections on the face actually makes it perfect. The imperfect details on the face makes it more realistic.  After shading with cross-hatching i used the tiny spaces left in-between to create  skin pores. To speed up the process you can use pointilism/ stippling . This is process was made easier because I started with light tones.

Step 7: Adding facial hair

I would have left the face that way, but I decided to make it more interesting by adding facial hair.

Step 8: More details on the beards

ballpoint pen art

Step 9: Shading the neck

ballpoint pen art

The face is the most important part of the picture, because that’s the first place most people see when they look at the portrait. After the face is done the other part becomes easier. Apply  same principle you did for the face on the neck and other parts

Step 10: Final Step

ballpoint pen art

The advantage of ballpoint pen art is that you don’t need fixative to make it stick on your paper. Get a nice frame for your portrait to preserve it. 

See also: How to draw a portrait with ballpoint pen





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