Sunday, February 19, 2012

Stippling - a tutorial

Stippling is a delicate drawing technique with lovely results. In this technique the drawing is composed entirely of tiny dots. Some very impressive shading can be accomplished this way.

Drawing by Jayel Aheram on Flickr. Image licensed on Creative Commons.

Christine Farmer does a lot of pen and ink work using stippling. You can see examples of her work here. She says, "Stippling as a technique requires precision, skill, and concentration, and I like the fact that progress is necessarily slow and steady." Sounds rather zen, doesn't it?
Noli Novak frequently does illustrations for the Wall Street Journal employing this technique.

Image from Noli Novak's website

Some superb artwork can be created using only stippling. BUT... it can also be used in small amounts. It's a terrific way to achieve an effect in pen and ink that is other than black, white, or lines. Some time ago I tried a very simple Zentangle tile using only stippling. For the string I overlapped two 8s. There is no pencil shading.

CZT Donna Hornsby's tangle Keenees uses tiny dots... basically stippling. When stippling in Keenees you can go darker into the corners, like this:

I thought it would be interesting to do some Zentangle tiles entirely in stippling. I found it has a sort of misty look. I think I could be a little bolder with areas that could be more black. Both these next tiles were done using a 01 pen, with the exception of Zedbra on the left which was done with a 08 just to see the difference. I used pencil for the shading.
Tangles: Florez, Keenees, Lotus Pods, Tripoli, Zedbra.
Tangles: Dutch Hourglass, Flukes, Flux, Miranda, Paradox

Next, I tried a normally-drawn tile, but did all the shading using stippling. I still much prefer the effect of pencil, but stippling can be a good option for shading should you find yourself with only a pen.
Tangles: Cubine, Golven, Hibred, Pearlz, Unyun and stippling

Simply use your Sakura Micron (or similar) pen, hold it vertically (not slanted) and with a light touch tap the pen tip on the paper. Many, many, many, many, many times. :-)
More dots in one place gives darker areas. Fewer dots, lighter areas. You can use different sizes of pen for varying effects. If an area is to be quite dark you may want to begin with a larger pen to fill space faster, then switch to a tiny pen for finishing.

There is a little more about stippling from Canadian CZT Geneviève Crabe on here.

Finally, here's a two minute video showing the development of a portrait done entirely in stippling. Prepare to be amazed!

Hero from Miguel Endara on Vimeo.


  1. Amazing! Love your tiles and the video is very interesting. Thanks for posting it!

  2. Thanks for sharing.
    Its a great idea.
    Tonight i give it a try.

    And its great what you make!!!!!

  3. Another great tutorial, Margaret. I took Geneviéve Crabe's online stippling class and loved it. I made a rose and some tulips, but have not applied it to zentangle yet...must do! I love the tiles you did using this method. They turned out beautiful! Once you try this method, you realize how much time it takes, but the results are always worth it.

  4. Thanks so much for such a great tutorial. I have stippled before, but its good to be reminded of its potential. The video of "Hero" was indeed amazing! I appreciate the time you have put into this feature.
    lol Anne

  5. Oh how nice. Love stippling. Didn't think to try it with Zentangles. Now I will.

  6. Isn't it strange! I have done what amounts to stipling when working on Celtic manuscripts where it was often used as a form of 'dotwork' decoration, yet, (duuh!) have never thought of using it when tangling! Thanks Margaret for reminding me yet again that "everything old is new again!!"

  7. Inspiring, as always. Thanks you for the many instructive examples.

  8. Hi there world of stippling. I do stippling too and I am always feeling like finding brothers in the desert when I meet people painting in this style! My blog is
    Some of my work has been publised, but most of it has never been shown, so I like very much uploading it through my blog. I enjoyed reading your post, some very rare use of stippling here that gave me a lot of ideas. Thanks for inspiring!