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Drawing with Rollerball Pens

One of my favorite instruments to draw with is the simple rollerball pen. Its ease of use and ability to be carried anywhere make it great for use in the studio or in the field. I use it in sketchbooks and on small to large drawing pads.

The rollerball pens I typically use are Uni-ball Vision in both the fine and micro versions. The fine version is a 0.7mm line where the micro version is a 0.5mm line. I will often use both line weights in the same drawing, the thicker fine 0.7mm lines for rendering the background lines and dark areas versus the thinner micro 0.5mm lines for details on faces and figures in general.

I employ a couple of different shading/texturing techniques with rollerball pens, either hatching or scribbling.

Hatching is a technique of using parallel lines in succession. When using this technique, I like to keep these tones into their own regions defined by shape. To form darker mid-tones, I create tight hatching where lines are drawn so close they tend to overlap. To form lighter mid-tones, I use loose hatching where lines do not overlap. I will arrange these textured mid-tones with areas of total black or absolute white to create a balanced drawing. This technique produces up to 4 different tones.


Scribbling is a technique I use to create a mesh pattern. Fine point tips work best for greater tonal range when working with rollerball pens as things can get dark very quick with the liberal application of ink. I like to use a 0.5mm or smaller tip when working with this method. This technique allows for greater tonal variation.



In the past year, I have challenged myself to add more variety to the mark making within my own drawings. I've been working on ways to incorporate hatching marks as well as scribbles into the same drawing. One way I've done this is to use the scribbling technique to define a figure in the foreground and to use hatching to provide a very even tone for the background. This provides some nice contrast and sets the more textured figure as the focal point.



Which method do you find more appealing? Do you like hatching or scribbles? Do you like more consistence or variety of mark making within the same drawing? Is there another technique for drawing in roller-balls that I haven't considered? Let me know what you think.

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