Tips you should know about the ballpoint pen


bic-lotta-you-in-every-strokeI am completely a pen person. Bics, felt-tipped pens, markers, double-tipped pens, pens with nibs large and small; I have tried hundreds of different types and styles. I especially like to try out the test papers in stores.

It’s a relaxing shopping venture. Like when I try on a shirt at Zara, and I’m already imagining where and with what I will wear it, shopping for pens is a similar process.

  • How I’ll use a pen, perspective lines, contours?
  • What type of drawing it will match, product design, illustration, animation?
  • And for which occasions I’ll use it, professional work, leisure, travel?

  • TIPS:

    If you are a pen lover,  grant yourself a small pen-buying budget. This will enrich and sharpen your “line-drawing expertise” and your range of drawing materials. You could experiment different drawing styles by swapping a pen from an other.

    Try it yourself:

    When you try out drawing materials, don’t just draw lines, circles, or other abstract shapes. Draw a form, an object, a manga character; anything you can think of. That will give you a better idea of a pen’s worth. Test them in real world conditions!

    The ballpoint pen

    ballpen-macroThe ballpoint pen is my favorite. It covers the majority of my daily needs, and in addition it’s cheap and offers remarkable quality rarely found in its price range. The ballpoint pens offered at formal events, conventions, and hotels are often very good. Even if they’re commonly available, I consider the ballpoint a jewel of a technology.

    Hoballpen-system-inkw does this work?

    Let’s look more closely at figure 2.

    1. The ball
    2. The ball carrier
    3. The ink supply tube

    The ball rolls when it makes contact with the paper, carrying with it a thin viscous layer of ink, which is then deposited on the paper throughout the entire length of a pen stroke. The more a pen is pressed to the paper, the thicker the ink layer the ball will deliver. Ballpoints are ultra-sensitive to pressure. Like a pencil, they can cover a large gradient from gray to black.

    When we write with a ballpoint we use a constant, even pressure. However, in light of the myriad advantages associated with ballpoint pens, thousands of artists have adopted them in order to take full advantage of their properties.

    black-ballpen-stain-paperThe ballpoint’s biggest fault: IT STAINS

     The ball warms up from the friction of the paper against the pen. After a few minutes, the ink thins due to heat. It accumulates at the edge of the ball and deposits a blotchy residue on the paper. This deposit takes a long time to dry. Be careful, or your drawing wrist and hand will smear these drops of ink across your paper.

    TIPS :

    1- Regularly clean the pen tip on scratch paper, or slip blotting paper under your wrist to minimize smearing.

    2- Alternate between ballpoints while you let the other pen cool down.

    Other issues:

    • Ballpoints bleed and turn purple with the application of a Pantone marker.

    • They don’t work on a vertical canvas, as ballpoints require gravity to pull the ink towards the tip.

    • They will stain clothing.*

    * If anyone knows how to clean these stains efficiently, drop me a line in the comments. Thanks!

    Avoid gadget pens, including:

    • Mini-pens. These are portable but hard to handle. They’re cute, but cost a lot, and have a very feeble anatomy.

    • Pens with a large diameter, like those with four or ten colors in one.

    • You will use up the black ink before all the others.
    • Banish all the wide-diameter pens as they’re too large for small hands.

    • I don’t use crazy technical pens like Stabilo Moves, which are reputed to be especially ergonomic. I like being able to immediately grab a standard pen, and they seem just as good as the fancier models to me.

    A small note on product design

    The cosmetics industry imported the ballpoint system by offering skin care products like eye lifters and roll-on deodorants, which use a modified ballpoint system with a much larger ball.


    If you too think this transfer of technology incredible, you have the makings of a product designer.

    I need your feedback, please let me know in the comment area if the article has been helpful. If you liked it, feel free to share it.

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    About The Author


    If the sketching methods I’ve acquired aid me in my life and in my career, I believe that they can also help you to learn, and help you with your projects. Whether Design is a job or a hobby it doesn’t matter, so long as you do what is important to you.


    • Ria

      Reply Reply March 6, 2016

      Does anybody know how to get rid of accidental drops of ink on cartridge paper? I’m 13 hours through my ballpoint pen drawing for an exam and I have several dots which are really annoying me. I was advised not to use a pen eraser as it would damage the paper, so instead I used a compass to try scratch away lightly at the surface, but the dot turned into a circle, so I used a white gel pen over it and it turned blue. Does anyone have any advice?

    • Mohannad

      Reply Reply February 8, 2016

      About the bleeding issue i heard that bic orange fine doesn’t bleed with copics (well the guys behind the book design sketching say that) they also said that some ballpoint pens in combination with different brands of markers might not bleed or minimize the bleeding issue

    • ejiro enajemo

      Reply Reply February 3, 2016

      Ball points are great….but am not handy with them though…tanks for d tip though

      • Chou-Tac

        Reply Reply February 4, 2016

        The ball point pen is very convenient for design sketching, have a try :).

    • ejiro enajemo

      Reply Reply February 3, 2016

      Ball points re great though am not quite handy wit dem.. Tanks for d tip sha

    • OP

      Reply Reply December 1, 2015

      In the UK and probably in the States you can buy a product called Stain Devils – they do several versions including one specifically designed to remove ink from fabric, they are a God send and have saved me many times from exploding Ballpoints. Hope this helps 🙂 PS. The staedler ballpoints are really sturdy and nice to use, the ink flows well but they’re quite hard to come by.

      • Chou-Tac

        Reply Reply December 1, 2015

        Thank you for the Tip. Kind of product we should have in the emergency cupboard 🙂

    • Roger Santos

      Reply Reply November 23, 2015

      Simple but great technology. The most incredible things in ours life are usually dealt in simple ways, which makes ‘simple’ a very difficult task to achieve in everything we do. The ballpoint technology is one of those simple but great things, just like the paper clip for example. Have you tried the Zebra F-301? I´ve read reviews that it´s a great pen to draw with 🙂 Haven´t tried it though.

      Thanks for this great article.


      Roger Santos

      • Chou-Tac

        Reply Reply November 23, 2015

        Fully agree with you.

        Haven’t tried the Zebra F-301 pen. Now if I see it I will notice it and make a try 🙂

        Thanks Roger !

      • BD

        Reply Reply January 3, 2016

        I’ve used the Zebra F-301 pen and like them quite a bit, but find them a little more difficult to get the gradual shading you can get with a Bic pen. My most used pen is the Fisher Space Pen. I always have a Fisher Space Pen Bullet Pen in my pocket…always! The added benefit to the Fisher Space Pen is that the ink is pressurized to it will write on vertical surfaces or even upside down.

    • Freya

      Reply Reply September 1, 2015

      Weirdly milk cleans ball pen stains rather well (I used to carry one in my pocket when I work. And sometimes it explodes….)

    • Pyro

      Reply Reply May 21, 2015

      Interesting. I just use one pen and do small lines very close together, have been testing using different pens for different tones. Too many pens just gets confusing

      • Chou-Tac

        Reply Reply May 21, 2015

        Hello Pyro,
        Is there a Ball point pen brand you especially like ?

    • Bat

      Reply Reply December 30, 2014

      Hair spray or Isopropyl Alcohol work to get out ink as well…just be careful about what fabric you put it on.

    • Benson

      Reply Reply October 27, 2014

      i use a uni ball point and often spoil the tip on purpose by shading with it on purpose, to get minimum ink flow so i go both ultra fine and regular at the same time. to go darker, i would just go over couple times.

      inspiring site btw

      • Chou-Tac Chung

        Reply Reply October 29, 2014

        Hi Benson,

        I also think Uni-ball pens are good. They give a constant ink flow and dry fast. However, I didn’t get how you spoil the tip ?

    • Anthony G.

      Reply Reply October 10, 2014

      with any kind of stain , you need to get cold water on it , and then if its possible Dawn soap w/ oxy helps , baking soda makes a difference too.

      • Chou-Tac Chung

        Reply Reply October 29, 2014

        Thanks for the Tip Anthony. Baking soda is actually very easy to find.

    • Renata Lahalle Goeggel

      Reply Reply July 31, 2014

      Me too, I love the ballpoints pen ! They can draw with me! My favorite in the Bic medium black!
      We use the same type of “car” but we do not drive the same way! cool n’est pas? 🙂

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