How Good Are Ballpoint Pens For Drawing?

For many, the thought of sketching with a ballpoint pen is pretty scary. This is likely because you can’t erase when using a pen. But for those who sketch with a ballpoint pen, a certain freedom comes from drawing with a pen instead of a pencil. With pen drawings, each line seems to communicate something unique. Suppose you are considering beginning sketching with a ballpoint pen. Then you are likely wondering: how good are ballpoint pens for drawing?

Ballpoint pens make for a unique drawing experience. They have a few benefits, including helping with confidence and planning. Ballpoint pens do not smudge and can be used for shading and other techniques. Guide sketches should be drawn with light strokes to avoid being seen in the end product.

The notion that the pen is mightier than the sword is a sound one. But is the pen mightier than the pencil? And are ballpoint pens mightier than other pens, like sharpies, fine-liners, and fountain pens? Our answer is yes. Journey with us as we draw (ahem) conclusions about why ballpoint pens are good for drawing and what you can expect from the rich experience of drawing with a ballpoint pen.

Why Are Ballpoint Pens Good For Drawing?

Since we are all for drawing with ballpoint pens, we have selected our top few benefits to share with you.  

1. Ballpoint Pens Are Not Likely To Smudge

If you are the type of artist who sketches quickly and moves between the pages of your sketchbook, you will love the fact that ballpoint pens are not likely to smudge. The ink in these pens dries up almost immediately, so your masterpiece will still be there when you come back to it later. 

This benefit is also great for the left-handed artists among us. The struggle is real with pencil sketches smudging as we move our hands across the page to draw, but with ballpoint pens, your smudge days are over.

2. Ballpoint Pens Help With Confidence

There is something about a pen drawing that screams confidence. While we are pretty sure a fair amount of self-doubt is poured into most art pieces, the look is solid. Drawing with a pen comes with a share of risk. No erasing means that every line counts. This is, no doubt, scary at times, but knowing that there is no going back will help you build confidence in your skills and learn to place every element precisely where you mean for it to be.

3. Ballpoint Pens Can Go Everywhere With You

Like a loyal friend, your ballpoint pen can go wherever you do. If you have a pen and surface on which to draw, you are good to go. Pencils need sharpeners, erasers, and possibly pencils of different shades to accompany them, so it becomes a little tedious to carry them around. The same is true for fountain pens since they need delicate handling. 

Ballpoint pens are robust and self-sufficient, and we love that they are ready for action at all times.

4. There Is A Ballpoint Pen For Every Style

With so many ballpoint pens readily available in most stores, it is easy to find the one that works the best for you. From thick to thin barrel, rubber grip to straight plastic, mechanical to lid, if you try enough of them, you will find the ballpoint pen that helps you create the art of your dreams.

Tips For Drawing With Ballpoint Pens

Drawing with a pen is a different experience from drawing with a pencil or even a sharpie. The feel is different, and it is helpful to work on a few techniques before attempting a complete drawing. Here are our favorite tips for drawing with ballpoint pens.

1. Start With Pencil

This tip may seem a little counter-productive, but using a pencil for your base sketch is a great way to build up the confidence needed for the pen portion of the drawing. After doing a few sketches with pencil base drawings, move on to using very light pen strokes for the base.

2. Draw The Main Shapes First

Pick out the main shapes in your guide picture and draw those first. This practice will help you iron out any faults in perspective before putting the work into the details.

3. Use A Guide Picture

It’s preferable to use a black and white picture as a guide for the first few drawings. Choose a subject that excites you and sketch away. Having a guide picture instead of a live one is great because you will need to be patient when learning to draw with a ballpoint pen. A rushed sketch will leave you feeling like you have not quite achieved what you wanted, and having a picture as a guide will allow you to return to your sketch whenever you can, to complete it at your leisure.

4. Use A Central Focus

Find the central point of your guide picture and focus your energy on sketching that to perfection. Our eyes are typically drawn to contrasting shades, so make an effort to create a stunning contrast in the central focus of the piece you are drawing.

5. Use Shading And Texture

Once you have your base sketch and the main shapes of your drawing done, you can begin to fill in the sketch’s more beautiful (and fun) elements. Try to concentrate on the subject matter of your guide picture and explore the features in real life. If you are drawing clothing, for example, study clothing textures and practice drawing them with your ballpoint pen to get the patterns, shades, and shapes just right.

Shading with a ballpoint pen is different than shading with a pencil. Practice shading techniques by following a tutorial or working from light to heavy strokes and back again until you are confident with your new skill.

Our Top Three Ballpoint Pens For Drawing

It may shock you to read that not all ballpoint pens are made equal, but we are pretty sure that if you try a few out for drawing, you will see and feel the difference. The best way to find the ballpoint pen that suits you and your style is to try a few out, but if you would like a little guidance, here are our top three picks for you. We also recommend trying out different types of paper with the pens you sample, as the perfect pair can elevate a piece and the experience of drawing.

1. Bic

Bic is a trusty go-to for so many scholars and artists alike. They are generally hardy, long-lasting, quick-drying, and inexpensive. (It helps to buy them by the box!) The pens come in various styles, but we like the round barrel for its smoothness and easy grip. If the ink clogs up a little near the nib, simply wipe it off and continue drawing. We love the lightweight element and feel that they are easy on the hands.

2. Zebra Retractable Pen

The Zebra retractable ballpoint pen is more expensive. It will set you back around $12 for one, but it is worth it for the name brand and luxury you are purchasing along with the ink, and they are re-fillable. This metal pen is built to last and has a quality grip and weight that should assist you with more delicate sketching details.

Like with the Bic, the Zebra comes in a variety of colors. If the ink beads a little, simply wipe it off and keep sketching.

3. Arteza Rollarball Pen

This rollerball pen is fast-drying, making it great for quick sketches and left-handed artists. It has a very smooth glide and creates a crisp outcome for various techniques. The ink is acid-free, so your artwork will stay as vibrant as you made it for years to come. The price is around $16 for a pack of 20, so not a bad deal, especially for the quality you will enjoy with this pen.


Drawing is a personal journey that is different for everyone. Still, if you are wondering if ballpoint pens are good for drawing, our answer is yes. If you enjoy a bit of a challenge, learning new techniques, trying out new tools, and having the perfect sketching tool literally in your back pocket, then drawing with a ballpoint pen will be a good experience for you. There are so many techniques to learn that will make your drawings stand out, so take the time to practice as many as you can before using a guide picture to help you along, especially as you get started.

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