Yearly Archives: 2021

Canvas framed ballpoint illustration of a building

4 Tips for Creating a Scaled Ballpoint Illustration

By: Catherine Spilman of @catgreenart

When I first started sketching tiny houses, I used the STEEL F-301 Ballpoint Retractable Pen because Jordan Spilman, my late husband, had an extra one and let me use it. He had always extolled the virtues of the pen and I had rolled my eyes assuming he was exaggerating, however five years later, it is my tried and true, my go-to, my all-time favorite pen.

Today, I’ll be walking you through how I create an illustration in ballpoint with the STEEL F-301 and providing my own tips along the way. All you’ll need is the STEEL F-301, a reference photo, and a sketchbook or piece of sketch paper.

Journal and light ballpoint sketch

Tip 1: Begin a Light Outline

The best thing about the STEEL F-301 is its versatility. When I start a drawing, I do a very light outline to try to get a handle on the proportions and the pen allows me to make lines that are almost like pencil, but more concentrated and delicate. When I paint, I block in the entire image in highlight and lowlights, and then work from there to develop detail. When I draw, I use the opposite approach and work usually from left to right filling in form.

Ballpoint illustration of a buildling

Tip 2: Fill in Detail from Left to Right and Don’t Forget to Blot

I work from left to right because until the ink is completely dry, it is possible to smudge or smear it with your hand. For this reason, I also rest my hand on a separate piece of paper (this also prevents the moisture in my hand from wrinkling the page.) On this separate piece of paper, I blot the pen from time to time. This keeps the ink running smoothly and avoids blots on the image.

When the house is basically blocked in and it’s time to finish up details like windows and shadows, the STEEL F-301 is amazing for achieving deep black marks. It is capable of so many different line weights which are particularly helpful for indicating shadow, texture, or foliage.

Partial illustration of a building halfway drawn

Tip 3: Use a Photo that is Already Scaled to the Size You Want for the Drawing

I don’t use rulers or any form of straight edge because in my opinion they make the drawing stiff. What I do use to maintain some sense of scale is my phone. The image on my phone is usually a similar size to the image I’m drawing, so I can look from phone to paper to double check my proportions.

Finished ballpoint illustration of a building

Tip 4: Use a Reliable Pen

The drawings can take a few hours and during that time it’s important to have a drawing instrument that’s comfortable to hold. The STEEL F-301 is smooth and comfortable to use for extended periods. I’ve used it in very warm climates and in the snow and the ink distributes remarkably smoothly in both extremes. The steel barrel is resilient and made to last and luckily ink refills are easy to access and to install.

I’ve tried other pens throughout the years but for these reasons and more, this is the pen for me. As Ferris Bueller said, “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”

I hope these tips help you with your ballpoint illustrations. For more sketching inspiration, check out Urban Sketching: Simplifying Perspective and Designing A Fluid Composition by Guno Park.

Zen with "Zen's Guide to Brush Pens" added to image

A Guide to Brush Pens for Beginners and Hobbyists Alike

Brush pens have become a staple in nearly every artist’s arsenal due to their versatility in everything from calligraphy to fine art drawings. They are available in a variety of tip sizes: nib styles, ink flows, colors, and elasticities. While it takes practice and control to use a brush pen, you don’t have to be a serious artist or calligrapher to create beautiful script.

Continue reading

The Mechanical Pencil Guide

When you anticipate mistakes or don’t want to commit to ink, a mechanical pencil is the perfect option. Zebra Pen offers a wide variety of mechanical pencils that are available in both lightweight plastic and durable metal styles designed for students, professionals, and everyday writers.

Continue reading
Notes with Zebra Product

How to Color Code StudyGram Notes

It’s that time of the year again—back-to-school season! Amid all the preparation for the new school year, it’s also time to get back into the routine of taking notes. In this tutorial, we’ll go over a step-by-step guide to color code your StudyGram notes!

Hey everyone, this is Christine from @studybeanthings on Instagram, and today, I’ll be showing you how to create study notes that will not only be visually pleasing, but also aid in comprehension for whatever subject you’re studying. This article will include some tips and tricks to keep your notes organized to your preference, while keeping them fun and stimulating to look at. Color coding is especially important in taking notes. With so much information on one page, this guide will keep you focused and excited to study for your upcoming exams!

Continue reading
Sarasa Grand and G-450 pen laying atop a desk beside a letter board, spelling out "Resume Tips 101"

6 Steps to Creating a Resume That Gets Noticed

Whether you’re applying for your first professional job or are looking to elevate your career at another company, your resume is the hiring manager’s first impression of you. Depending on the position, a recruiter or hiring manager can receive hundreds of resumes to review. How can you make yours stand out? Follow these steps to create a resume that’ll get you noticed.

Continue reading
Classroom writing utensils

Essential School Supplies Every Student Needs for Back-to-School Season

It’s officially back-to-school season. The new school year is almost here, which means it’s time to shop for school supplies. Whether you’re shopping for your child or need some supplies for yourself, we’re going to break down the best Zebra Pen back-to-school supplies for students (and people) of all ages.

Continue reading
3 Custom Birthday Cards

3 DIY Birthday Cards That Will Make Their Special Day Even Better

Hi there! It’s Christine Asciutto of @twinkleplansherday. Today, I am going to show you how to make three colorful, custom birthdays cards in under 20 minutes. These cards are simple to make and are great to have on hand for any last-minute birthday parties that pop up!

Continue reading
Completed Bullet Journal

How to Track Your Reading in a Bullet Journal with a Book Tracker

Hi everyone! I’m Salena from @salenasbujo and @letteredinblush, and I’m here to share a super fun book tracker tutorial with you. I love using my bullet journal to track lists of all kinds, and this spread is the perfect way to keep track of books you want to read or have finished reading.

Continue reading
Assorted of Zebra Pen STEEL products

Which STEEL Pen is Right for You?

Originally published June 4, 2014. Updated July 14, 2021.

Tired of settling for ordinary writing tools? Our metal lineup of pens and mechanical pencils are durable but stylish which means they are not only reliable but will make a great first impression. Different projects require different tools—which is why we designed the STEEL line to be diverse. The full range includes ballpoint pens, gel pens, mechanical pencils, and even a permanent marker.

Continue reading

Weekly calendar with a STEEL F-701 and Sarasa Grand next to it

How to Transition Back to the Office After Remote Work

When you have been working from the comfort of your own home—and in your comfy clothes—for an extended time, it can be difficult to make the move back to the office. Both environments have their own challenges, advantages, and routines which can be tough to make the adjustment. These tips can help make the transition back to the office smoother.

Continue reading