Ballpoint Illustration Tips from Artist Guno Park

Illustration of a gorilla with a STEEL F-402 Ballpoint Retractable Pen beside it

Ballpoint pens, while seemingly ordinary, are many artist’s go-to tools for creating rich, beautiful, and life-like illustrations. Unlike other tools, ballpoint pens can produce modulated values and a dynamic range of line weights, allowing everything from ghostly soft lines to dramatic graphic marks.

We turned to artist Guno Park of @gunopark to share his insights into why he reaches for ballpoint pens over any other tool, his favorite Zebra Pen ballpoint pens, and more.

Why do you like illustrating in ballpoint?

I love using ballpoint pens, especially the STEEL F-402 Ballpoint Retractable Pen, because they glide smoothly and allow me to create light or bold lines depending on the pressure I put on each stroke. The ink makes each of my marks appear just as I intend them and lends well to using the cross-hatching technique.

Are there any specific qualities you like about the STEEL F-402?

The strong metal body and the secure rubber grip of the STEEL F-402 allows for a confident hold on the pen while moving my hand quickly over the surface of the paper while drawing. It also feels comfortable in my hand while creating drawings for a sustained period of time.

When I draw using the F-402 and other Zebra Pen ballpoints, I have confidence that they will deliver clean flowing lines to make my drawings just the way I imagine them. The ink in these pens deliver a rich and deep tone that allows me to create a full range of values.

What are some challenges of illustrating with ballpoint?

I love using ballpoint pens as my drawing tool because they pose a challenge where I am using a single tool to find multiple values and textures in my drawings. Not to mention the fact that I cannot erase the marks once they are made. A lot of thinking must go into the process before each and every mark is put down. Planning for the structure of the subject matter, the perspective of the forms, shapes, and all the details that make up a believable, living form like this ape. And not to mention creating volumetric shapes by creating convincing light and shadow forms.

Drawing with a ballpoint pen is truly a juggling act consisting of many elements that have to fall just in the right places for it to be effective. Planning is a big aspect in getting this right as well as trying to keep things simple so that you can build your drawing up layer by layer. But the most important thing is to keep practicing.