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  • Writer's pictureBonnie Johnson

Pointillism 102 - Techniques

Welcome back to my pointillism lecture series! In the last lesson we talked about color theory basics in pointillism. This post will cover basic techniques in practicing pointillism.

Techniques in pointillism are quite different from most 2D mediums. You don't have to learn to blend or mix paint, or do color washes, or learn different brush strokes. The basic technique behind pointillism is fairly simple; place dots on the page to create an image.

Making a dot doesn't really require any level of skill. The techniques of pointillism lie in an artists understanding of color, layers, subject matter, and perspective. Furthermore pointillism is one of the most time demanding mediums in traditional art, and patience is a skill all on it's own.

Creating Dots

As I said, anyone can make a dot. This is the simplest part of pointillism techniques. There are some things you will need to keep in mind regarding dot formation.

Creating a single dot is easy, but pointillism requires more than one dot. For good pointillism you must create uniform dots consistently. This means that regardless of your chosen medium(paint or ink) you must choose a size of dot and stick to it. Having varied dot sizes makes pointillism appear sloppy, and too much inconsistency will break the illusion altogether.

When laying down your dots they need to be uniform in size. Achieving uniform dots is much easier with pens, as the tip of the pen controls the size for you. A brush will require more practice.

When creating dots make even well distributed layers, it is easy to get into this rhythm. Make the dots the same distance apart. More layers will make things get darker.

Don't use too much pressure. It doesn't take much to put a dot of color on the page, be kind to your pens/brushes and your hands. Rest your hands. The kind of repetitive movement required for pointillism can take it's toll on your hands. I suggest 30 min – 1 hour sessions each day to avoid cramps/tendon issues.

Color Theory

This is the meat of pointillism. Pointillism requires an advanced understanding of multiple facets of color theory. There is no color mixing when it comes to the final result of color in a work of pointillism. In my pointillism 101 post I covered the basics of color theory as it applies to pointillism, and more advanced lessons on this topic will be coming when we get to the 200 level. The science of color plays a far more direct role in pointillism than in other mediums. Color is simply reflected light wavelengths off of the surfaces around us. Our eyes then interpret that wavelength data and interpret it as color. Pointillism takes advantage of the ways humans perceive color to create the illusion of a wide array of colors present using the limited palette. Pointillism is an optical illusion, and a pointillism artist must be able to see through this illusion to create it.

This is best illustrated through example. One could simply use blue dots for water and shade using black. However, things in nature are rarely so simple. Water isn't just blue, it is a complex array of colors.

In this closeup below blue, green, brown, purple, and black help to make up the appearance of the water.

To achieve a true complex depth of color one must consider beyond the base colors. Adding a not-so-obvious colors can really elevate your piece in terms of color.


Patience is a very important component of pointillism. I include it when talking about technique because it really is impossible not to. Even if you understand color theory and create beautiful uniform dots, you won't make it anywhere as a pointillist unless you have the patience that the medium requires. The commitment to the work is a large part of what people admire about pointillism, and it is indeed a part of the skill that goes into creating such a work. If you are just starting out in pointillism I suggest starting small. If you find you enjoy the medium then think about attempting something larger, but understand it may be a year before you get to show your completed piece.

Patience may not seem like a skill or a technique, but it is. Patience comes easy to some and can be a learning process for others, but it can be learned. If you are an artist who wants to try pointillism but you know you aren't the patient type when it comes to creating art I have a great article on the topic linked in the exercises below.


Exercise 1 – Dots

Make dots with either ink or pen and try to make them as uniform in shape and size as possible.

Left: black ink dots Right: red paint dots

Exercise 2 – Color

Choose a more unusual color, something tertiary or more complex(secondary colors are covered in my pointillism 101 post), and try your best to match it using a limited palette of colored dots. Consider using colors that may not be immediately apparent to recreate your color.

Exercise 3 – Patience

If you are looking to learn more about patience in art read this article by Eugenia Hauss. She has some great tips, and she uses stippling frequently in her art, so her tips come from experience with creating many dots!

Thus pointillism 102 comes to and end, and check out pointillism 103 where we will be talking about Paint VS. Ink in pointillism.

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