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  • Writer's pictureBonnie Johnson

Pointillism 103 - Mediums

Welcome back to my pointillism lesson series, if this is the first lesson you have found I encourage you to go check out the earlier lessons in the series here.

Pointillism can be practiced in many mediums. The two primary mediums you will see used to create pointillism are ink and paint(oil or acrylic). These two mediums will be the focus of today's lesson. However pointillism can be created using other mediums, including digital art, so don't feel the need to limit yourself.


Historically pointillism was practiced exclusively in paint. It wasn't until the 20th century when other mediums became mass manufactured and artists had better access to a wider range of materials that the use of ink to create pointillism came about. Understand that this technique is continuing to evolve, though it does have it's roots in painting(as so many art forms do).

So which should you use, paint or ink? Well each has it's own unique properties that affect how the technique of pointillism can be executed. There are pros and cons to both, choose which you want to try based on what you want to achieve with your pointillism.

The Circus, 1891, Georges Seurat


If you are using paint to create pointillism there are a few things to consider. Paint allows for a wider range of colors. You can mix whichever colors you like to create a unique palette for your pointillism(bear in mind the importance of a limited palette from earlier lessons). Paint is also far more forgiving of mistakes. If you smudge you paint, place the wrong color, make misshapen dots, that can all be covered up with paint. Finally paint certainly allows for much larger works in terms of dot size and canvas size. If you want to create massive works of pointillism, paint is the best medium choice for you.

Using paint does present the problem of dot uniformity. Using a brush or even some other tool to create your paint dots will result in more irregularities with your dots. It will take practice in your technique and paint consistency to achieve the appearance of consistency with your paint pointillism.

As mentioned above, paint is the medium in which pointillism originated. By using paint you can evoke the look of the impressionists that originated the technique.

Dotted Sunset, 2019, Bonnie Johnson

Materials needed for paint include: acrylic or oil paint(minimum based colors of blue, yellow, red, black, and white), canvas or wood panel, and an assortment of round tip brushes. Round tip brushes are the best way to make dots if you are planning to use brushes for your pointillism. They will make it easier to make consistent dots and come in a wide range of sizes.


Ink is newer to the pointillism scene. It is my preferred medium with which to create pointillism art. However there are a few more considerations when choosing ink as your medium.

Ink pens(I prefer micron brand) are great for dot uniformity in your pointillism. The tip allows for consistent dot size and shape without too much effort expended on the part of the artist. This makes ink idea for smaller scale projects and for artists focused on detail. Ink also presents the benefit of the limited palette, since ink pen do not permit color mixing you have to work within the confines of the colors of pen that you have. This may seem like a constraint, but pointillism is meant to utilize the limited palette, a wider range of colors comes about from the optical mixing of the colored dots on the page(see pointillism 101 color theory).

Ink is not as forgiving a medium as paint. If you make a noticeable mistake with ink it will be extremely difficult to cover up. Additionally, when using ink you must preserve your white space on the page as white cannot be added back into a piece of work done in ink. This requires more planning on the part of the artist prior to putting pen to paper.

Angel Feathers, 2015, Bonnie Johnson

Materials needed for ink include: pens(any variety, though I recommend waterproof archival ink), paper, pencil, and eraser.

I use Micron 005 pens in my own pointillism practice, though a variety of brands and sizes will work. Paper used should be thick enough to prevent your ink from bleeding through to the other side. A pencil will be needed to sketch the piece before beginning with the dots, and an eraser to remove the pencil sketch once the piece is complete.

Compare the appearance of ink and paint. Each has a unique look that can be achieved only through that medium.


These exercises will fall into two categories. If you are certain of which medium you are interested in using to create your pointillism then you only need to do the exercises for that medium. If you are undecided, do the exercises in both categories and see which you like best.


Exercise 1 – Dot consistency

Using a round brush and paint of your choice practice laying down dots on a practice paper or spare canvas. Try to create a uniform shape and size in your dots. Yes, many of these exercises around dot creation are similar, welcome to pointillism.

Paint dots on the Right

Exercise 2 – Choose a Limited Palette

Since paint is so unlimited in color selection if you are planning to use paint you need to think about how you are going to limit your palette. You could try the more traditional and strict primary palette(red, blue, yellow, black and white), you could open it up and add your secondary and even a few tertiary colors(I use 9 in my limited palette). Or you could mix a set of unique colors for your project. But paint certainly demands more thought be put into selecting a palette.

Example of a non-traditional limited palette

Exercise 3 – Small Piece

With your limited palette all picked out you are ready to try a small practice piece of pointillism! I say small because pointillism is time consuming. This is the best way for you to get a feel of the layering required in paint and to see how well your palette works. It doesn't have to be perfect. I recommend trying a simple landscape, they are simple and elegant.

June Storms, 2020, 2 x 2 in, Bonnie Johnson


A lot of the exercises in this series thus far have had a ink focus, so if you have done those you are ready to advance to these next exercises.

Exercise 1 – Choose a Pen size and Colors

Choose a pen nib size that you would like to work with and the colors that you plan to use. You can use many colors of just stick to the primary palette(red, blue, yellow, and black). I would not recommend going beyond 12 different colors as the limited palette is a big part of pointillism.

Micron Pen Nibs - source

Exercise 2 – Sketch out a small piece

Keep it small(I recommend under 2 in x 2 in), but sketch out a small and simple piece for you to practice putting all of what you have learned far to use. I recommend a landscape, they are simple and look quite nice when done. Make note of where you will need to be sure to preserve white space.

Exercise 3 – Small Piece

With your sketch ready you are prepared to begin your first piece of pointillism! Do your best to develop layers of color to create the illusion of more colors(refer back to pointillism 101 on color theory). Take things slowly, this is a learning piece, it doesn't have to be perfect.

Tidal Treasure, 2015, 1.5 x 1.5 in, Bonnie Johnson

Note: Remember, to take frequent breaks when practicing pointillism. This repetitive motion can cause hand soreness. If your hand is cramping take a break and don't rush things.

Tag me on Instagram @bonnieokapi in a post showing off your tiny pointillism works. The next lesson will be Pointillism 201 where we will talk about choosing subject matter for pointillism. Happy dot making!

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