Artwork by Monica Gunderson

Artist Thoughts

Pointillism VS Stippling

September 24, 2015 at 4:23 AM

Some may think that pointillism and stippling are one and the same, but they are actually very different. Even though pointillism and stippling are an artwork that is created by many dots combined to create an image, they are actually very diverse in definition and appearance.  

crow on top of skull - stippling ink-pen drawing close up of skull - stippling ink-pen drawing stippling up close - dots 

Nevermore © 2015 Monica Gunderson - All Rights Reserved; Unauthorized Reproduction Prohibited

Stippling is one of the six basic drawing techniques in which a pattern of dots of one solid color of ink, such as black, is used to create an image. The artwork consists of several dots that are strategically placed in such a way to create a figure that suggests contrast, depth, form, and shape. Effects of light and dark or value are produced by drawing the dots further apart to create a lightened effect or closer together to enhance shadowed or darkened areas. Using value techniques throughout the artwork creates an illusion of a three-dimensional image on various support mediums such as canvas or paper. Generally, an artist will sketch out a drawing, noting where highlights and shadows will be, and then fills in areas with a pattern of dots composing a three-dimensional image. Stippling can also be used in conjunction with other drawing techniques such as contour hatching, crosshatching, hatching, random lines, and scumbling.  These techniques can also be applied to various art mediums such as engraving, paintings, sculpting, and printmaking. Examples of stippling can be seen in the artwork by Albrecht Dürer, Leonardo da Vinci, and Rembrandt.


Example of pointillism

Example of pointillism, image 1 Example of pointillism, image 2

Sunrise at Moloa'a Bay, Kauai © 2015 Monica Gunderson - All Rights Reserved; Unauthorized Reproduction Prohibited

On the contrary, pointillism is an art technique that consists of several primary colored dots overlapping or set close to each other. The different colored dots are then optically mixed directly on canvas, paper, or other support medium instead of mixing colors on an artist's palette. The theory behind optical mixing is when a combination of small primary colored dots are clustered close together; a secondary color is optically formed or perceived by the human eye as being of one color. For example, the use of a combination of several yellow and blue dots set close together would appear green when viewed from a distance. Therefore, when looking at an artwork created by pointillism up close one would see a series of different colored dots grouped together, but when seen from a distance the cluster of dots optically blend into colors and form a picture. This optical mixing of colors is based off of the color theory of blending different hues and the use of specific color combinations. When using the pointillism technique, knowledge and understanding of color theory is very important. Even when trying to achieve value, color theory is used in pointillism artwork.

Value can be achieved by gradually using darker pigments of color. For example, if it is desired to shade a yellow flower petal, various dots of darker shades of yellow, orange, red, or even a combination of all three primary colors to create brown would achieve a shading effect. Black and grey are rarely used in pointillism artwork since only pure primary colors are used. However, even with the use of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, darker pigments that resemble black or grey can be achieved. To gain a lightened effect, a combination of colored dots can be set further apart, allowing the white from the canvas or paper to show through.  Similar to stippling, when dots are grouped closer together, the darker the color appears, but when spread further apart the lighter the image becomes. The use of value or the darkness and lightness of a color can create an illusion of a three-dimensional image. Examples of pointillism can be seen in the artwork of Georges Seurat, Paul Signac, and Vincent van Gogh.

Basically the main difference between stippling and pointillism is that pointillism heavily relies on the use of color theory and optical mixing to create a picture, while stippling is the use of multiple dots of monochrome or tones of black and white to create an image.



Contrast: the arrangement of opposite elements such as light and dark, rough and smooth to create a visual interest.

Contour Hatching: one of the six drawing techniques similar to hatching, except that the lines follow the shape of the drawing such as using curved lines when shadowing a sphere.

Crosshatching: one of the six drawing techniques where a series of intersecting parallel lines are used to create a shading effect.

Hatching: one of the six drawing techniques used to create tonal shading by drawing multiple parallel lines close together.

Depth: the illusion of near and far in an artwork.

Form: a three-dimensional geometrical figure such as a sphere, cube, or cone. Form can be achieved in a two-dimensional space by the use of shading techniques and perspective.

Hue: a term used for any color on a color wheel.

Optical Blending: colors created by different colored dots grouped close together to create an optical illusion of other colors. For example when combinations of blue and red dots are grouped together, from far away it will look like the color purple.

Pointillism: art technique where various colored dots and applying knowledge of color theory are used to create an image.

Primary Colors: the basic colors of the color wheel; blue, red, and yellow.

Random Lines: one of the six drawing techniques where random lines are drawn close together to create a shadowing effect.

Scumbling: one of the six drawing techniques where small circles are sketched for shading and blending purposes.

Secondary Colors: a color created by mixing two primary colors such as red and blue makes purple.

Shape: the use of areas in a two-dimensional space that can be defined by edges.

Stippling: one of the six drawing techniques where several dots in monochrome colors such as brown or black are used to create an artwork.

Support Medium: such as canvas, paper, wood panels, ect. or whatever the artwork is affixed to.

Three-Dimensional: an image appearing to have breadth, depth and length to give it a lifelike or realistic appearance.

Value: the lightness or darkness of a color.

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Monica Gunderson Fine Artist

Modesto CA