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Pointillism Techniques; Definition and How To Explained with Illustrations

Updated on July 10, 2017
CherylsArt profile image

Cheryl Paton is an artist who believes in creating positive designs. She also likes sharing artistic tips and techniques.

Butterfly in pointillism.

Pointillism butterfly painting by Cheryl Paton
Pointillism butterfly painting by Cheryl Paton | Source

Pointillism Techniques - Painting with Dots

Pointillism is a method of using dots, large or small, to achieve various affects. It originated in the impressionist era.

The most common method is by painting. Early pieces were done using paint brushes; now it is also done with items such as push pins, bottle caps, pebbles, and more. I think foam popcorn packing pieces would make an awesome design. They could be painted before or after making the design.

The dots can be placed singly, in rows, or randomly. The dots can also be placed by themselves, in groups, and/or be overlapping.

The dots used can also vary in size. They can be uniform in size, or they also can be varied in the same painting.

I have also seen pointillism made with small dots of a raised medium, that were painted after the medium has dried.

Image credit for the Pointillism Butterfly Painting is to Cheryl Paton; she is also the author of this page.

Pointillism is painting with dots.

The dots can be various sizes.

The dots can be spread out or close together.

The dots can be different colors, or they can be done in monochromatic, all one color.

Pointillism is known for letting the light shine through.



Paint is not the only medium used for making dots.

Some pointillism paintings are done with objects, such as push pins, pebbles, rocks, and buttons.

Polka dots are considered a type of pointillism by some.

Helpful Tips for Teaching Kids Pointillism

Have them paint on a smaller surface or with really large dots.

Draw general outlines before painting.

Use watercolor pencils for the drawing, the

paint will blend in, and excess lines can be

wiped off.

Paint with large dots, preferably markers.

Have fun with scented markers.

Have music playing with a fun beat, while painting.

Kids can enjoy making a scented picture!

Scented markers are a convenient way to paint a lot of dots, and have fun with smell too.

The larger the marker tip, the larger the dot.

The smaller the marker tip, the smaller the dot.

Smaller dots render a more intricate painting.

Regular markers are fine for marking on paper and canvas. When painting on fabric, acrylic paint for fabric and acrylic paint pens will bleed less, and be more permanent.

Scented markers can be a fun motivation for painting with dots.

Size matters - Use Sponge Paint Markers for Large Dots.

It is a quick and easier way for kids.

There are a couple of ways that I know of to achieve the larger dots.

One is to paint with round sponge tips by dipping them in the paint and then dabbing them on to the painting surface. To have the sponges last longer, wet them first and squeeze out the excess water, before dipping them in the paint. Be sure to rinse them between color changes. Also clean them afterwords, according to the type paint that was used; water for watercolor paints, soap and water for acrylics.

A second way, is using Sponge Paint Markers. The paint is already in the bottle, ready to use.

These markers will make larger dots, and the painting time to go faster.

Creativity Street Sponge Paint Markers (2400)
Creativity Street Sponge Paint Markers (2400)

These sponge markers are rated as washable. The colors include red, pink, blue, orange, black and green.

I think this looks like a great size for painting on poster board.

 

Very small dots can be made using a small tipped stylus.

Other ideas are pens, fine tipped markers, and fine tipped paint markers.

The stylus is used by dipping the stylus tip into the paint and then applying that to the painting surface. Depending on the size of the tip, how the stylus is held, and how much paint is on the stylus, will have an effect on the shape and size of the the dot.

Not all dots are round.

The stylus is also a great tool for painting eyes and/or pupils.

Some stylus's are made for painting.

The handle on this stylus is made of wood, and the ends are made of hardened steel.

The tips on this one are two different sizes, a plus for painting dots with a stylus.

Since it takes extra time to dip the point in the paint before applying it to the paper, this is one of the slower methods. However, it can give a more varied affect, as the dots can vary in size due to an accumulation of paint build up on the tip.

If you don't have a stylus handy for painting, you can try using toothpicks.

Three butterflies in pointillism

Source

Pointillism with focused direction

The dots can be placed in a specific direction

The butterflies in this painting were painted with small uniform dots. The dots were laid down pretty much in the direction of the patterns on the wings, with minimal spacing in between.

I used a small stylus tip that was dipped into the paint first. I usually got two dots done with one dip into the paint.

I painted the leaves, flowers, and stems, using regular brush strokes. Only doing the butterflies in dots gives them a more delicate look.

Pointillism Heart

Source

Organized Pointillism

Dots can be painted in rows with measured spacing.

In this pointillism rendering of a heart, the dots were organized in horizontal and vertical rows.

I placed graph paper under the image while it was placed on a light box. You can also use a sunlit window for a variation of this technique.

The lines of the graph need to be dark enough to see through to the painting surface. I made a re-usable graph for this on a sheet of clear vinyl.

Plastic canvas can be a good organization tool.

Source

Line them up. - An aid for Organized Pointillism - Plastic Canvas

Plastic canvas provides a plastic grid to place your fine tipped marker in.

Using a sheet of plastic canvas is another way of having organized dots. Once I've lined the plastic canvas up to where I want it, I hold it in place and use the holes as the guide for where to place the stylus or fine pointed marker.




A clear flexible ruler also helps to line things up.

I've found that a quilter's ruler is the perfect tool for this.

Fiskars 3-Inch-by-18-inch Clear Acrylic Quilting Ruler
Fiskars 3-Inch-by-18-inch Clear Acrylic Quilting Ruler

I love being able to see what's under the ruler. This one is 3 by 18 inches.

 

Distance Matters

The closer the dots, the more solid an item looks from a distance.

About the kayak scene painting.

The dots in the kayak scene were not only random, they are also overlapping. You can also have random dots that don't overlap.

I drew the initial outline of the kayaks, people, and paddles in with watercolor pencils. I then easily wiped off the watercolor outlines from the canvas with a damp paper towel once the painting had dried.

Random and Overlapping Pointillism - Dots can be overlapping, giving the picture a more muted look.

Source

Paint pens, and markers, make more uniform dots.

Using a stylus and or toothpicks requires the painter to dip and re-dip the ends in the paint. The resulting dots can then be more apt to vary in size. Paint pens can help solve this dilemma.

Paint pens bleed less than regular markers, which also makes this a good choice for painting on fabric.

Paint pens are a fun way to do pointillism; it saves time in having to dip the brush or stylus into paint. It also has it's own affect, producing more uniform, fuzzy edged, dots. The size will vary with the marker size. The smaller the dots, the more delicate the affect, and the more time it takes to paint the design.

The dots can be painted over a different color or shade background.

Source

About the red rose design.

On the red rose design, I first painted lighter base coat for the background. Then I painted with darker dots over the various base coats.










The first instrument used for painting with dots

was a paint brush

The brush end can be used for a less uniform dot, and also the end of the handle for a more uniform dot.

The larger squared brush will make a pretty good size dot.

The smaller the number on the brush size, the smaller the dot will be. As the number size increases, the brush head will increase, as will the dot size.


The paint brush was the first instrument used for creating a pointillism picture.

Princeton Brush-Princeton Series 9000 Brown Handled Brush, Set of 7, for Acrylic, Oil and Watercolor-Mixed Media Paintbrushes
Princeton Brush-Princeton Series 9000 Brown Handled Brush, Set of 7, for Acrylic, Oil and Watercolor-Mixed Media Paintbrushes

Different shapes of the brush head will give a different look. Just dip the brush in the paint and then dab it on your picture. No strokes allowed. : )

 

A fun idea!

Start with making splatters as your first layer of dots, then create your picture from that.

Are you ready for a quiz on pointillism?


view quiz statistics

How did you do on the Pointillism quiz?

How many answers did you get right?

See results

What do you think of pointillism? - Have you done a pointillism painting yet?

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    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 2 years ago from West Virginia

      SheGetsCreative Cool! I'd love to see what you create.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 2 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I remember doing this in art class years ago but haven't tried it since. Maybe it's time to give it another whirl...

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 3 years ago from West Virginia

      @sheilamarie78: I imagine the original would be fantastic!

    • sheilamarie78 profile image

      sheilamarie78 3 years ago

      I've seen Seurat's painting at the museum. Amazing!

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 3 years ago from West Virginia

      @VioletteRose LM: They are cute, aren't they.

    • VioletteRose LM profile image

      VioletteRose LM 3 years ago

      Pointillism is so cute, one of my favorites!

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 3 years ago from West Virginia

      @julieannbrady: Congrats Julie. I love those styles of paintings too.

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      julieannbrady 3 years ago

      Hey there -- I got a perfect score; probably because pointillism is one of my favorite styles! I always loved impressionism.

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 3 years ago from West Virginia

      @Ibidii: Hello plastic canvas lover. : ) Now you have another use for your beloved canvas.

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      Ibidii 3 years ago

      I have not tried this yet. Excellent lens! I love the use of plastic canvas for the grid. I can do that!

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 3 years ago from West Virginia

      @Gypzeerose: Cool. Glad you liked it. There's so many ways to paint with dots! : )

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 3 years ago

      Really enjoyed this beautiful lens, and it was inspiring.

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 3 years ago from West Virginia

      @anonymous: It's amazing what can be done with dots. Thank you.

    • blestman lm profile image

      blestman lm 4 years ago

      Yep just like school days.

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      Interesting things are particularly attractive, I like this lenses.

    • seodress profile image

      seodress 4 years ago

      Very interesting. Just remembered my days in our school.

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 4 years ago from West Virginia

      @SheGetsCreative: It's more fun with music, and/or scented markers. Whichever is your fancy.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I remember doing this in art class (jr high) -- didn't have the patience then but will definitely revisit it again :)

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 4 years ago from West Virginia

      @moonlitta: Thank you moonlitta for your comment. It can be a very fun way to draw things, especially with the right kind of music playing in the background.

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      moonlitta 4 years ago

      Sounds like a fun way to draw things:)

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 4 years ago from West Virginia

      @anonymous: Thank you Accordingtopamela.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Love the pointillism butterfly floral stamps!

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 4 years ago from West Virginia

      @TaraWojt: Thank you Tara. You're welcome.

    • TaraWojt profile image

      Tara Wojtaszek 4 years ago

      Very interesting information about pointillism. Thanks.

    • MissKeenReviewer profile image

      MissKeenReviewer 4 years ago

      Pointilism is not only use for painting but also in drawing using pencils, markers and etc. It is an art technique for many medium. Nice lens -now I am inspred to use this technique again. Kudos.

    • CrossCreations profile image

      Carolan Ross 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Love Pointilism and Seurat art, have not created my own - yet!

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 4 years ago from West Virginia

      @Brandi Bush: I can feel your enthusiasm, sounds like a fun time!

    • Brandi Bush profile image

      Brandi 4 years ago from Maryland

      I love this lens...and I'm going to make pointillism the next art lesson I do with my kids. They will have so much fun with this! :)

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 4 years ago from West Virginia

      @CruiseReady: Thank you CruiseReady.

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 4 years ago from East Central Florida

      I learned about pointillism in art history class, but hadn't thought much about it since. Your red rose in pointillism is really nice!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      The first time I saw this technique, I was really fascinated. I like it very much.

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 4 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      Wonderful lens! I learned a lot and the examples were perfect. Merry Christmas!

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 4 years ago from West Virginia

      @Projectlazy: Thank you so much. Yay!

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      Projectlazy 4 years ago

      Hey CreativeArtist, Someone nomiated your lens for Chirstmas lens of the day. Check it out here www.squidoo.com/lens-of-the-day2

      Check it out and if you have time over the holidays share some wisdom.

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 4 years ago from West Virginia

      @ecogranny: Hi Graceonline. It's amazing what one can do with dots, isn't it! : )

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      I remember doing a small project in a basic art class in college, but not since then. Our oldest granddaughter (age 7) is learning to do pointillism and quite creative with it.

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 4 years ago from West Virginia

      @yayas: You're welcome YayasHome.

    • yayas profile image

      yayas 4 years ago

      Pointillism is such an interesting technique. I do believe I am going to have to try my hand at pointillism. Thank you for sharing this inspiring art technique.

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 4 years ago from West Virginia

      @coolmon2009 lm: Thank you coolmon2009.

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      coolmon2009 lm 4 years ago

      Nice lens on pointillism

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 4 years ago from West Virginia

      @WindyWintersHubs: Thank you Windy. Glad you like them.

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image

      WindyWintersHubs 4 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Awesome work, Cheryl. You've created very unique designs using this techique.

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 4 years ago from West Virginia

      @JoshK47: Thank you so much JoshK47.

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      JoshK47 4 years ago

      Popping back in for another visit to sprinkle some fresh Angel Dust around here!

    • Annbulance2000 profile image

      Annbulance2000 4 years ago

      I have enjoyed this lense. I liked the quiz and scored 8 so I was paying attention. Just popping to zazzle now to see your other art. Thanks for a great lense.

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 5 years ago from West Virginia

      @cmadden: You're welcome.

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      cmadden 5 years ago

      @CherylsArt: My turn to say Wow! Thanks for adding my EVA card to your lens!

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 5 years ago from West Virginia

      @cmadden: It sounds beautiful. And wow, in ink; yes that would take a long time! And so rewarding when it's finished. : )

    • profile image

      cmadden 5 years ago

      I did one piece entirely in this style, in ink - an astronaut hovering above the Earth; it was about 16" x 16" and took a very long time! I photographed it and used just the astronaut for one of my cards. Interesting lens!

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 5 years ago from West Virginia

      @anonymous: Ah, yes. I mentioned pointillism with push pins in the introduction. A cool way to do three dimensional pointillism.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      This is a bit of a twist - Push Pin Art using 3 dimensions...

      http://www.zhibit.org/profile/willhanlonstudios

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @CherylsArt: No, actually, i love doing it, it was my art teacher stopped the project because it was taking a lot of time to finish it, now it is half colored, half blank.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have tried this before in art class. It took a lot of time so we didn't continue it. But the time you spend is totally worth what you get in the end. By the way: it was George Seurat, an impressionist, who first made pointillism. Oh, I have to know these stuff because my art final exam is tomorrow. Wish me Good Luck! (although I don't need it)

    • UKGhostwriter profile image

      UKGhostwriter 5 years ago

      Fascinating! I wish I had the patience!

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 5 years ago from West Virginia

      @psiloveyou1: That is so cool. I've actually done pictures like that before, but not with the pointillism. What a fun learning experience.

    • psiloveyou1 profile image

      psiloveyou1 5 years ago

      When I was in high school, one of my art projects was to choose a picture out of a magazine and cut it half. We glued one half in our sketch pads and used to pointillism to complete the other half of the picture. We were only allowed to use a pencil...no colors. Mine turned out pretty good!

    • lclchors profile image

      lclchors 5 years ago

      very interesting I might try it

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 5 years ago from West Virginia

      @anonymous: I so agree! For kids, use either small canvas or large dots! Markers are also a better choice for kids, so they can steadily make dots.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      doing a pointillism project with middle school kids, after studying divisionism and seurat, we came to a huge realization: use a very SMALL canvas! this method takes FOREVER! my kids lost attention super fast, and even i just wanted it to be over. the kids who were really focused did a great job, but most of them couldn't stick with this style for as long as a 9x12 sheet required. if i do this again, we're doing a half size sheet (maybe 4x6) but never anything as big.

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 5 years ago from West Virginia

      @Close2Art LM: Pointillism would make a nice texture. Thank you for the blessing.

    • Close2Art LM profile image

      Close2Art LM 5 years ago

      great look into pointillism, I've never made a complete piece with this style but do use it to add texture to my pieces, Great job....Blessed!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Hi, I am studying pointillism and pop art at school! i find this website MUCH more helpful than all the others! I find it really helpful, thanks :)

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 5 years ago from West Virginia

      @lol69186918: I agree.

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 5 years ago from West Virginia

      @anonymous: It can be. I have found the random method, with paint markers, to be more interesting, especially with some cool music to listen to.

    • profile image

      lol69186918 5 years ago

      it is a magnificent style.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      hi

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have already tried this method but it is so boring

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 5 years ago from Templeton, CA

      It looks like an interesting method. I have to admit I'd never heard of pointillism before now, so I learned something. It would be fun to have time to learn to paint.

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 5 years ago from West Virginia

      @Serenity30: I imagine that the pictures made with a brush rubbed on water color pencils would be very pretty. Thank you for sharing your tip.

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 5 years ago from West Virginia

      @VacuolateTuna: You're welcome to feature it. Thank you.

    • Serenity30 profile image

      Serenity30 5 years ago

      Beautiful artwork! I have tried this method with a brush rubbed on watercolor pencils. And felt tipped black pen.

    • profile image

      VacuolateTuna 5 years ago

      Fantastic article and a great resource for painters. I had not thought about using a paint pen to create pointillist pieces! I use pointillism myself in my space art. Would you mind if I feature your lens within my own "Space Art, Astronomical Art and Cosmic Art: An Overview" as a resource for aspiring artists?

    • junecampbell profile image

      June Campbell 5 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      A friend introduced me to pointillism many years ago. I love the look but I wouldn't have the nerve to try it.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 5 years ago from UK

      It's a tricky technique to master but can be very eye-catching when done well, and Seurat's work continues to fascinate us after all these years.

    • whoisbid lm profile image

      whoisbid lm 6 years ago

      first time I came across this word. A big thanks to informing!

    • profile image

      JoshK47 6 years ago

      I've always been fascinated by pointillism! I definitely don't have enough patience for it myself, though.

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 6 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      really this art form is new to me. thanks for introducing this lovely art. ~blessed~

    • Judy Filarecki profile image

      Judy Filarecki 6 years ago from SW Arizona and Northern New York

      Thanks for all the alternative ways to achieve this. I've never tried it, but the different ways you suggest, make it sound like an interesting new technique for me to try.

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 6 years ago from West Virginia

      @efriedman: I also saw where an artist created dimensional dots and then painted the dots, for a much large scale pointillism picture.

    • efriedman profile image

      efriedman 6 years ago

      I had only thought of it as the traditional approach, with a paint brush. Interesting to see the idea of using a stylus or pen.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      i think is a great art style,check this artwork i made in one of my sites:http://www.ratemydrawings.com/drawings/fantasy-art...

      i made that to combine fantasy with another art style.let me know how i fare with that painting.

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 6 years ago

      I love this art!

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      gravityx9 6 years ago

      wow, great looking effect but I think it would require much patience (something I lack). Makes me more appreciate the work others do to create art with it! THUMBS UP!

    • Amy Fricano profile image

      Amy Fricano 6 years ago from WNY

      Great stuff. I have tried it without templates. It is not nearly as easy as it looks.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 6 years ago

      Very good explanation, info, and presentation. 5 *

      I love the french pointillism decade.

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 6 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Some lovely examples of Pointillism, and great explanations of the technique. Blessed.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

      I remember that painting from school. I had no idea that the technique was doable!

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      Liz Mackay 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks for the information.

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      Mona 6 years ago from Iowa

      A beautifully done description and how to on pointillism.Nicely done.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      I have used a pen for pointillism, but never paint. Something I have wanted to try for sometime. Like your tips- Thank you!

    • emmaklarkins profile image

      emmaklarkins 6 years ago

      Beautiful work! Pointillism is one of my favorite styles, because it's not like drawing lines - if you mess up, you just make more dots! Blessed by a Squidoo Angel :)

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 6 years ago from West Virginia

      @SusansZooCrew: That it does. It helps to use bigger dots and randomness if you want to move a little faster. : )

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      SusansZooCrew 6 years ago

      I love pointillism, but boy does it take some patience........

    • CherylsArt profile image
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      Cheryl Paton 6 years ago from West Virginia

      @RhondaAlbom: You're welcome Rhonda. Glad to help out.

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 6 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks for sending me here. This is great. I featured it on facebook at Homeschool Fun for Tweens and Teens

    • Bellezza-Decor profile image

      Bellezza-Decor 6 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for explaining pointillism techniques.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      To see how far you can take this look here: http://www.iserv.net/~spif2/index.htm

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Thanks for spreading the word about this technique.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 7 years ago from Central Florida

      My sister did some artwork using this and I really liked the results.