Andy Warhol’s blotted line print drawings

When I was in my early 20s I used to read many books about Andy Warhol. One is “Warhol” by David Bourdon. I picked it up again today and started reading / flipping through it again. I love Warhol’s early commercial work — he developed a technique called “blottled line” printing. so, wanting to know more about it, I searched the net and found the following links:

Blotted Line — Learn Warhol’s Commercial Illustration Technique from The Andy Warhol Museum website. they had a video too — I won’t embed it as it’s a private video, but it’s useful to see how the technique is done. I also found a class instruction sheet for blotted line drawing.

basically, you trace an image in pencil on tracing paper, then ink the underside of the tracing in multiple small sections, and then press down onto the paper to print it. Warhol left in the small ink blots as part of the charm of his drawings. when I’d first seen them I thought he’d just drawn them in ink. but, by using this printing technique, he was able to create multiple versions — and make slight changes, which he could show to the advertising agencies so there was more chances of them liking one of his drawings. keep in mind he was using this technique in the late 1940s and 1950s prior to computers. according to the book, he would work on each drawing all day and into the night, creating different versions. once the printing inks were dry, he’d colour the drawings with watercolours — the video shows ink-dropper bottles of liquid watercolour — I want to try these! I’ve only got tubes and a pan of tablet style watercolours at home to use. sometimes, he’d add gold foil to the drawings for extra effect.

there’s another tutorial on Warhol’d rubber stamping technique too, so I’ll look at this also too.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a photo of one of Warhol’s gold leaf ink drawings of a shoe, from 1956.


here’s my first attempt at blotted line printing
I didn’t have proper tracing paper so I had to improvise and use Bank Layout paper, but I found it wasn’t transparent enough so I modified the procedure and printed the reverse image. I found that the ink dried very quickly and soaked into the paper, especially at the ends of the lines so there’s *large* blots on the page and really thick lines. I used a bamboo pen and black indian ink (Winsor & Newton). as the print looked a bit rough, I thought I’d brighten it up with some brusho powder paints and water. the colours bled/ran quite a lot but I love their effects. the page always looks best when the brusho paints are still wet and glossy so the photo below is in this state. I’ll take another once it dries — the colours will be more faded unfortunately.

original sunflower image: (on a greeting card that I purchased)

the printing process and ink print:

after the printing ink dried I added some brusho colours — it looks best when still wet and glossy. I’m not sure how to keep it in this state. maybe a fixative would help lock in the glossiness? I only used green, yellow, orange and crimson (red), but the powders have a mixture of colours in them so there’s some lovely blues appearing too

trying this technique really makes you appreciate Warhol’s skill at it. I’ll try again with tracing paper and an ink pen with nib to see if I can get the lines finer, but if you look at his lines and dots they are very fine! the blots / dots are almost like drawn dots. his images in this style would be good to stitch too — I love the one shown above with the faces — it’s both fresh and quirky. with his printing, it’s often about which lines he included and which were left out too — the decisions he made were quite amazing, and gave character to the drawings. I think he worked in this way for around 10 years and was well known as New York’s leading shoe illustrator. I can see how this printing technique led to his expertise in screen printing later in his life too.

second attempt:

this time I used tracing paper, and a pen + fine nib. though even using the fine nib pen still caused large blobs on the page. I tried turning the nib over and found this was better. it made some of the small dots as seen in Warhol’s prints. obviously there’s still a long way until this is as fine and clean as his work, but I can see now how some of the thin lines and dots were made.


& I used the brusho powders in a different way to how I usually do too. this time I put some powder into a paint tray and then sprayed it with water. liquid paint — it reminds me of the St Martins. (have found a place that sells them though they mentioned ink instead of watercolour dyes, so I’m just clarifying before purchasing)


I tried some more later after purchasing higher quality (architect’s film) tracing paper and was much happier with the results.

see assignment 2 project 4 stage 2

A2: Proj3 Stage 6 Combining textures and colour effects

Assignment 2: Stage 6 Combining textures and colour effects – exercise 1

from the class notes:

“Choose a background fabric – white, black or a primary colour. Choose threads – perhaps primary colours of equal intensity. If possible find the same colour in different yarns or ribbons – matt, shiny and textured. Try working them together, mixing them and separating them. Make the knots very dense so that the background is not visible. Then work further apart so the background has its own effect on the colours. Add a third colour (different from the background or yarn), maybe a secondary colour.”

Assignment 2: Stage 6 Combining textures and colour effects – exercise 2

This time we had to use pastel colours and “[m]ix the colours so that a gradual colour movement occurs across the sample”.

I don’t really like pastel colours much, but I was happy with the final piece / sample.

the photo shows both exercises:



were you able to mix and match colours accurately?
yes, I think I was able to colour match the original colours after mixing the paints. I enjoyed the colour mixing and colour exploration exercises. it was great to see how the combinations of colours created other colours, and the variations you can create by changing the quantities of the source colours.

were you able to use colour expressively?
yes, I think so. I think my early sketchbook work was quite tentative, but the later examples after I’d completed these exercises is showing improvement.

can you now see colour rather than accepting what you think you see?
yes, I can see different tones and ranges of colours and now I try to guess how the colour was created.

did you prefer working with watercolours or gouche paints? what was the difference?
at first I hated the watercolours, but I did a couple of online courses and learned some techniques such as “wet on wet” and “wet on dry”, which may be basic techniques, but I hadn’t been aware of what to look for in each of these, so it was really useful. so now I love watercolours — being able to water down the colours and apply in layers to add depth to the colours, and even to create new colours. the guache was good too, but the paint is thicker. it does feel nice to paint with, more silky. but I am now trying to practice watercolours more.

how successful were the colour exercises in stage 5? how did they compare to the painting exercises?
I enjoyed learning the French knot stitches, as I hadn’t done those before. and it was good to see how the threads merged the colours and created blends when the colours changed gradually, and stark changes when they didn’t. the colours “popped” more when there were blocks of colour. I think it was easier to blend the colours whilst painting as you can change the graduation more. this may need more practice to be able to “draw/paint with threads” also

is there anything you would like to change or develop?
I’d like to practice more of the stitching, and see where that leads. and I’d like to (and am) practice watercolour painting more, as I feel that I’m starting to get the hang of them (with later paintings such as the “pears”, not the earlier exercises, where the paint is applied quite roughly).

hearts, suns and bees

some more theme ideas… hearts, suns or bees

I’ve started doing an online stitching class called whispering hearts with Jude Hill. it’s a really great class — I’ve read through all the posts from when the class was run live in 2011, and will listen to the audio “whisperings” and watch the videos in the next few weeks when I have a better internet connection. the theme is hearts. it’s great to see Jude go through the process of doodling ideas in a sketchbook, make some small stitched fabric samplers and then stitch the final selections into a larger piece. this is what I’ll have to do for my theme work for class (I think).

I like the hearts theme too — I’m not really into pink and girly colours and hearts but after seeing some that Jude made and some of the ideas around them I think it’s good to try something out of my comfort zone of technology-based topics.

other possible themes might be the sun, or bees — something fairly simple, recognizable, easy enough for me to draw (with my basic drawing skills), something that allows me to stitch in circles (a favourite thing to do atm), and somethings that have wider meaning. bees could be good for the problems happening in the world atm where many of the bees are dying off and it’s causing problems with food supply and the cycle of life. also, the colour themes could work out well and I can probably draw them in circles and stripes — quite striking patterns. and it would mean that it’s different to the hearts and “suns and moons” themes of Jude’s classes (so I can be inspired by her working methods but not copy the pieces). yes, bees.. this could work out.

I think if I choose something too complicated at the moment then I’ll be creating too much work for myself and likely get frozen by too many possibilities, so I think it’s best I stick to something quite simple at this stage.

A2: Proj3 Stage 5 Coloured stitches

A2: Stage 5 Coloured stitches

create stitch samples similar to using some of these suggestions for this exercise:


  • build up solid masses of one colour against the second colour
  • change the proportions of colour
  • isolate one colour against a mass of the second colour
  • alternate the colours in varying proportions
  • vary the distance between lines so that the background plays a part in making the colours appear to change.