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