Introduction to Dotillism/Pointillism

Happy Sunday everyone!

Browsing around on Pinterest I came across some beautiful Mandalas created using only dots. Many of you probably seen this kind of artwork already. Let me tell you, this is so relaxing! I had to give it a try and see how I can incorporate this technique with tangling.

Dot Tangling by Ina Sonnenmoser

Within a week of dotting, I learned a lot and want to share it with you!

Basic materials:

  • Acrylic paint
  • Cardstock
  • Toothpick or anything that can create a small dot

Extended materials (should you get serious about this):

  • Embossing tools such as Nail art dotting tools, metal ball stylus (as used in ceramics and pottery)
  • Pouring Medium – eg Liquitex Pouring Medium
  • Canvas, wood (boxes, coasters, anything you want to decorate), or thick cardstock.
  • Primer – eg Gesso
  • … more acrylic paint!
  • Varnish or sealer

Nail art dotting tools Metal Ball Stylus

Liquitex Acrylic Paint


There are a few YouTube channels I can recommend:

The above videos give you a good idea how to get started.

Here are some tips I want to share with you:

Prepare your cardstock or canvas. I am using a Pitt Pastel pencil to mark guides for my Mandala. The Pastel pencil can be erased easily with a damp cotton ball.

Preparing the canvas

I create a reference sheet for the various dotting tools. This way I can easily see what tool to use for the correct size of the dots.

Dot size reference sheet

Then I get ready to mix my colors.

Mixing tray

I like to have my main colors readily available for future projects. You can also just mix as much as you need for the current project.

On my first Mandalas, the dots I made were just flat. Then I played around by adding Pouring Medium to thicken the paint. Compare the dots from the reference sheet above with the dots below. Don’t they look like M&M’s – ready to be eaten?

Puffy Dots

I begin by mixing the color with a tiny bit of white. The original purple was too dark for my taste.


Add the Pouring Medium to the mix. The amount you need depends on the thickness of your original acrylic paint. All the paints I mixed so far required at least the same amount of Pouring Medium as paint!

Adding Pouring Medium

It takes trial and error to get consistency right. The paint should slowly form an even surface after you removed your mixing tool. Take a large dotting tool and apply test dots until you have reached the correct mixture.

Mixed Paint

I like to make a whole palette of gradients of the same color and store them in these little containers.

Color Gradient

Place your first dot in the center in the darkest tint. Then add 4 smaller dots in the next hue up as shown below.

Puffy Dots

Next, fill up the space between the smaller dots. Add the next row of dots in a lighter shade – and so on and so on. Watch the videos to see a few different designs.

Mandala 3rd row

Here are some more tips:

When you need to ‘walk the dots’, test first how many dots you can make before dipping your tool back into the paint.

Walk the dots

When placing dots, focus on the guidelines. Turn your work area in such a way that you can see the distance to all surrounding points.

4th row

By changing the hue of each row you add a lot of depth to the center.

5th row

And here are 2 of my first projects – the first one had plenty of ‘flat dots’, but as I am learning, so my work improves. As always: practice makes perfect!

Mandala Artwork by Ina Sonnenmoser

This is done on a wooden plate approx. 30cm in diameter.

Artwork by Ina Sonnenmoser

This is painted on canvas. See the shiny black dots on the black background? It makes such a difference!

More will follow … I am addicted.

Have a great weekend!




24 thoughts on “Introduction to Dotillism/Pointillism

  • March 25, 2018 at 5:46 pm

    It also helps to have a turntable so that you can rotate your project. I bought a great turntable that doesn’t slide easily. The turntable comes in several sizes. I highly recommend it. Search “Aeroway Lazy Susan” on Amazon. The 12” size was under $10.

    • March 29, 2018 at 4:56 pm

      Great tip! Thanks for sharing! I’m about to try this very soon.

  • March 25, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    Pointallism is a great addition – I’m looking forward to hearing and learning more about it. The mandalas are beautiful.

  • March 25, 2018 at 7:08 pm

    I do some of this also – but I’m curious about the second set of tools with the blue rods – what are they called and/or where can I find them?

  • March 25, 2018 at 10:12 pm

    Love it and beautiful! Can’t wait to learn more. Another addiction (smile). Will you be putting this on Pinterest so I can pin this post? How to come up with pattern(s)? Thanks.

  • March 26, 2018 at 2:07 am

    Hi! I love the idea of incorporating the zentangle look with the dots! To get some more ideas, I would suggest to take a look at some Aboriginal dot paintings from Australia. We have some amazing artists!

    • March 26, 2018 at 6:38 am

      Having lived in Australia for 13 years I’ve always been fascinated by aboriginal art. Now I just need more hours in a day 😉

  • March 26, 2018 at 2:41 am

    Remarkable work! It looks like fun and I hope to be able to try it out soon. I have been taking radiation treatments and have fallen behind on so many projects. This looks like a great stress reducer! Thank you for sharing!

    • March 26, 2018 at 6:39 am

      This puts you right into the ‘zone’ or ‘flow’ – the state where you forget everything around you. Dotting should work well as a distraction. Wishing you all the Best! ZenHugs

  • April 17, 2018 at 6:43 am

    Hi! I stumbled onto this while on Pinterest looking at Mandalas! I was so happy to see you had posted one of my friend’s tutorials (Lydia May)! She’s such a sweetheart and would be so happy to help any of you with dot painting techniques if you’re interested. We also have a FB group. Thanks again!

  • May 15, 2018 at 3:07 pm

    I have been dotting now for just over 6 months and love it. I like to dot on rocks but find the rounded surfaces challenging in that the paint wants to pull down as I closer to the outside. I bought pouring medium thinking it would thicken and stabilize the paint, but now it’s even runnier. Is there a different medium I should be using?

    • May 16, 2018 at 6:40 am

      Hi Sue. Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer to this. Pouring medium makes the paint appear thicker, but it also makes it more flexible. I found, the only way to deal with that is to apply the dots on a quarter of the rock, dry the paint a little and then move on to the next section. Still, if you make really nice fat dots the paint under the surface will still move down. My advice is to make fat dots only on the flat surface and make thinner dots on the slopes.

      • May 16, 2018 at 12:48 pm

        Thank you. If I do manage to find something that works for this situation I’ll let you know.

      • June 17, 2018 at 9:00 am

        Sue, I normally paint portraits, but have recently started dotting…If you buy heavy bodied paints that should make it to where the paint does not run…It has been my experience that the mediums only extend the life of the paint, (meaning: the paint will last longer out of the bottle or tubes..), and in most cases will make the paint thinner.

        I hope that this helps you..

    • September 19, 2018 at 1:28 pm

      Pouring medium is used to thin out paints , so they pour more easily and smoothly. You would need pouring medium if you had thick body paints that you needed to thin down so the paint would drip off your tool to make your dots. The liquid paints (like the crafts ones , Martha Stewart, Americana , folk art ) sometimes need to be slightly thinned to get the consistency you want. If too thin , the dots will flatten out as they dry. You can also find thickening mediums that will do the opposite of the pouring mediums. The only ones I like are the pricier ones, Golden or Liquitex. For a great explaination to see how to make the perfect “dripped” dots, see Tess Smits YouTube channel. She talks about first deciding which technique you want to use , the stamping or the dripping.

  • October 9, 2018 at 10:35 pm

    Hi, I just curious what you used for your black shiny dots? Thanks for the great info !

    • October 12, 2018 at 9:09 am

      Hi Amanda.
      I used black acrylic paint with glossy medium. Because the background is matt, they stand out and shine 🙂

  • March 17, 2020 at 5:04 pm

    Hi Ina…
    You say you use pouring medium to “thicken” your paint but I thought it was for “thinning,” so I’m a bit confused. Is there something you else you suggest for thickening. I’m trying desperately to create those gorgeous “M&M” dots.
    Thank you so much ~


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