Benday is a printing and photoengraving technique that uses fine patterns of ink dots to create areas of gray or color in images. It was invented by Benjamin Henry Day Jr., an American illustrator and printer, in 1879. Benday is often confused with halftone, but they are different processes. Halftone dots vary in size and density to produce gradations of shading or color, while Benday dots are of equal size and distribution across a specific area. Benday dots can be of different shapes, such as circles, squares, lines, or textures.
Benday was widely used in color comic books in the mid 20th century, as it was a cheap and easy way to create shading and secondary colors. To apply the dots, the artist would cut the appropriate shapes from transparent overlay sheets, which were available in a variety of dot sizes and distributions. Then, the artist would place the overlay on top of the line art or graphic design and photographically reproduce it as a line cut for letterpress printing . The result was a colorful and dynamic image that appealed to the comic book readers.
Benday can also be used deliberately as an artistic technique, to evoke the style of comic books or to create optical illusions. One of the most famous artists who used Benday dots in his paintings and sculptures was Roy Lichtenstein, who enlarged and exaggerated them to mimic the printing technique used in the comic book illustrations he copied. Lichtenstein’s works are considered part of the pop art movement, which challenged the distinction between high art and low culture. Other examples of Benday dots in art include the animated trilogy Spider-Verse (2018-2024), which uses a variety of visual styles, including illustrations with visible Benday dots.
Benday is a versatile and fun technique that can add interest and depth to your images. You can experiment with different shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns of dots to create different effects. You can also use Benday dots to contrast with other elements in your composition, such as solid colors or lines. Benday can help you achieve a retro or modern look, depending on how you use it. Whether you want to pay homage to comic books or create your own original style, Benday is a technique worth trying.
Here are some tips on how to use Benday dots in your art:
Choose a suitable image to apply Benday dots to. You can use your own drawings or photographs, or find images online or in magazines. Make sure the image has clear outlines and contrasts, as Benday dots work best with simple shapes and colors.
Decide what kind of dots you want to use. You can buy ready-made Benday overlay sheets from art supply stores or online, or you can make your own using a computer program or a perforated tool. You can also use other materials, such as stickers, stamps, or stencils, to create dot patterns.
Place the overlay sheet on top of the image and secure it with tape or pins. You can use one or more overlay sheets to create different colors and effects. For example, you can overlap cyan and yellow dots to create green, or use different sizes of dots to create texture.
Trace the outline of the image and the dots onto a new sheet of paper or canvas. You can use a pencil, a pen, a marker, or any other tool you prefer. You can also skip this step and paint directly on the overlay sheet.
Fill in the traced areas with paint, ink, crayon, or any other medium you like. You can use the same color as the dots, or a different one to create contrast. You can also leave some areas blank to create negative space.
Remove the overlay sheet and admire your Benday dot art. You can also add more details or embellishments to your image if you want.
Benday dots are a fun and easy way to add color and interest to your art. You can experiment with different combinations and variations of dots to create unique and original images. Benday dots can also help you express your personality and creativity through your art. Have fun with Benday!