Artists use different hatching techniques to suggest form, values, motion, and texture in their drawings.
And besides being an efficient and attractive way to render a drawing, hatching techniques are especially useful to show gradual tonal shifts on mediums that are not conducive to blending, such as pen and ink.
In this post, I explore the different styles of hatching used by the old masters, as well as some variations adopted by contemporary artists, and share some tips on how to apply them in your drawings.
What are the different types of hatching techniques?
The six types of hatching used in drawing are:
- Parallel hatching
- Cross hatching
- Contour hatching
- Hatching over a base tone
- Hatching with stripling technique
- Hatching within patterns
1. Parallel hatching
The most basic way of hatching is parallel hatching, in which a series of straight lines are drawn at a certain angle near one another. I love the simple minimalist aesthetic that parallel hatching gives to drawings, and my favorite rendition of this technique is by Leonardo Da Vinci in his sketch of the Head of a girl.
By varying the length, weight, and density of lines, artists can use parallel hatching to give their drawings a sense of form and depth. And since the hatched lines flow in the same direction, this shading technique can make the drawing easier to look at.
Compared to other hatching styles, parallel hatching is the easiest to learn for beginner artists. Although I must add that despite being easy to learn, it takes a lot of practice and skill to be able to draw convincingly using only parallel lines to show changes in the tonal values, texture, and forms of a drawing.
For most right-handed artists, the easiest way to draw parallel lines will be from left to right in an upwards direction, whereas most lefties, like Leonardo Da Vinci, have a natural angle from right to left. Practicing parallel hatching in your natural drawing angle will make it easier to master this technique quickly.
2. Cross hatching
Cross hatching involves adding another layer of parallel lines over a group of parallel lines already drawn in a different direction.
Cross hatching selected portions of a drawing alongside simpler passages of parallel lines and white space can help emphasize the shifts in texture and contrast. The contrast is maximized by cross-hatching lines at an angle of 90 degrees to the previously drawn lines, whereas the shift in values and texture is more subtle if the lines are cross-hatched at a lesser angle.
I usually reserve cross hatching for only some of the key areas of the drawing because, in my experience, filling the entire drawing with cross hatching can make it look a little busy and reduces its overall impact. But I guess how much you cross-hatch while sketching ultimately depends on your art style.
3. Contour hatching
Unlike other hatching techniques mentioned earlier, lines in the contour hatching method are not drawn at a specific angle but follow the shape of the underlying form. Depending on the object’s shape, the direction of the lines change throughout the drawing.
I find contour hatching a bit difficult to practice compared to parallel and cross hatching because it requires excellent draftsmanship and knowledge of space, form, and rhythm (
all of which I basically lack) to create an aesthetically pleasing drawing.
4. Hatching over base tones
Hatching can be a tiring way to draw a wide range of values unless you’re drawing on a toned paper.
To add some depth to sketches and speed up the drawing process, many old masters like Raphael laid the mid-tones of a drawing using an ink brush and then proceeded to hatch lines with a pen to refine the forms and values further.
If, like me, you like to draw with a pencil, you can create a base tone on any normal white sketch paper by gently shading with your pencil and blending the graphite using your finger (
my preferred way) or a blending stump ( I think I’m too lazy and unsophisticated to use that for now).
5. Hatching with stripling technique
One way to increase the value range in drawings is to suggest the midtones using dots and short flicks in between passages of hatched lines. One example of this is illustrated in the hundred-dollar bill, which shows how a mix of hatching, strippling, and some white space can improve the value range in a drawing.
I wouldn’t say I particularly like to shade a drawing with the stripping technique because it prevents me from drawing more loosely (
I’m basically not good at it) and requires too much work ( I’m too lazy).
6. Hatching within patterns
One thing I picked up from Eliza Ivanova is to hatch lines inside different shapes outlined by hard edges, which I think lends an attractive aesthetic to drawings.
I prefer hatching within organic flowy patterns as opposed to strict geometric shapes, which some artists prefer, but you should explore different hatching patterns to see what fits your drawing style.