Drawing Workshop: Creative Cross Hatching Techniques

Creative cross hatching

Photos and art via CakeSpy 

Cross hatching is a method of drawing in which you overlay two perpendicular sets of parallel lines to form a textural, dimensional crisscross pattern. This technique can help create intricate, interesting, and textural forms in your finished piece. But cross hatching isn’t limited to just the textbook style. Creative cross hatching techniques can work to the advantage of your drawing, breathing life and dimension into your work, whether it’s rendered in pen and ink, pencil, or mixed media.

What is cross-hatching?

Even if you’ve never heard the phrase “cross hatching,” chances are, you’ve seen this method of creating art. You first lay down “hatch” marks, which are markings all in one direction. Then, you lay a perpendicular layer of hatch marks right on top of the first layer. The two layers form a grid, which is an extremely effective way to  add density and  value to a given area.  It can be used in a straightforward way to create a texture, or it can be used to create creative contours. For more detail on hatching and cross hatching, check out this post.

Creative cross hatching

How can you creatively cross hatch? Let us count the ways.

Non-perpendicular cross hatching

Cross hatching in multiple directions

Cross hatching doesn’t have to be purely perpendicular. By playing with the angle of the lines laid on top of each other, you can create different looks for your artwork. On the row of three legs above, the center stocking features perpendicular cross hatching, with one set of lines vertical and the other aligned horizontally. On the left, the grid is mixed up a bit: a vertical row of hatching is overlaid with cross hatching at an approximately 45-degree angle. On the right, the same thing has been done but with straight horizontal hatching. This simple trick can make a big difference in the look of your cross hatching.

Fine cross hatching

Cross hatching

Using fine cross hatching with very thin, tight lines can create rich textures in your artwork. From a distance the look is soft, but up close you’ll see an intricate patchwork of texture. Use a very fine point on your pencil, or a pen with a small, delicate tip.

Flicked cross hatching

Flicked cross hatching

Instead of clean, straight lines, use flicks of the pen in one direction and then the other to create a rich texture in your cross hatching. The finished result will be somewhat fuzzy, which can be very effective in showing subjects such as the bird nest featured above, as well as a variety of textures in nature. This method can even be used to create a fuzzy texture in clothing.

Multiple directional cross hatching

Multiple directions of cross hatching

You can create a highly textured surface by adding hatches in multiple directions all on top of one another, in as many different directions as you like. The more layers you add, the darker the surface, but with a rich, thick texture.

Combined cross-hatching

Cross hatching different directions


Photo via Craftsy blog

You can make even straightforward cross hatching more creative with clever placement. On the above image, the arrangement of straightforward cross hatching in a creative pattern gives the piece a fascinating, dynamic dimensional effect. This technique can work well for creating a patchwork of textures, such as in a cityscape.

Partial cross hatching

Partial cross hatching

By hatching all of a certain area and then cross hatching only a portion, you can create shade and different tones in a n individual piece, but the constant hatching gives a continuity.  This method allows you to explore different levels of shading, which can make your work more lifelike. After all, when you look at shadows cast, rarely are the lines straight or consistent. Light and forms can cause minute variations.

Contour cross hatching

Contour cross hatching

Instead of following a straight line, you can use your cross hatching to create contours. Use it in shapes that follow shadows for a textural and effective shape, such as on garments.

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