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Cross the Line

When you’re drawing in pen or pencil, do you sometimes find it challenging to depict shading, depth or texture? Allow me to introduce you to your new best friend… a little technique called crosshatching!




(For those of you who are already familiar with this method, here’s a quick refresher.)




Crosshatching is a drawing technique that uses lines to create the illusion of gradation on the page. The technique itself is simple; layer intersecting lines in the area you’re looking to shade. The more layers of lines you add, the deeper the shading appears.



crosshatching technique, crosshatching step-by-step, crosshatching pattern

Example of a crosshatch pattern by Tom Richmond


This is useful for any drawing medium, but if you’re working in pen, it opens up a whole new realm of possibilities in gradation (otherwise your choices would pretty much be black or white). It adds a lot of visual interest and distinction instead of having to either color in whole sections or leave only an outline.


crosshatching technique, illustration, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Illustration by Ray Cruz from Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (1972)




Crosshatching can also add a certain liveliness to drawings. The lines eliminate flatness and create a sense of movement. Many artists—cartoonists, caricaturists, painters who sketch, illustrators, and more—use crosshatching in their work, although advances in digital art and photography have eliminated many of its original uses. As you look at crosshatching work, be sure to note where artists left white space—some leave more than others. Finding balance is key to adding dimension to your drawing without creating a chaotic mess.


crosshatching technique, crosshatching, Vincent Van Gogh sketch, sketch

Public Garden with a Corner of the Yellow House by Vincent Van Gogh (1888)


crosshatching technique, crosshatching, Albert Einstein portrait, portrait
Albert Einstein Portrait by Igor Lukyanov (2010)



It’s your turn to give it a try! For your next drawing, work in pen or pencil and use crosshatching to shade your picture. Experiment with the patterns and lengths of lines you use. How many levels of darkness can you create? What spaces do you leave white? Don’t use a ruler or take the concept too rigidly. Crosshatching adds life to a drawing and trying to make it too perfect will only kill the momentum. Stay loose and see what happens.




Let us know how it goes! What do you think of crosshatching?



Posted by: Lzahn, on May 17th, 2013 at 5:32pm.
Categories: Art, Kids, Tips

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