Crosshatching with Pen and Ink

Crosshatching is a drawing technique that is used especially in pen and ink drawings. With pen and ink you’re lack of possibilities that a pencil can provide, so crosshatching is used to describe forms. With crosshatching you are shading areas with intersecting sets of parallel lines. The lines can be straight, but they can also bend which is called curved hatching.

There are other shading techniques for pen and ink like drawing staples, circles, semicircles, scribbles, etc. You can see them on the top. Then you can see variations for crosshatching technique. You can draw simple straight parallel lines in different ways. You can alter the angle or the direction of the lines. You can also change the distance between them or the thickness. You can apply a second, a third, or a fourth layer on the top of the first one.

Crosshatching with Pen and Ink
Crosshatching with Pen and Ink

What is crosshatching good for?

With crosshatching you can

  • indicating shapes
  • show structure
  • render volumes
  • describe a form with its values (darker and lighter areas)
  • create shadows
  • create texture

Principles of Crosshatching

In order to create a much more visually pleasing drawing, you want to keep consistency and harmony when you use this technique. Think about the volume of the form, and its position and orientation. Your hatching should follow that direction. Wrong direction and contour-lines can flatten the form and contradict the movement of the form.

Maintain a sense of uniformity in your strokes in terms of length, thickness, and direction. The lack of consistency is disrupting your viewer.

Try to use structurally parallel or perpendicular lines to the movement of the form. For the 2nd cross use lines that slightly off the angle.

When you use strokes that follow the orientation of the plane, you should feel the 3-dimensionality of that plane.

Avoid flat black which creates too much contrast. Allow the background to show through even on the darkest areas of your drawing.

Do not rush – speed is good only in gesture drawing. By rushing you have less control, higher chance for mistakes. Alternating between different parts of your drawing will help you slow down.

Take time to think about the purpose of your strokes before putting them on paper. This helps you be more involved in your drawing process.

Do not break the contour. Contour-lines go over the form like latitude and longitude around the Earth. If you break contour-lines, it will flatten the form.

Think about light and shadows. You can use shorter and shorter strokes, finally stipples or loose weight of the line as it goes towards the side with light.

Below, you can see some of the typical mistakes of crosshatching like curve-hatching that do not follow the plane of the object, inconsistent crosshatching in terms of angle, density, and thickness, and rushing.

Typical crosshatching mistakes
Typical crosshatching mistakes

Find examples below where crosshatching follow the contour-lines of the objects. See how proper orientation can help the viewer to read the forms better and get the feeling of 3D objects, distances and depth.

Crosshatching using contour-lines
Crosshatching using contour-lines