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What is hatching? A beginner’s guide on how to hatch

One of the things I do very often right before I go to bed are quick portrait sketches. It’s a nice time to relax doing what I like but I’m practising my skills at the same time! I try to keep the sketches no longer than 30 minutes. When I do these, I like to show my guidelines in the final outcome. It shows a rough story of how it was constructed. It goes well with the sketchy outline and it gives a nice texture. I decided to write this beginner’s guide on what is hatching so you can explore this form of drawing. Who knows, maybe it will be your future art style!

What is hatching? A beginner's guide on how to hatch

What is hatching?

what is hatching

Hatching is a technique used by artists to show value and form by putting down individual strokes or lines. There are three main components that make up hatching:

  1. The spacing of the lines
  2. The quantity of the lines
  3. The thickness of the lines

Playing around with these components will give you the illusion of value: lights and darks. Hatching can also be used to indicate different kinds of textures.

Hatching techniques

This list shows you the most common forms of hatching. You can mix and match different techniques to create different textures: e.g. cross-hatching for skin, and patch hatching for fabrics. There’s more different kinds of hatching, but they’re a variation of one of these.


Remember when using each kind of hatch you can influence form and value by the three components.

hatching techniques

What is linear hatching technique?

Linear hatching is hatching in the simplest form: individual lines that follow the planes of an object in a linear way. You keep the lines straight at all times. By increasing the quantity of the lines (one of the three components), you can start to see a 3-dimensional form. Be aware when increasing the quantity, you don’t go over the lines in a different angle.

What is cross hatching technique?

what is cross hatching technique

Hatching is often referred to as crosshatching. Cross hatching is as the name suggests: crossing over hatched lines in different angles. This is what I use in my sketches. It’s similar to linear hatching, only with multiple layers in different angles.

What is contour hatching technique?

what is contour hatching technique

Contour hatching follows the curve of an object, giving it an organic look. I like to use contour hatching for floral doodles. This is also how I made the leaves in my former logo. Notice that these lines curve. Playing with the thickness (again, one of the three components!) will give it a delicate look. Of course, you can cross contour hatch as well.

What is patch hatching technique?

what is patch hatching technique

With patch hatching, you place short strokes in patches. Each patch will have a different angle. Rather than each angle following each plane, you can have several patches (each a different angle) on one plane. Use spacing to create highlights. I increased the thickness and quantity of the lines in the darker areas. Personally, this is my least favourite technique because it’s quite time-consuming.

What is scribble hatching technique?

scribble hatching technique

Scribbling is when you draw small circles that overlap each other. I used this technique as a base layer of this drawing. After scribbling I lightly smudged the circles for a smoother effect. You can still slightly see the scribbles which makes for a great skin texture.

What supplies are needed for hatching?

Hatching with fineliners

The most popular supplies are fineliners. Sakuro Micro Pens in particular are very populair to use. They come in a variety of sizes.


Fancy some colour? Coloured fineliners, like the Stabilo fineliners, can be helpful to create vibrant illustrations.

what is hatching

Hatching with ballpoint pens

A regular ballpoint pen is great for hatching. In fact, there are plenty of artists who choose ballpoint pens over fineliners. BIC pens in particular are excellent for hatching. The downside is that they sometimes leave blobs of ink on the paper, so you’ll have to wipe them regularly.

Hatching with pencils

A regular pencil is great for hatching because they’re not as soft as coloured pencils (like prismacolours). I like to use hard H+ pencils or a mechanical pencil to get sharp strokes. If I’m working digitally I often reach for a brush that mimics a real pencil. In procreate I go for the 6B pencil which you can find in the sketching tab.

pencil hatching

You could use colored pencils as well, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you use non wax pencils. Just keep in mind you have to keep the point very sharp. An alternative would be a mechanical pencil with a coloured led.

Hatching with ink

Inks are very popular as well. Get yourself a dip pen and start hatching! The benefit of a dip pen is that you can easily control the thickness of your strokes.

How to hatch in art

Now that we’ve covered which kinds of hatches there are, let’s put it into practice. For this tutorial I’m going to assume you have your sketch ready. Here’s mine:

how to hatch

How to hatch: Base layer

We’re going to start with a base layer. This is a layer that covers the entire sketch. Choose what direction you want the lines to go in. I keep them horizontal with a slight downwards tilt.


When I make the strokes, I don’t move my wrist. Instead, I move my entire arm making sure the lines will be straight.

how to hatch

Hatching first shadow pass

Next we’re going to hatch the first pass of the shadows. Choose a contrasting angle. I used diagonal strokes to keep the hatching looking dynamic. Don’t focus too much on the details of the shadows, this pass is for the overall shadows only. We’ll be narrowing down the details of the shadows with each pass, darkening the value as we increase our passes.

Second shadow pass + hair

Next we’re going to choose a different angle and start our second pass of the shadows. I did step 1 for the hair and shirt as well.


For hair, I usually do individual strands to keep that sketchy look. I usually say when I paint digital portraits, that you should’nt paint individual hairs as it will look unrealistic. But here I think it’s OK.

how to hatch

Finish our hatching

Honestly this is it. It couldn’t be simpler! If you want to go darker, choose a different angle and start hatching. You decide how may steps your drawing requires. Remember that if you want to create dark values you could also decrease the distance between each stroke. But because you are adding so many passes this will happen anyway.


Last thing I do is see if anything needs a lightening up. I go back in with my pencil eraser and use the same hatching technique with the eraser. Lastly I darken the outlines of the sketch to define the form.

how to hatch
what is hatching

I hope you found this tutorial helpful. Feel free to ask any questions :)


Happy hatching!


♡ Laura

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Vince Sarwinski

    The Faber Castell Grip Plus 1.4 which I have gotten in Paris is the best I have found. Love the 1.4 lead, never breaks. Great shape and loads of eraser. Don’t know if they are available in the USA.

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