Cross Hatching
A Deeper Look into a Basic Pencil Shading Technique

Hatching is one of the basic drawing techniques that utilize pencil shading to create fine parallel lines that are closely drawn together. It is used to depict shade, tone, volume, shape, and texture. Cross hatching, on the other hand, is an advanced form of hatching which employs two hatching layers that are drawn at a right angle relative to each other, producing a pattern that is mesh-like. This technique also utilizes multiple layers to create different degrees of texture.

This shading technique is employed to create a tonal effect in an illustration or drawing. By using additional layers or varying the spaces between the lines, various tones can be shown. One must learn how to draw with the use of cross hatching as part of their arsenal of basic drawing techniques.

Cross Hatching and Hard/Soft Edges

This technique usually produces harder edges in the tone and texture of a drawing compared to tonal modeling and other smudging techniques. However, with practice and proficiency, cross-hatching can also produce soft lines that flow smoothly. Both hard and soft edges have their uses depending on the particular style of the artist and the mood that one wishes to depict in his illustration. Different techniques produce different qualities, and everything has its own place in the wide range of drawing techniques.

Cross-hatching is particularly important in pencil drawing because the nature of the medium, which is limited to black and white, which makes it quite difficult to create a tonal effect if this shading technique is not employed. This is also true with pen and ink media.

Take a look at the pen drawings below. Both are taken from portraits done by Serafin Ureno, on of our past featured artists. I've zoomed in both of these drawings to focus your attention on the cross hatching. The left picture is the top of Emma Stone's head, and the right picture is the clothes on the Chucky doll from the Child's Play movies (regardless, notice how Ureno creates different tones by varying the pressure of his lines and widening/tightening the cross hatching strokes.

cross hatching
cross hatching

Examples taken from art by Serafin Ureno.

Different Ways to Cross Hatch

There are different kinds of cross hatched lines. Some lines are strictly parallel and at a right-angle orientation; organic lines can produce a softer look and feel; wild and fast lines can convey a frantic and energetic image; contour lines which follow an object's surface area provide volume and depth; and finally, a Moiré pattern has planes which do not shift in direction too much, creating a jarring effect.

There is no right or wrong way to cross hatch, for everything depends on the style of the artist. However, it is important to point out that whatever style one prefers, he must be consistent in that particular style, because this produces a competent look in one's art portfolio.

Creating Different Textures

To make textures even smoother, the use of blending stumps and tortillons can be employed. These tools are cylindrical devices (usually rolled paper) that have a tapered end. Artists use them to smudge pencil or ink marks and blend them together. As stated before, if an artist becomes proficient enough, they can create smooth texture without the use of a blending stump.

Tortillons can produce a different texture compared to those produced by blending stumps, and using one or the other depends on an artist's preference. Different tortillons and stumps are also usually on hand depending on the area to be smudged and its color. This is due to the fact that colors, inks and graphite usually adhere to the surface of the tortillon or stumps, affecting the color of the surface of the paper where it is being used. Tortillons thus have to be used carefully and cleaned periodically.

Let me know what you think of cross hatching in the comments below!

About The Sketchbook Artist, Jesse Seal

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