Portrait with hatching

The How and Why of Hatching

Discover the powerful technique of hatching for adding depth and dimension to your images through controlled lines. Perfect for manipulating value and color, the thickness and spacing of your strokes allow for complete artistic command. With hatching, you can add softness to edges, create realistic volume, blend colors seamlessly, and elevate your images to the next level.


Building lines parallel to one another is called “hatching.” By controlling how light and heavy, or thin and thick these lines are, artists can control values. Thin lines and wider spacing between the lines create lighter values. Heavy lines with tighter spacing create darker values.

Tip: Practice going slowly at first. Creating evenly-spaced, consistent marks takes practice and patience. Starting slowly helps to lock in a healthy technique that will speed up over time.


Additional layers of hatching can be applied on top of one another. Layers of hatching that cross over each other at distinct angles is called cross-hatching. In general, this creates the appearance of smoother values when viewed at a distance.

Tip: When cross-hatching, aim for at least a 30 degree difference in angle between each layer.

Adding Dimension

When hatching, consider the direction of your marks. Aligning hatch marks with the planes and cross-contour of your form can enhance the illusion of volume in your work.

Tip: Enhance the form of your objects by changing the value or direction of your marks with each plane change. If there is too much variation between the direction of your hatching, and there is no logic in how the hatching defines the form, the forms can appear disjointed and confusing to the viewer.

Washes & Atmosphere

Hatching can be applied over large areas of your work and span multiple forms to soften transitions between forms or suggest shadows and atmosphere.

Tip: Pay attention to the start and end of each mark. Practice feathering washes by having each mark land gently on the page and lift off smoothly. In some cases, hard starts and stops can become distracting.

Blending & Softening

Controlling the length and weight of lines, hatching can be used to blend values and soften edges. Gradations of value can be created by gradually increasing or decreasing the pressure and thickness of lines.

Tip: To create smooth gradations, practice moving back and forth, targeting light areas with greater pressure during each pass.

Working with Color

Principles of hatching can be applied to most media, with results varying between them based on how lines can be controlled. Creating multiple layers of varying colors can be used to blend and mix colors through the use of optical mixing

Tip: Use analogous colors to create subtle shifts in temperature with your colors. Use highly-saturated, complementary colors to create color vibration, but make sure each color is clearly visible and not overly mixed.


With practice, you’ll gain greater control over your hatching technique. Go slowly at first, paying attention to the weight, spacing, and consistency of your marks. Some artists prefer to build multiple, light layers of fine cross-hatching, while others prefer a precisely-controlled single layer of hatching. You may also mix hatching with other techniques, like smudging, blending, erasing, and more. If you’re looking for a place to practice your drawing skills and incorporate some hatching, follow along with this demo: Drawing a Woman’s Portrait in Charcoal

Additional Learning Opportunities