What is Hatching?

A Basic Art Technique to Add Tone

Sketch artist working on a drawing
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In the art world, the word 'hatching' refers to a shading technique that implies shade, tone, or texture. Hatching is done with a series of thin, parallel lines that give the appearance of shadow in varying degrees. It is often used in drawing and sketching though painters do use the technique as well.

How to Use Hatching 

Hatching is most often used in pencil sketching and pen-and-ink drawing. For these mediums, it is one of the easiest and cleanest ways to fill in the dark areas of a drawing.

By drawing a bunch of fine lines that are more or less parallel, the group is perceived as being darker than the individual lines are in reality.

Artists often apply hatching quite quickly. This makes the technique look as if it's just a series of randomly placed hatches. However, an artist skilled at hatching can make even the deepest shadows look clean. 

The quality of a hatching application depends entirely on each individual line. The lines can be long or short and they're almost always straight. Some lines can have slight curves to indicate subtle curvatures in the subject.

Hatching can be very controlled as well. While we tend to visualize hatching as 'messy' pencil slashes, in ink drawing it can be rather uniform with crisp, clean lines

The distance between hatching marks will also determine how light or dark that area of a drawing looks. The more white space you leave between the lines, the lighter the tone will be.

As you add more lines or move them closer together, the grouping as a whole appears darker.

Building on the Hatching Technique

Crosshatching adds a second layer of lines that are drawn in the opposite direction. The second layer is applied at right angles to the first and typically uses identical spacing.

Crosshatching is a great way to build the illusion of darker tones with fewer lines and it's very common in ink drawing.

Hatching and crosshatching are very similar in both drawing and painting. The word 'scumbling' is a different matter. In painting, scumbling describes a dry brush technique. When drawing, scumbling is more of an extension of hatching.

Scumbling is a bit like scribbling. It uses random hatching along with irregular erasing to create texture. There are also more curved lines used than in the hatching. It's a common exercise in art classes.