A few of you have asked about specific pencil techniques so this week’s post is all about hatching and cross-hatching. If you don’t know much about either of the two then this article by Paul Heaston is pretty handy – it briefly explains the 6 basic forms of the technique. Only problem is, the pictures are all in black and white and trying to portray light and shade with coloured pencil works slightly differently.

In case you couldn’t be bothered to read the article I just linked above, hatching is basically just sketching out lots of parallel lines and layering them in a variety of ways to give your drawing texture. It’s also a really easy way of creating light and shade. I’m going to show you how I’ve taken aspects of the various hatching techniques and applied them to my Benedict Cumberbatch drawing.

Straight-Forward, Horizontal Hatching:

horizontal hatching

Horizontal hatching

  • Horizontal hatching is super easy and a really effective way of turning a 2-dimensional drawing into more of textured sketch. I’ve used this style of hatching all the way the down the lapel of the coat and the small gaps of white in between the black pencil help to give an impression of fabric.
  • To see the full effects of this, you can directly compare a small square of hatched paper, to a square of solid block colour. You will probably notice that layering the coloured pencil in block style is difficult because of the waxy residue left behind on the paper. Hatching leaves plenty of room for layering and therefore shading.
  • Also, I would highly recommend using this technique if you need to fill in a large area (such as a coat) with colour, as not only is it much quicker, but it also looks more interesting than solid colour.


Light and Shade:

  • Light and shade

    Light and shade on the face

    Now some people can do this brilliantly, but for me, I always find that hatching techniques don’t really work on the face. It’s not normally a subtle form of shading and so I usually only use it on clothing or backgrounds.

  • However hopefully this picture shows you that hatching can in fact be used on aspects of the face! So maybe I cheated slightly in choosing Benedict Cumberbatch (there is nothing subtle about those cheekbones) but I used light horizontal/diagonal lines all the way down the sides of his face and then went in the opposite direction to create the cheekbones and to highlight where the light falls on his face. His face looks a lot more striking and lifelike using this method.
  • I also experimented with curved cross-hatching on his hair because I wanted the piece to have an overall effect of instability and movement – it doesn’t look entirely stationary or in focus. I only used two different shades of brown on the hair and a touch of black but the cross-hatching makes it look like I used a lot more (in reality this only took me a few minutes to do).


Final Touches:

  • As you can see, I used a wide range of colours for the background and was able to layer them in all kinds of directions for the abstract backdrop.
  • I mentioned earlier that light and shade works slightly differently in coloured pencil and this is most obvious on the corners of the jacket. I cross-hatched with a blue pencil over some of the black to create the impression of light hitting the subject.
  • Perhaps one of the most important pieces of advice I can give you about cross-hatching, is to leave plenty of gaps for the paper to show through. If you don’t do this (and I have made this mistake before), then you are pretty much left with a solid block of colour and then what was the point of all that hatching?
    background hatching

    Background hatching


I hope this post encourages you to experiment with hatching – particularly if you’ve always avoided it before!

Natalie x

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