These Basic Pen-and-Ink Techniques Will Take You From Beginner to #Boss

If you’re a pen-and-ink newbie, you may already know that hatching and crosshatching are two important (and very cool) moves. But if that’s all you know, get ready for an ink-splattered surprise: There are so many other fabulous methods for creating shape, texture, dimension and more.

Try out all the techniques below (don’t worry about making mistakes!) and decide which ones you like the most, then see what combinations work best with your personal style. You’ll be another step closer to being a pen-and-ink #boss.


This is as basic as pen-and-ink techniques get. Hatching involves making a series of straight lines on your paper. The closer together you place the marks, the darker they’ll look. Your marks can be short or long, and you’ll typically make them all about the same length.

Keep in mind: Hatching can have a flattening effect, since all the lines are straight and don’t necessarily follow the contour of your subject.


Crosshatching is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. First you make a series of straight lines in one direction, then a series of lines in an intersecting direction . As with hatching, the closer together you draw the marks, the darker they’ll appear.


How patient are you? If that’s your superpower, you’ll need it if you want to try this method. Stippling involves making lots and lots (and lots) of tiny dots on the page.

If you cluster the dots tightly together, they’ll seem darker and will give your drawing form. Plus they’ll bring an element of surface decoration to your work. The technique is definitely worth the effort, but it’s not for everyone.

Cross Contouring

Remember how hatching can flatten your picture? Cross contouring helps give your drawing form . The technique works kind of like crosshatching, but the lines follow the contour of your subject — and make it look more rounded and three-dimensional.


Go ahead and just scribble. Seriously, scribble away. It may sound silly, but scribbling can be a useful method even if you’re a pro.

The random-lines technique is great for building texture, like when you’re drawing leaves on trees. The scribble marks convey mass, and you can layer them to build depth in your drawing.

Mixing Strong and Delicate Pen Strokes

You’ll see strong lines in the drawings above, but you can get more texture and personality into your illustrations by using different pen strokes. Mixing stronger lines with smaller, delicate ones makes your image more compelling.

Experiment with a variety of pen strokes like crosshatching and pointillism to create texture, contrast and dimension — and see which pen strokes feel right for you.

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