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The History of the Cross Hatch Drawing Technique

Cross hatching is widely used in engraving to depict shading.
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Hatching is a drawing technique which uses closely spaced parallel lines to provide the image depth, tone and shade. Cross hatching takes another step in the hatching technique by using another set of parallel lines which overlap or cross the hatching. This provides further shading to the areas of the drawing which needs to be darkest. The hatching and cross hatching techniques have been used for centuries by artists, draftsmen and even engravers and woodcutters.

Earliest Usage

Given the difficulty of recording such artistic techniques, especially those used for drawing, which were frequently painted over or used for rough sketches and other forms of more disposable work, it is possible that the technique was learned earlier for drawings. Records of portraits as early 1302 include accounts of a parallel hatching technique to provide shading.


By 1440 the parallel hatching technique had spread across the region of Florence, in present-day Italy. Many of the artists, including noted Renaissance painters and sculptors, used the cross hatching technique in sketches and early drafts for their work. Two drawings by Venetian cartographer Giovanni Leardo demonstrate the spread of the technique, as a piece from 1442 does not show hatching while one from 1448 does. By 1450 the technique had then spread to neighboring areas throughout the Italian peninsula.


After spreading across the Mediterranean regions of present-day Italy, the cross hatching drawing technique spread to other areas of Europe. The technique was also adapted to other forms of art as demonstrated by a unidentified German engraver, goldsmith and printmaker credited as "Master E.S." or "Master of 1466." E.S., the name with which the printmaker signed the work, used the hatching technique to provide shading effects to engravings and carvings. The technique has since become common for these mediums.

Leonardo da Vinci

Perhaps the most famous early practitioner of the cross hatching technique is the Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci. Like many Florentine artists, da Vinci used the technique extensively throughout his work, which can be easily noticed in his sketchbooks. While the technique was widely used throughout the region by da Vinci's period of activity, interest in and preservation of his work has led to him being the best early example of the technique in use.

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