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Colin Smith
February 13, 2017

Note: This blog post and brush set was originally created by Michelle Li

Crosshatching is a basic technique for adding depth and shadows to your illustrations by drawing layers of overlapping lines. Chances are you’ve used or seen this technique before. Crosshatching can be found in all kinds of art. Some famous examples include Leonardo Da Vinci’s collection of sketches and M.C. Escher’s artwork. We’ve compiled a set of 20 brushes as the Crosshatch Brush Set to help you replicate the crosshatching effect.

Learning the basics of crosshatch shading is easy. You simply draw lines and then draw more lines on top of those in an opposite direction to create darker shades. But it’s a bit tricky on paper because it is hard to be consistent or precise with your crosshatching, especially if you’re drawing something like a sphere. The beauty of doing this in SketchBook is that you can use multiple layers to add more subtle gradients of crosshatching. You can also, of course, make mistakes in your values that are easily undone.

What’s in This Brush Set

The first five brushes are special because they use the new texture stamp. We recommend creating one dedicated layer for each crosshatch brush you use so you can easily go back and edit the amount of crosshatching.

A demo of the first five brushes in the set. Layer these together to achieve these effects.

Anatomy of a Crosshatch in Layers

I applied these brushes to a drawing of a skull, which I sketched and inked with the default brush set Texture Essential’s Pencil Pal and Signature Ink brushes.

Brushes 1-5 layered respectively from left to right

Leave each crosshatch type on its own layer so editing is easy to manage.

Crosshatching in Art: Experts at Drafting

Crosshatching isn’t only for shading in black and white, but that is how it has almost always been used. Of course, you have the benefit of drawing digitally so you can draw in any color you want and even change that hue later in SketchBook if you decide you want to try pink or purple crosshatching. Some great historical examples of crosshatch include Albrecht Durer’s famous “praying hands” illustration he created as a study for a piece of art that was eventually destroyed (the study is all that survived, and the rest of the story is even more interesting).

You’ve probably seen this style in old books because crosshatching was a very printer friendly way to crank out black-and-white pages. Who among us hasn’t focused in on all the curious details of the American dollar, including all of those lines? (Note that crosshatching doesn’t always have to be perpendicular; contoured hatching is the same technique). For some spectacular crosshatching art that looks straight out of a Wall Street Journal front page, check out the very talented Keith Whitmer. And, of course, who would deny that M.C. Escher wore it best with his insanely creative and much-loved illustrations, in particular the impossible ladder of stairs in “Relativity.”

Installing the Brush Set

If you’re using the latest desktop version of SketchBook, simply double click on the .skbrushes file, and it will automatically install.

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Colin Smith

Colin is a Sr. Product Manager on the Automotive and Conceptual Design Team at Autodesk. During his 25-year career in the CAD industry he has worked in customer support, training, consulting and as a product manager for Alias and Fusion 360. Currently, he works on SketchBook Pro and Create VR and is based in Toronto, Canada.