Hatching mechanics – fluidity and pressure
In past videos/articles, we looked at the different types of hatching and their roles, and some exercises to get better at hatching. In this video, we are going to look at how the movements of your fingers, hand and arm create hatching of different sizes and characteristics. The video has demonstrations, but if you prefer we’ve also written out the content with screenshots below.
We’re also going to look at the different ways the material comes into contact with the paper and how that changes the hatching. This video is based on our own experiences which we noticed even while making our previous hatching videos.
What our demonstration attempts taught us
One thing became clear when trying to do a demonstration with a mechanical pencil. The need to keep clicking the pencil slightly disrupted the rhythm of the hatching, and this was enough to throw the hatching into disarray – the lines were not uniformly spaced or aligned.
We also noticed that doing U shaped hatching where the curve was coming in towards the hand doesn’t work well with the mechanics of the arm. Going against the natural motion of the arm or hand made things very messy. So we want unrushed and uninterrupted movements that work with the natural motion of the arm, wrist and fingers.
The natural motion of the arm, wrist and fingers
There are a few ways to move the pencil or whichever material across the page. With your fingers, wrist, elbow, shoulder or a combination.
You can hatch using each one or any combo, and they are all useful. But there’s a few ways of moving each joint that lend themselves to nice hatching, and others that make hatching hard. Which one you use depends on how much area you want to cover and the style of hatching you want to achieve.
We need to describe the area to be hatched and there’s two important lengths for that – the length of the lines themselves, and the width of the area the lines grouped together creates. So, for this video, I’ll call this the line length and this the area width (these aren’t formal terms, I’m just using them for this article).
We usually write with just our fingers, and so people often start drawing with their fingers too. It’s common for people starting out to draw a lot of the little lines that just fingers can handle, because we feel more control that way. You can do hatching with your fingers, there’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s only going to be rhythmic and fluid if you keep it within the natural range of motion of your fingers, which is pretty small.
It’s easier to hatch with a sweeping up and down motion than with a pushing or pulling motion. So if you want to hatch this way with your fingers, it’s often useful to move your hand around so that you can approach it from an angle where your fingers can use that sweeping up and down motion.
The area width is also limited, because you usually anchor your hand down to the paper to do this, and if you want to keep adding lines beyond the natural range of your fingers, you’d need to stop, shift your hand down and start again – interrupting your flow.
Another great hatching motion is a flick of your wrist, which follows that natural up and down movement of your hand around the wrist joint. It creates a gentle arc. The line length and curvature of that arc also depends on how far down the pencil your grip is. If you have a lot of pencil sticking out, it’s going to help make for a bigger arc with less curvature. But you also may feel like you have less control and can’t apply as much pressure.
Depending on your drawing size, hatching from your wrist may be all you need. You can also play around with using your wrist and fingers in combination and see if you feel more control that way.
Some people like to feel their hand or wrist stably anchored to the paper, rather than just floating on top of it. It might help to give a solid pivot point to keep the lines consistent. If it is locked, then you have a smaller area width that you can put lines down in. If you can keep your hand floating above the paper, then you can make the area width as large as you like, because you can move your hand as it hatches all over the place. Is it a huge problem if you can’t do this? Not really!
You rotate with your shoulder using the elbow as a pivot point. Again this follows an arc, but it’s pretty big, so the resulting lines will be pretty straight and can be really long. You can move your arm around while hatching with your shoulder to create big area widths.
As you work on developing your hatching skills with each join, you’ll get more and more confident you’ll be able to start using your whole arm, all the joints in combination, to hatch areas of all sizes.
What the pencil is doing on the paper
I’ll say pencil, but I mean whatever material you’re using.
The line is made by the contact of pencil on paper, and generally depends on the pressure applied. With hatching, there’s a few ways to make and keep contact with the paper that will change the nature of the lines.
1. Start at a point and flick.
The pressure starts strong and tapers off. You can keep the pressure up into the line for as long as you need to. You can use this technique when you are hatching an area where you want the tone to be darker on one side than the other.
2. Start at a point, move evenly, lift.
This achieves an uniform line from start to finish. Be careful as you place down and lift though, extra little flicks or bits of pressure can affect the ends of the lines. You can use this technique you want the hatching to create an even tone across the whole area.
3. Swoop in on the page, and swoop off the page.
This achieves lines that start and end gently, and are strongest in the middle. You can use this technique when you are trying to create tone that is darkest in the centre.
So, to develop clean and beautiful hatching skills, work on using the above variations in different parts of your drawing. If using your wrist or whole arm doesn’t come naturally, don’t give up. You will get it with some consistent practice. Thank you for reading – don’t forget we have a great newsletter where you can get useful tips and great drawings in your inbox every few weeks. Sign up below!