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What Are the Different Types of Stippling Techniques?

By Kaiser Castro
Updated May 23, 2024
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In general, there are four main techniques used in stippling: dotting, dashing, tracing, and hatching. All can be used in the same piece, or they can be employed independently to create more contrast and effect. Most artists use one or more in each work, often as a means of highlighting different features or drawing the eye to various regions. The term “stippling” is most commonly used to describe a method of drawing or artistic painting that uses small dots arranged in various patterns in order to create discernable images, but it is also employed in quilting, interior decorating, and even photography. In these more disparate settings there are a range of other techniques, usually specific to the medium at hand and the desired results.

The Art of Stippling Generally

Stippling is a common technique used by artists in line drawings to create shading, textures, and shadows. Dotting, dashing, and tracing are among the most common basic stippling techniques. Hatching and cross-hatching techniques can also be used, but are normally intended to create depth rather then to distinguish shapes and images more generally. Stipplers normally limit themselves to just one color, and most of the art produced is made with a black pastel, pen, or crayon. The starkness of the color combined with the delicacy of the dots and patterning can create very striking images.

When used correctly, this form of shading creates the illusion of that the shading or texture is solid. Only when examined up close will the viewer see the dots and streaks that make up the stippling. Depending on the type of finish needed, an artist will usually use different stippling techniques for different results, and most courses and training programs help artists learn all of them together.


Dotting is perhaps the most basic stippling technique, and is often the core of the art form. Artists apply different amounts of pressure on a pen or paint brush to create dots of varying sizes and thicknesses, and when these are placed very close together they can give the illusion of continuity. Stronger pressure will increase the surface area on the tip of the pen, resulting in larger sized dots. An artist that uses this technique will typically have areas on the painting that are darker, which are usually made up of closely spaced dots. Lighter areas usually have fewer dots, creating a gradient effect.


Dashing is a modification of the dotting technique. By quickly flicking his or her wrist, an artist will be able to create small dashes. These types of stipples are usually not used on paintings that require fine detailing, but it are an option for heavier, textured lines. Small linear shapes can also represent movement in the painting. This technique is commonly used on glass, rocks, and other natural surfaces.


Tracing is an advanced technique that is used to create unique textures on paper. This is done by placing textured tinsel behind the paper; the paper is then lifted gently in different ways or tilted in different directions. By lightly brushing the brush, crayon, or pastel over this lifted surface, an artist can create unique textures and patterns. Applying light pressure will create more subtle designs, while aggressive rubbing can create more noticeable patterns.


Hatching and cross-hatching are techniques that can be used separately, but they are usually combined by most artists. The hatching technique is where small lines are drawn in a specific direction, creating a shading effect. Cross-hatching is where lines are drawn in the opposite direction, creating depth. These stippling techniques can be used in large or small areas of the canvas, and are commonly used to create shadows and add the illusion of depth.

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