What Is Mark Making?

 Mark making is any mark made using any material on any surface, such as:

  • pencil on paper
  • photoshop brush mark on a screen
  • scratch in clay
  • paint on a canvas
  • carving into lino
  • adding and removing ink on an acrylic plate or a gelatin plate to create a monoprint
  • engraving lino using a drill bit

A mark can be a line, a dot, a scratch, a curve, a thumbprint and so on. Using different tools can help create different thicknesses and types of marks.

Why do I use mark making in my work?

In a recent commission I used markmaking techniques to add interest, pattern and texture to a mixed media artwork. I was restricted to one colour by the client…red!! This was the first time I worked on white canvas at 120cm x 90cm dimensions.

What are the different mark making techniques?

Here are some of the techniques I used. Note: In linocutting you reverse pencil drawing techniques


Creating pattern and texture using small dots. In printmaking if there are more dots closer together the value will appear lighter. When shading an area using this technique the highlights will have many dots that are close together  while the shadows will have fewer dots that are spaced out


Creating an image using parallel lines. The closer or thicker the lines are, the lighter the value will be. The highlights will have many lines closer together while the shadows will have fewer lines spread out. All of the lines should be facing the same direction using this technique.

Cross hatching

Creating an image using different sets of parallel lines. Similar to hatching, cross hatching uses parallel lines with another set of parallel lines at an angle to the first. The closer both sets of lines are to one another, the lighter the value. When shading an area, shadows will have few sets of parallel lines.

Contour lines

An outline of rounded areas. The closer the lines in the area the lighter the value.  When shading an area using contour lines, you will use few lines to create a darker value.


It is made up of small separate scribble marks. Scumbling and scribbling are not the same thing but can look similar. Scumbling is separate scribble marks while scribbling is made up of one line rather than multiple. When shading an the shadows will only have a few marks while the highlights will have many overlapping marks to create a lighter value.

Line patterns

These are made up of small sections of parallel lines. To create a darker value using line patterns, you can make the lines thinker or put few lines in a section . When shading an area, the section at the highlight point should have many lines while the shadows should have the lines spaced out to get a darker value

Organic textures

These can be made using sponges and cotton buds to create the idea of shrubbery and trees in the distance. Diluted waterbased ink can be applied loosely .

Mark making artists to look at:

Roy Lichtenstein

Karen Lederer

Favianna Rodriguez

Katsushika Hokusai