Chart Patterns: How to Read and Interpret them Effectively

Chart patterns are key in technical analysis, helping investors decide when to buy or sell.

Specific patterns occur in a market’s price movement and form geometric shapes on charts to help chartists and technical traders identify continuation, reversal, or consolidation phases in that particular asset. Developing proficiency in recognizing and responding to these patterns’ trading signals is crucial.

This overview introduces the complexities and skills necessary for proficient chart pattern analysis.

Key takeaways

Chart patterns are used to identify recurring geometric shapes in financial markets, helping investors make strategic buying and selling decisions.

These patterns typically indicate one of two things: a continuation of the current market trend (continuation patterns) or a shift in the trend’s direction (reversal patterns).

Chart patterns can be intricate, each linked to specific elements such as high points, low points, and trend lines. They are essential in defining clear trading scenarios, including entry points, stop losses, and taking profits.

While many traders rely on chart patterns to forecast market behavior, there is ongoing debate among financial experts about their reliability and effectiveness.


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What are Chart Patterns?

Chart patterns are specific shapes seen on stock charts that help traders predict future price movements. They appear as lines formed by the prices of stocks over time.

There are three main types of chart patterns:

  • Continuation patterns suggest that the price will likely continue in the same direction.
  • Reversal patterns indicate that the price might start moving in the opposite direction.
  • Consolidation patterns suggest a period of price indecision, as buyers and sellers wrestle for control of the market.

Each chart pattern corresponds to specific price levels where buying or selling is intense, known as support and resistance levels. Additionally, trendlines help illustrate the prevailing direction of price movements. Grasping these concepts within chart patterns allows traders to identify the prevailing trend and the most strategic times to buy or sell stocks.

Examples of a Chart Pattern

In this example from the ProRealTime Web Platform, DANONE’s share price (pattern) on the chart takes the shape of a ‘cup with handle’. The first dip (in black) is the cup. The second dip, smaller in size, is the handle (in blue). After the shape, the upward trend accelerates after crossing the horizontal resistance level (in red).

Common Chart Patterns

Popular chart patterns often take the shape of letters, characters, or familiar objects. Here are some examples:

Continuation Patterns

Continuation patterns indicate that the current market trend will likely persist, whether upward (bullish) or downward (bearish). 

Chart PatternSignal
Bullish canalBullish
Bearish canalBearish
Bullish pennantBullish
Bearish pennantBearish
Ascending triangleBullish
Descending triangle Bearish
Cup with handle Bullish
Inverted cup and handle Bearish

Reversal Patterns

Reversal shapes indicate a change in trend, such as an uptrend that becomes bearish or a downtrend that becomes bullish.

Chart PatternSignal
Double topBearish
Double bottomBullish
Rounding topBearish
Rounding bottomBullish
Head and shouldersBearish
Inverse head and shouldersBullish
Diamond topBearish
Diamond bottomBullish

Consolidation Patterns

Consolidation patterns show the market taking a temporary breath or pause in its current trend. When this pattern ends, it typically leads to the start of a new upward or downward trend.

Chart patternsSignal
Descending bevelNeutral
Ascending bevelNeutral
Symmetrical triangleNeutral

These patterns are key in identifying potential bullish or bearish shifts and assist in determining optimal entry and exit points. They also play a crucial role in establishing theoretical price targets and setting critical levels for stop-loss and take-profit orders.

How to Read Chart Patterns

Chart pattern analysis is all about understanding the power relationship between buyers and sellers based on historical data (price movements).

To accomplish this, traders and chartists work off the assumption that history repeats itself and that certain sequences of bullish and bearish movements (the chart patterns) convey messages about the state of the market and its probable future behavior.

The challenge is detecting that a shape is forming as early as possible. Only then can traders bet on an associated bullish or bearish scenario.

Three ways to identify a chart pattern:

  • Scan the stock chart
    The most experienced traders can spot at a glance that a shape is forming or has formed a specific pattern. However, this can be very difficult for a beginner.
  • Manually trace support and resistance levels, as well as trendlines A line on a chart connecting price points, extended to predict future support or resistance levels, helping traders determine market direction.
    Drawing trend lines through the low points of the chart (support level) or the high points (resistance level) can help to identify charting shapes more easily.
  • Use automatic detection tools
    The best trading platforms offer market filters (screeners) that can automatically detect and trace charting patterns on price charts.

Traders seek to verify whether the price history is compatible with the scenario associated with the chart patterns more than plotting a perfect line. Chart Pattern analysis is not a geometry test but a bird’s-eye view of the market’s psychology!

How to Trade Chart Patterns

Spotting Chart Patterns gives traders a statistical edge by allowing them to anticipate future market movements more accurately. This advantage is based on historical data showing that certain patterns in price movements have consistently led to specific outcomes. 

While the trading scenario associated with the chart pattern is not certain, it is more likely to be valid than random guessing. Therefore, with suitable risk management rules, chart pattern analysis can increase the likelihood of making profitable decisions, particularly when combined with sound risk management practices.

To technical analysts and chartists, each shape and pattern provides:

  • a sense of whether you should enter a buy or sell position.
  • a price level for that entry position.
  • a theoretical price target of where to place your take-profit order.
  • a theoretical price target of where to place your stop-loss order.

Some chart shapes and patterns have several price points for entering a position and more or less aggressive price objectives. Traders can modify these (or not) according to their own strategy.

Example of a double-bottom trade

In this example, the IBEX 35 index forms a double bottom shape (in black).

The double bottom pattern testifies to the waning nature of the initial bearish push, which fails to break through the support level despite two attempts. In the end, a new upward trend emerges.

ProRealTime Web Platform Graph. This chart pattern, in the shape of a “W,” also known as a double dip, forms during a downward trend. It twice falls to the support level (in green), which is a low zone that can stop the fall in prices.

Technical analysis, suggests taking advantage of the double bottom pattern and buying after the security reaches the second support level, as indicated by the blue dotted line and the green arrow.

Then, you should place a stop-loss under the support at the red dotted line and place a take-profit order at the end of the “W” at the green dotted line.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Chart Pattern Analysis

A versatile method
This applies to any security, regardless of time scale.
A controversial method
The predictive capacity of chart patterns and the statistical benefits claimed are the subject of heated debate within the financial community.
Simple trading signals
Each shape offers a comprehensive theoretical trading plan for entry and exit positions.
Sometimes complex in practice
The reality of the markets very rarely respects the purity of geometric theory. Identifying and exploiting a chart pattern requires trading experience.


What is the most successful chart pattern?

No single chart pattern is consistently superior. Each pattern offers potential insights, but their effectiveness depends on market conditions and the trader’s interpretation.

Do chart patterns really work in trading?

Yes, chart patterns can be a valuable tool for traders. However, they are most effective when used in conjunction with other indicators.

How can I find chart patterns?

Chart patterns can be identified by visually analyzing price charts or by using technical analysis software with pattern recognition tools. Learning to recognize common patterns manually is also essential.

How many types of chart patterns are there?

There are dozens of chart patterns, but they can be broadly classified into three main types: continuation, reversal, and consolidation patterns.

Maxime Parra

Maxime holds two master’s degrees from the SKEMA Business School and FFBC: a Master of Management and a Master of International Financial Analysis. As founder and editor-in-chief of, he writes daily about financial trading.

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