Basic needlepoint stitches include the Half Cross, Continental and Basketweave stitches. These stitches appear the same on the surface of the canvas, but differ on the reverse side.
The Half Cross stitch is easy to learn and good for areas that need a few stitches of one color. The pattern forms a vertical stitch on the back side, and does not cover the canvas well.
The Continental stitch is great for working smaller areas and forms a diagonal pattern on the "wrong" side of the canvas. Stitchers use this pattern to make straight lines and outline shapes. The pattern covers the entire canvas, but tends to distort it.
The Basketweave stitch allows good coverage of the canvas, with the least distortion. It is ideal for stitching large areas. It has a requisite diagonal stitch on the surface, and vertical and horizontal stitches on the reverse side.