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Donchian Channels

Trading the financial markets can only be challenging with the right tools. Technical indicators like Donchian Channels can make the task easier by identifying trends, support/resistance zones, and high-probability entry/exit points. In this article, we will learn how beginner traders can utilise Donchian Channels to boost their trading skills. Read on to understand the donchian channel formula, key factors, and effective trading strategies using these channels.

Understanding donchian channels

Donchian Channels are a technical analysis indicator used to identify potential support and resistance levels and trends in an asset’s price. Richard Donchian, an expert commodity and futures trader, developed this indicator. 

What are donchian channels?

Donchian Channels are formed by plotting the highest high and lowest low prices of an asset over a specified period. Typically, 20-day, 55-day, and 100-day periods are used for constructing Donchian Channels.

The channels have three lines:

  • Upper Channel: Highest price over the specified period 
  • Lower Channel: Lowest price over the specified period
  • Middle Channel: Average of the highest high and lowest low

How are donchian channels calculated?

Donchian channels seem complex but are easy to calculate manually. Here is the donchian channel formula:

  • Upper Channel = Highest price over last X periods
  • Middle Channel = (Upper Channel + Lower Channel) / 2 
  • Lower Channel = Lowest price over last X periods

The “X” periods can be based on any timeframe, like 20 days or 30 minutes. Most traders use 20 periods as it covers a trading month.

Key factors for using donchian channels

  1. When selecting the time for Donchian Channels, shorter periods like 20 days make the bands more sensitive to recent price changes. Longer periods, like 65 weeks, smooth out the data more.
  1. Donchian Channels work best in strongly trending markets rather than range-bound markets. Combining them with indicators like RSI and MACD can improve signal accuracy. 
  1. As the price touches the upper or lower band, it indicates a potential reversal point. However, false breakouts are common where the price breaks out but quickly reverses.
  1. To manage risk, consider placing stop-loss orders at the opposite band. For example, going long when the price hits the lower band, with stop-loss at the upper band.
  1. Donchian channel backtesting strategies on historical data and analysing past performance can optimise the usage. But past performance does not guarantee future results.
  1. Adjust Donchian Channel settings across different assets based on their volatility, trends and trading behaviour. For example, settings for stocks may differ from those used for commodities.

How to use donchian channels for analysis?

Donchian channels have several practical applications for traders and investors in the Indian markets across stocks, commodities, currencies, Donchian Channel Forex, and more. They can help identify potential breakouts, reversals, trends, and support/resistance levels and can even be used for stop-loss and take-profit levels.

1. Assessing volatility

The width between the upper and lower Donchian bands gives a sense of the volatility of the asset over the specified lookback period. A wider channel shows higher volatility with larger price swings, indicating the potential for continued fluctuations. A narrow channel suggests lower volatility and more consolidation or stabilisation of prices.

If prices have been contained within a narrow Donchian channel for some time, a breakout above or below the bands may signal the start of a new trend. Traders watch for closing prices outside the bands to confirm a breakout and potential trading signal.

2. Identifying support and resistance

The upper and lower Donchian bands often act as support and resistance levels, respectively. The upper band marks potential resistance where the upside may be limited, while the lower band suggests possible support above which prices have not traded over the lookback period.

These bands, along with the midpoint, can highlight areas where bulls and bears may battle for control of price action. Bouncing off the bands or midpoints can reinforce their importance as support/resistance.

3. Spotting breakouts 

Closing prices above the upper Donchian band may signal bullish breakouts and opportunities to buy. On the other hand, closes below the lower band can indicate bearish breakdowns and potential shorting opportunities. The integrity of these signals depends on the strength of the move and follow-through.

For example, if prices close well above the 20-day upper band with heavy volume, that may signify a powerful upside breakout above resistance. The opposite would be true for a sharp breakdown below support.

4. Catching trend continuations

In established trends, Donchian channels can identify pullbacks to support/resistance as buying/shorting opportunities within the larger trend. For uptrends, temporary dips to the upper band, midpoint or lower band may offer low-risk entries. 

In downtrends, small bounces to the various bands present possible areas to fade strength and add to short positions. Closing outside bands in trending moves builds confidence in trend continuation.

5. Setting stop losses

Donchian channels lend themselves well to stop loss placement. A simple approach is placing long stops below the lower band and short stops above the upper band. This allows the protection of open positions based on recent price activity specific to each asset.

For example, going long the INR/USD currency pair at 73.50, one could place an initial stop below the 20-day lower band near 72.80 to limit downside risk to 1 rupee. Stops can be trailed higher as the trend progresses to lock in gains.

6. Taking partial profits

The Donchian bands and midpoint also provide logical areas to take partial profits on open positions. For long trades, as prices advance, the upper band and midpoint provide areas to cover portions of the position to realise incremental gains.

On short INR/USD positions from 74.50, for example, closing out parts of the position into rallies up near the midpoint and upper band around 74.00 and 73.80 makes sense. Doing so allows managing risk and rewarding patience. Any remaining position keeps risk limited, with the trade already profitable.

Pros & Cons of using donchian channels

Here are the main advantages of using Donchian Channels:

  1. Easy to understand and quick to apply
  2. Identifies support, resistance and trends effectively 
  3. Spot high-probability breakouts early
  4. Useful across timeframes and instruments

And here are some drawbacks:

  1. Too many false signals in choppy or range-bound markets
  2. Lagging indicator signals appear late 
  3. Channels keep redrawing with every new high/low

Trading strategies with donchian channels

When the price breaks out of the Donchian Channel, it signals a potential new trend. Traders often use these channels as part of various donchian channel strategies:

Breakout trading

One common donchian channel strategy is breakout trading. Here, a trader waits for the price to break above the upper Donchian Channel line for it to go long. The break signals rising momentum and potential for an upward price trend. A stop loss can be placed below the lower channel line.

For short trades, the trader waits for the price to break below the lower Channel. The target profit is determined based on historical performance or a suitable reward-to-risk ratio.

Reversal trading 

Donchian Channels can also spot potential reversals. If the price hits the upper channel line and starts pulling back, it may indicate a downturn. Traders can initiate short positions in anticipation of a reversal. The opposite applies for long trades when the price hits the lower Channel.


Donchian Channels offer technicians an effective way to analyse trends, spot reliable breakouts, and plan low-risk entries & exits. Used wisely, they can boost trading performance across various markets and timeframes. However, as with any indicator, one should deploy prudent risk management when trading signals from Donchian Channels.


What exactly are Donchian Channels?

Donchian Channels represent a particular stock’s highest high and lowest low over a specified period. They consist of an Upper, Lower, and Middle Channel that help determine trends and potential support/resistance areas. Basically, they give traders an insight into the volatility of a stock.

Over what periods are Donchian Channels generally plotted? 

The most popular time intervals used for plotting Donchian Channels are 20 days, 55 days, and 100 days. The 20-day Channels are good for short-term trends and intraday trading. The 55-day channels are suitable for swing trading objectives. And the 100-day Channels are apt for long-term positions and investing purposes.

How do I interpret a price breakout above the Upper Channel?

If the price closes above the Upper Donchian Channel, it signals that buyers have become aggressive and suggests the beginning of an upward trend. Many traders watch for such upside breakouts and look to buy on confirmations of a new uptrend.

Can I use Donchian Channels on charts other than line and bar charts?

Definitely. You can apply the Donchian Channels indicator on candlestick charts, point & figure charts, and Renko charts. Since these channels adapt to price volatility, so they can be an effective analytical tool regardless of the chart type.

What are some trading tactics using the Donchian Channels? 

Common trading tactics using Donchian Channels include – buying dips near the Lower Channel, selling rallies at Upper Channel resistance, trailing stops below the Middle Channel in uptrends and above the Middle Channel in downtrends. Traders also watch out for breakouts from these channels to catch new trends early.

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