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How to Draw Hair

October 1, 2009

Hair can be one of the trickiest things to draw. We know it’s made up of thousands of individual strands, and that’s what we want to draw. Unfortunately, that’s not the most efficient way to draw hair, nor is it the best. Drawing each strand will not only take you hours, it will give your subject the appearance of having very thin, coarse hair. Fortunately, there are some techniques you can use to achieve the illusion of a full, shiny head of hair! Here are some tips for drawing realistic hair, and stay tuned for the upcoming tutorial!

  1. Instead of seeing the strands of hair, train yourself to see the shape of the hair. Hair usually clumps together in “locks” and you want to draw the shapes these locks make.
  2. As with drawing the rest of the face, look for the shadows and highlights. They will indicate the shape of the head and the way the hair hangs from it.
  3. The key to creating an illusion of fullness is layers of shading.
  4. Shade the entire head of hair as if it was a solid object. This will build up the structure of the hair and give it a sense of volume.
  5. Draw the individual hairs on top of your shading to indicate that your shaded mass is made up of individual strands.
  6. When drawing the individual hairs, use a very sharp pencil. Sharpen throughout the drawing to keep a fine point.
  7. Use a wrist-flicking motion to draw the hairs. This is more convincing than a careful, slowly drawn line.
  8. If the hair is short, use short flicks; if the hair is long, use longer flicks.
  9. Draw the hair in the direction it grows so that your line is thickest where you start and tapers towards the end, just like a hair does.
  10. Remember that hair isn’t totally uniform; a few hairs going in different directions will look more convincing than having all the hairs running parallel.
  11. Blend into your highlight area with a tortillon using the same wrist-flicking motion you used to draw the hairs.
  12. Clean up your highlights with a kneaded eraser molded to have a sharp edge.
  13. You can also highlight individual hairs with the kneaded eraser.
  14. Another way to highlight individual hairs is to draw them with a very hard pencil before drawing anything else. This indents the paper, preserving its whiteness even after you’ve shaded on top of it.
  15. Don’t forget to add a few fly-away hairs. Not many people have perfectly tame hair!
  16. Use hard pencils for lighter hair and softer pencils for dark hair, but always keep them sharp.

From → Drawing

  1. Miranda, this is great information. You give the best technical advice on drawing! Wonderful and Amazing Work! Kim

  2. Delhi permalink

    i found this very helpful but i wanted to know how do you know where the midtones, highligths etc. are

    • Hi Delhi. I’m glad this article helps. Have you seen my tutorial? You can find it here. To see the shadows and highlights, it sometimes helps to squint. This would be a good topic for a future post!

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