How to Draw Hair
Learn easy techniques for drawing hair and all types of hairstyles for your male and female characters in this tutorial by illustrator Eridey!
Hair is a very important point of expression for our characters, so drawing hair exactly as we imagine it can be a real challenge. I try to break it down and think three-dimensionally and consider the volume and shape of the hair form with drawing hair.
Whether it’s to draw realistic hair or in an anime style, there are many different approaches we can take! For me, the most important rule is to understand what I am drawing, so that I don’t get lost halfway through.
1. Hair Construction and Hair Volume
First, for drawing both female hair and male hair, we must define the hairline and areas of our character’s hair. Marking a reference point or a route which divides the hair can help us. For instance, at the hair parting (1). From there, it becomes easier to see the direction that each section will take (2).
As my drawing advances, I ponder some possibilities for drawing the hair. This character will have straight hair, cut just over the shoulders. I think no bangs would be better, but I want some hair to cover one eye, and the tips of the hair to curl inwards.
I start to draw these lines. I might change my mind later on, but this stage allows me to see my hair ideas more clearly.
The head is a sphere. If we don’t take that into account, the drawing could start to flatten. This is a fairly common drawing error. Let’s have a look using a mesh to demonstrate:
Each hair comes from a specific point and grows in a different direction. Even when the hair is very long, the gravitational force eventually brings it down.
Hair locks must somehow wrap the head following the curves of its surface. Check the difference between these two images. Both circles have a layer around them, but A looks more like a flat shape, whereas B looks to be more spherical.
Hair does not glue itself to the head. Let’s keep in mind that there is always space between strands and over layers of hair, which builds up to create volume.
• The green area (1) indicates the gap between the head and the edge of the hair.
• On the back of the head (2) there are several layers of hair, but since it’s straight hair, the edges are almost unaffected, which allows a very subtle falling around the neck.
• The volume varies depending on the amount of hair on each side of the head (3).
For easy hair drawing, many artists choose to simplify the hair using basic shapes, or anything else that helps them define the volume, the angles, and to easily approach values. Then they add details to the surface.
Tip: I always recommend learning using real-world hair references. Take some photos of hair styles and identify where the locks are coming from and where they are going. You can also draw their outline.
Some drawing styles and hair styles demand more effort in the detailing stage than others, but it is always necessary to take into account the standard characteristics of hair. Let’s look at it this way:
The overall hair is a set of many clumps of hair or locks > locks are a set of strands
• Hair does not form a compacted shape, nor a consistent one. It is very light, so when the character moves, the wind, the humidity, or anything that surrounds it can affect its silhouette.
Let’s see some examples, step by step:
How to Draw Wavy Hair:
• My first step was to draw the outline of the main lock (the one which will be the base of our drawing), following the direction in a S shape. Then I filled it in to create its silhouette.
• The little strands on Step 3 follow a very similar direction, but slightly more pronounced, enough to add dynamism to the shape of the hair clump.
Finally, I added some strands which move in completely different directions than the original one, to balance the drawing composition and make it more attractive.
How to Draw Curly Hair:
• Remember when drawing hair curls that the lock curls itself around in a cylindrical shape. Try not to make this shape completely straight, otherwise the lock will end up looking like a spring!
• Then I simplify, first drawing a ribbon. See how it becomes thinner as it approaches the tip. The third step is to detail the external and internal sides (A).
• I added some texture, following the direction of the curves. I also put in some irregularities around the edges to match the surface (B).
We can use this method to create more interesting and complex hair silhouettes:
I followed all these criteria to brush up my character and then I added the necessary amount of detail while keeping it simple.
3. Adding Values:
I am going to use the value scale to define details and give a 3D effect to the hair shapes.
The below image includes hairstyles consisting of irregular layers and overlapping locks. If we only had the silhouette, we wouldn’t notice all these details, thus I need to contrast the different sections in order to highlight these shapes.
This is the step-by-step hair drawing process which will help us understand it better:
• I define the edges (1). In step 2, the mid-tones can be seen in the corner; the strokes follow a single direction to maintain the harmony of the shape, and the illuminated areas are left blank.
• In step 3, we build up the strokes to apply darker shades to darken and deepen some areas, for example, on the overlapping layers as indicated by the arrows. I continue this way until the drawing is finished.
Try to follow your intuition when drawing shadows and highlights for hair. “Lighting” is an extensive and super interesting topic, and I am afraid that what I explain here is not enough to cover it! I’d recommend researching and practicing as much as possible.
Hair Types and Textures:
Textures make unique sensations and enrich our illustrations. It may be overwhelming to think about hair textures, but instead of working exclusively with lines, we must not reject other tools that can make tasks easier as well as creating incredible effects, both in digital and traditional art spaces. It is always good to experiment to develop drawing methods that highlight the qualities of our style!
I don’t have a unique answer to which tool to use in each case, but here is a clue: imagine the feeling of each type of hair!
I’ve always thought that short, almost shaved hair feels like a carpet! And when I draw it, I like to give it a prickly, pointy, rough appearance.
For wavy hair, I think about the sea waves, curves finding one another. There is life, energy, and movement.
On the other hand, straight hair has serene, calm, simple and maybe elegant lines.
Explosive —but not too much, curly hair is voluminous, hard to control and, many times, hard to comb! Fluffy, soft, playful and gorgeous, those are some adjectives we can think about for curly hair. Textures save time and add complexity to the shapes.
These are all general approaches that we can use to make hair drawings look like hair. If you want to go further, break the rules! There is nothing wrong in ignoring gravity, or exaggerating the volume of hairstyles, or creating hair made of fire! There are so many possibilities we can play with to create new things. I hope this article on how to draw hair has been helpful for you. If you wish to see some of my works, please have a look at my social networks and my portfolio:
Thanks very much for reading!
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