Tutorial Tuesday – Hair edition!

Note that as of posting, this tutorial is still a bit unfinished, as I still have to do the video parts, haha.  BUT, I’m posting the brunt of it now, and if you have any questions, I’ll answer them on the stream!

I have been asked for YEARS to do a hair tutorial, but never did because like everything else I do, it’s far more involved than most realize, and to draw hair properly requires an investment in time and understanding sometimes folks can’t commit to.  Stuff like:

  • Variations in hair types among different races, and variation in that race itself.
  • Cultural awareness of different types of hairstyles, textures, and color.
  • How gravity affects hair
  • How light affects hair, both in color and sheen (which loops back to the different textures hair can have)

But, I’ll do my best to get you started 🙂

A quick note on African/Black hair types —

I *LOVE* drawing natural Black/African hair, because you can get positively architectural with the styles, simply due to the structure of the actual strands of hair.

However, as a white woman with exceptionally straight, fine hair, I am absolutely not the expert on how black hair behaves, especially when it comes to things like braiding it for protection and etc, so I suggest reading up on it if you want to draw it properly, and give it justice.  Natural black hair is gorgeous, no matter what colonization has told us.

I highly recommend giving all that a good lookover because the info is absolutely fascinating, if also sad because of the prejudices that still surround Black hair.

And a final info dump before going to the actual “drawing” portion of the tutorial:

One of the points I stated above is about knowing that variations exist between different ethnicities.  Rather than go into it into TOO much detail, and just melt your brain, here’s a handy dandy little infographic I outright stole off google (well, Wikipedia).
The basic gist of it is that “native”, or as native as one can be nowadays, peoples have specific types of hair.  For example, if you have someone from Japan who’s ancestry goes back hundreds of years without any other sort of “mixing” from whites, blacks, or anyone in between, the chances of them having typically “Black” hair is extremely slim.  NOT impossible, because genetics will find a way, but very, very slim.

The reason why I’m taking time to discuss this is to bring awareness to folks that might otherwise not understand how sacred hair is in many, many cultures, especially in regards to native cultures.  You can REALLY piss off folks by appropriating the wrong style for a character, and I tend to agree with the anger, since the cultures being appropriated are usually minorities without proper representation.  If you’re gonna do it, be aware of what you’re doing.

Okay, drawing time!

First point:  Men and women typically have different types of hairlines, so be aware of that when you’re drawing your characters.  Women’s hairlines tend to be far softer and less aggressive than men’s.  There are exceptions, and that’s something you can play with for your character designs, but it’s a good fallback point to keep in mind.

There are also variations in the hairlines themselves, ranging from widow’s peaks, to high, rounded hairlines, to something more rectangular, and everything in between.  

With male characters, it’s also important to note the age of the character you’re drawing, and if you plan on adding details such as balding or receding hairlines.

And now for some very basic breakdowns of how to draw different types of hair.  I’m using a female figure here, since it’s most relevant.  Men in Western cultures tend to stick with short hair, which lends itself to a range of styling, but doesn’t really play too well with teaching you folks how to draw this stuff.  When men do grow their hair longer, it follows the same rules as what’s shown here.

The first thing is to be aware of the structure of the skull, or at least the parts that are important right now: the edges of the facial plane, the crown of the skull, and the hairline.

The hairline can be raised or lowered based on personal preference.  For example, Michael Turner of Witchblade fame tended to draw very low hairlines on his figures (especially with his earlier work), and for me it actually became a defining technique of his.  I tend to lean towards a more “average” height myself — a four-finger head, if you will, meaning that there’s about a four finger space between the top of the eyebrow and the start of the hairline.

The next important area for drawing hair is the crown, the highest point of the skull.  This is the spot where the skull starts sloping back down, and is usually where a part in the hair naturally ends because gravity.  Some folks have a very high crown, others, not so much.  A good example of a person with a high one is Sarah Michelle Gellar of Buffy fame.  It tends to make a face look a little smaller and more childlike, which may or may not be to your liking.

Pictured above are three examples of the hair types you see most frequently in art: Straight, Wavy, and Curly.  It’s actually a lot easier than it looks to draw hair — most of the trouble comes when you go to color/render it, but we’ll go over that in just a minute.  Cut also is a massive thing to take into consideration, but there are ample resources all around everywhere to get inspiration on that.  I also recommend looking into things like face shapes, cuts that works best on particular facial shapes, styling, all that good stuff.  For some insight into hairstyles throughout history, with a focus on Western Civilizations, this link is particularly useful: http://www.crystalinks.com/hair.history.html

Okay, tips:

  • Straight hair tends to just kinda hang, and if long enough, is directly affected by any anatomy or objects it lays over.  Long, smooth, sweeping lines are the best to use to define the shape.
  • Wavy hair is kind of the stepping stone between straight and curly, and you can have straighter areas combined with curlier areas, all on the same head of hair.  The key is that it’s never JUST straight or JUST curly, and the curls themselves are never as defined as they are with someone who has curly hair.  To draw waves, I tend to use long, sweeping “S” shapes, which will result in a style very similar to the “beachy waves” thing that’s been popular for over a decade now.
  • Finally, curly hair, the bane of many an artist that didn’t work in the 80s.  Far and away the most traditionally “feminine” of hairtypes, the key to drawing curly hair is to provide definition without it being too “busy.”  To draw it, you can use the “S” shapes like with wavy hair, but when you go to render it, you need to remember that it CURLS, hence the name, in a looping fashion.  These can big big loops, or tight, ringlet like loops, but that’s really the key for curls.  Also keep in mind that shorter hairstyles will be curlier.  Gravity can play a big part with this hair type: if someone with curly hair is lucky enough to be able to grow it out long without it breaking, they will typically have a wavier portion towards the root, with curls tightening at the ends.  To maintain the curly look all around, layers are usually cut in, and a CRAPLOAD of product is used to control the hair.

Now for rendering, which is usually the most difficult part of drawing hair for folks.  People have a tendency to do one of two things: Either render the ever loving shit out of it, which ends up making hair look INCREDIBLY greasy, or rendering it in hard chunks, which results in basically a helmet head look.  Unless those are the looks you’re going for, I’d recommend against either approach.

Here’s a very quick primer of how to approach the different hair types, with a more detailed explanation coming via video, because a lot of this is technique that’s easier shown in action than explained.

And that video I’m talking about will go right here once i get it finished up 🙂

Along with a couple stills that I’ll add in after I get the video file done, LOL.

I’m going to stop here for the moment, and get a few more things together for the video, as well as round up a couple more links to share.  In the meantime, here are some other fun things to look at:

  • Wavy hair inspo!
  • Curly hair inspo!


  • Misc inspo!


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