Basics of drawing hair


Hi! I’m learning artist from Poland. In this tutorial I would like to share with you my knowledge about drawing the hair. I’m not specialist by any means, but I try to improve every day and I really hope that those tips will be useful for you.
I apologize if there are some language mistakes, I don't speak English perfectly, but I hope everything will be understandable.

Base - the head

Think about the clothes. They are just bunch of inert textiles, when not put on the mannequin. The same rule applies to the hair. It grows on the head and follows its form, so the head should be first volume we pay attention to.

The common mistake is not to take the mass of the cranium into consideration. This results in distortions that immediately tell the viewer that something in the drawing is wrong.

Let’s start with proper head drawing. I use Andrew Loomis method to construct the head: it uses sphere for the cranium and boxy shape for the jaw.

You can draw whichever way is useful to you, just remember to always have head in right proportions and have that mass of the cranium there. You can of course stylize your drawings, but it is important to know the fundamentals first.

I like to work on Vector Layers. I will cover them more later.

In my case, constructing the head is kinda geometrical, stiff process, so I like to use Figure tools at this step. With them it's easy to make perfect circle, ideal curve and so on. By clicking Operation tool and selecting, I can easily adjust the lines and correct my mistakes.

I draw face and it’s features on the new layer. The construction layer stays at the bottom, so I can always check proportions easily. For sketching I used Pencil (in this case Design Pencil).

If you want to draw head by yourself, that’s great. If you want to use 3D model, that’s cool also. The tools are for us to make use of them.

But to move forward, we really need to have the head drawn somewhat right, because even if you paint awesome shiny curls, but your base will be wrong – the drawing won’t make that impression of awesomennes.

That’s why I’m nagging about it so much. (Not that my heads are perfect, because they are not, sadly, but it’s important to try to do our best!)

Okay. Let’s move on.

Growing areas

There are specific sections where the hair grows.

If we divide face into three equal parts like this:

we can see that the top line is where the hair usually begins.

1 – from hairline to the brow ridge

2 – from brow ridge to the bottom of the nose

3 – from bottom of the nose to the bottom of the chin

The line of hair from forehead goes diagonally trough the temple to the place in front of the ear, where is a little area of hair growing. Then behind the ears is empty space lacking of hair.
Hair ends in the back of the neck.

Of course, this division may differ a bit between people. For example, person may have receding hairline or “heart” shape.


If we want hair to look as believable 3dimensional form, we should remember that hair has its own volume and subjects the same perspective and light patterns as all the other forms.

Hair grows up from the root and then falls down under gravity. They don’t cling precisely to the head. Depending on the type of the hair, it will be more or less volume, so we should draw it a little bit higher that the top of the head.

How much volume is there depends on the type of the hairstyle, hair density, thickness etc. But even hair bounded tightly in ponytails will have a little bit of mass covering the head.

Major masses

Start with big shapes and major masses, so it would be easier to design and correct the hairstyle. At this stage avoid going into too much details.

Common mistake is to draw hairs individually. It looks random, often very sloppy and doesn’t present hair as a spatial object. It just isn’t visually pleasing.

Think of hair rather as a mass that wraps around the head. Don’t draw all the individual hairs, group them into bigger strands.

Even if you're sketching and it's little bit messy, try to have condifence in your lines. Avoid wobbly contoures and boring, repetable shapes. Go with the flow. Remember that hair are affected by gravity.


Sometimes it’s hard to draw a smooth curve on graphic tablet. For that, useful feature is Stabilization. You can find it in Tool Property panel.

It kinda “slows down” the movement so it’s much easier to draw smooth and with good flow. Try it with different settings and choose what is most comfortable to you. (My value of 23 is exemplary, I change it depending on my needs)

I. - with stabilization

II. - no stabilization (well, that turned out awful)

Vector Layers

Let’s assume that we have a messy drawing and we want to make it looks cleaner. Although Stabilization for sure helps to draw nicer lines, there are also Vector Layers that are really great for making, for example, linearts.

Let's take this super messy drawing and try to clean up it a bit.

Create a new vector layer above your sketch by clicking this icon:

Put sketch layer on the lower opacity, so it will be easier to draw on the new clean layer above:

Choose favourite tool and start to draw on the vector layer. Sketch a line and now click on Operation --> Object tool.

Now click on the line that you have drawn. As you see, it is now selected and few points have appeared.

You can now easily adjust the lines by clicking and dragging single point, rotate the whole section and do other operations. To do so, go to Tool property [Object] panel and from the list I've red marked, choose an option that interests you.
You can also adjust the size of the line by changing "Brush Size" setting.
Try to play with those settings.

Another useful feature is Correct line (Y) tool.
After selecting it, you can for example choose Adjust line width option and then easily thick or narrow the line.

Draw over the line to adjust it:



Those are just some of maaany facilities that Vector Layers give us. I really recommend to look out for other tips covering this topic to take great advantages of using those type of layers.

The End

Okay! That's all for today. Let me know if this tutorial was useful to you. I tried to cover most tips I know about drawing the hair, but if something is unclear, please, don’t hesitate to comment and ask questions! Next time I'll try to cover painting hair. Thank you for reading it and good luck with your hair drawings!


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