Soft and Natural Hair: The Basics



In this tutorial I am going to explain some helpful settings in Clip Studio Paint that make drawing hair a lot easier. So grab your pencil or stylus and let's start drawing some smooth and natural looking hair!

Brush Settings

Before we start sketching hair, you need to know which brushes are suitable for creating a smooth and soft look. Clip Studio Paint offers a variety of brushes that have „tails“ at both the starting and the ending point of your stroke. These tails fade in color opacity and/or get thinner. With these brushes your sketches will look loose and everything but stiff.

For a smooth and natural looking stroke, try to use brushes that have „tails“ at both ends. It is a lot easier to draw dynamic lines when the brush is pressure sensitive. That way it gets thicker or thinner, depending on the amount of pressure you use.

When you have decided for a brush, make sure to turn on the [Stabilizer]. You find it in the tool properties of your selected brush. Try around a bit and see how the different settings change the behavior of your brush: the higher you set it, the more stabilized and clean your stroke becomes. The lower it is, the more messy and blurry it gets.

Vector Layers and its Benefits

I highly recommend drawing hair on a vector layer. To create a vector layer, click [Layer] -> [New Layer] -> [Vector Layer].

Vector layers have many benefits that make drawing a lot easier. First, you can always correct the lines you made by clicking on them. A mesh will appear that lets you drag and drop specific parts of your brush stroke. That way, failed lines can easily be corrected without having to draw the line all over again. Let’s be honest, no one likes drawing the same line ten times.

Second, vector layers allow us to use the vector eraser, which has some helpful functions especially for drawing hair. Sometimes when drawing lines with a high speed, there are intersections between two lines. If you drew these lines on a vector layer, the vector eraser can easily erase the unnecessary and messy parts below these intersections.

1) When drawing on a vector layer, you can easily clear intersections of lines with the vector eraser.

2) Simply select the option [Vector] in the [Eraser] tool. Check “Vector Eraser“ in the tool properties and select „erase up to intersection.“

3) Make a brush stroke with the eraser as if you wanted to draw a line. The stroke should be a little below the intersection.

4) The vector eraser will now automaticall erase the line up to the intersection.

The Shape of Hair

Start with sketching your head shape. I recommend sketching the whole skull for this helps finding out where your hair will have to go. You can also use help lines to decide where you want the headline to be. If you have decided for a position, remember that the hair will always start at this point and that it will fall down to each side of the head.

In my opinion, the most important point in sketching hair is having a smooth stroke. Try to draw each line in one single stroke. Avoid many small lines, for they give your drawing a messy and scribbly look. Hair is soft and loose, try to imitate that look with long, wavy and soft lines!

1) When drawing strands of hair, try to draw S-shaped lines. This lets the hair look smooth and natural. Hair is always a little bit curved and falls loosely down the head.

2) Try to draw your lines in one single stroke. Avoid many short strokes for this creates a messy and unnatural texture.

1) To give hair a realistic and soft look, try to draw large sections instead of many thin strands.

2) When you draw too many strands, the hair will look messy and thin. In contrary, large sections create volume.

[The human head is round, not flat or 2D. It is 3D and much like a ball. Hence, always try to draw curved lines that follow the shape of the head.]

Hair has volume. It only lays flat against the head when it is either wet or when someone has very thin and very little hair. (See 2)

Instead of drawing the hair inside the head shape, start a little bit above it. That way, three dimensional look can be achieved (see 1)

Hair is thick and not flat like paper. Instead of ending your strands with a clean cut (see 1), add smooth and rounded tips (see 2).

Hair is not only straight, but it can be curly too. By drawing S-shaped strands you can create movement and shape. When drawing curled hair, make sure to add the S-shaped lines parallel to each other. The wavier you draw these S-shapes, the curlier your strand gets.

Braided Hair - Basic Shape

Clip Studio Paint has a useful tool that makes drawing braids a lot easier. It is a jagged line tool that can be selected in [Sub-Tool (Decoration)] -> [Line Tool] -> [Jagged Line]

The jagged line tool can be used as a regular pen and adjusts to your movement. You can draw straight and wavy lines with it but also circles and ellipses, even rectangles.

1) For braids, select the jagged line tool and draw a simple straight line with it.

2) Start at the top and extend the upper line a little bit.
Next, start at the first edge below that line and draw another straight line, but this time connect it with the upper line by drawing a curve.

3) Repeat step 2 and connect all the edges on the left side with the lines above. Draw curves to let it look smooth.

4) Repeat step 2 and 3, but this time on the other side of the braid. Extend the upper line, start at the edges and connect them to the line above by drawing curves.

After that, your basic braid shape is done!

Braided Hair - Adding Details

Now that the basic braid shape is done, we need to add some details to make the braid look more realistic. If you prefer a more simple look, you can of course also leave it the way it is now.

1) Take the braid shape and reduce the opacity. Create a new layer on top.

2) Add a few lines inside the different sections. Keep the direction of the original shape, that means that all the lines you add should follow the curve of the outer line. Do not draw too many lines, only a few, to avoid letting the braid look too thin and unnatural.

3) By rounding the edges and making them curvy, you can let the braid look even more realistic. Hair usually does not have edges, so try to make as many rounded and curved lines as possible. Avoid any sharp edges.

4) Repeat step 2 and 3 and add details until the braid is finished. Try to vary the lines you add instead of repeating the pattern in each section. That way, your braid does not look too symmetrical and more organic.

By varying the thickness of the jagged line and the size of it, you can create many interesting forms and shapes for your braid. Try it out and play around with the settings, there are many forms of braids to be discovered!

Hairstyle: Simple Braid

1) Sketch your head shape and some helplines.

2) Next, roughly draw where you want the hair to be and how the hairstyle is going to look like. Use a jagged line to indicate where the braid will be.

3) Draw your hair as explained in the chapters above. Then, follow the step-by-step braid tutorial to draw the braid.

How to Draw Ponytails

1) Start with sketching your skull / head shape. You can also draw helplines that show where the hair needs to go.

2) Reduce the opacity of the head shape and create a new layer above. Roughly sketch down simple shapes that show you how the ponytail should be later on. Make sure to leave space between the skull and the upper part of the hair to create volume. Remember, hair almost never lays extremely flat against the head. However, if you want to draw wet or very thin hair, you can leave out the space. In every other case, adding volume makes the hair look a lot more natural.

3) When drawing hair that gets taken back into a ponytail, avoid drawing straight lines. The skull is round and plastic, so draw round and curved lines that embrace the shape of the head and lay around it.

4) Now create a new layer on top and reduce the opacity of the sketch layer from step 3. We will do some details now, so add some thinner lines, but try to follow the shape of the head. Vary in thickness and also how much space there is in between each line. Concerning the amount of strands, remember that less is more!

The ponytail itself should be more like one big strand. At the end of the ponytail, hair rarely separates, for it becomes bigger and heavier when it is in a ponytail. Try to draw the hair not too far apart with only a few different thin strands in this section.

5) Remember, big strands look more natural. You will not see every single hair, so only draw a few. Keep the space between them fairly large.

6) Adding baby hair or some parts with many thin strands makes the hair look textured. They usually occur where the hair grows out of the skull, so draw them on the forehead, behind the ears and in the neck.

Hairstyle: Braided Ponytail

1) Sketch your head shape as usual.

2) Roughly sketch how your hair is going to look like. Similar to the ponytail tutorial, add volume and try to stick to the shape of the head. Draw rounded and curved lines. Also, draw some jagged lines where you want the braids to be.

3) As in the ponytail tutorial, add detail to the hair. Follow the step-by-step braid tutorial and include the braids as well.

How to Shade Hair

Last but not least I am going to explain how I color and shade hair.
When I draw hair, I like to use clipped layers. That way I can work in one area without having to draw all shades on one single layer. You can clip layers in the [Layer Properties].

In the following step-by-step tutorial, all layers that contain shading and highlights will be clipped to the base layer.

1) Color your outlines in your preferred base color. Call this layer „Base Layer“ and put it below the lineart layer. From now own, every step will need a new layer that will be clipped to this base layer.

2) Create a new layer, name it „Soft Shadows“ and clip it to the base layer. Use a soft airbrush tool, select a color that is slightly darker than your base color. Then, softly shade the top and bottom area of the hair. Leave the middle section as it is.

3) Make a new layer, name it „Shadows“ and clip it. Use a pen and select a darker color than before. Color along your outlines. Vary the thickness of the lines to make it more dynamic and lively.

To proceed to the highlights, you need to know what they should look like. Use a pen and draw short and quick lines next to each other to create a batch. Vary their length to make it look more dynamic. Try to also vary their thickness.
You can either draw the batch yourself or download pre-made brushes in Clip Studio Assets. They have many beautiful hair brushes there!

4) The red circles show where the highlights will be.

5) Make a new layer and call it „Highlights“. Clip it and put it below the „Shadows“ layer. Then select a lighter color than your base color and choose a pen. As explained above, draw many short and long strokes and combine them into a batch. Vary their thickness and length.

6) Make another layer and put it between the „Highlights“ layer and the „Shadows“ layer. Clip it. Then use the same brush as in step 5 and draw the same lines to create batches. Use a dark shade, preferably the one you already used in step 3. But this time, make the lines very thin. Also draw some of them into the highlight area to loosen it up a bit.

7) Make one last layer and put it over the „Shadows“ layer. Clip it. Set its opacity to 50% and select a dark purple shade. With a soft airbrush, draw over the top and bottom area of the hair to create more depth and shadow.

That’s it! You’ve just colored smooth and shiny hair!

Thank you very much for reading!
I hope you enjoyed it!


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