How to shade anime hair

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Anime hair can be a challenge: shapes and colors are cool, it expresses a character personality and with a little bit of fantasy is possible to create very intricate but beautiful hairstyles. But they're hard to to represent properly. Here's a simple guide to shade the hair and make it glossy but realistic.

1. Style and Types of hair

First of all, let's consider the style and the shape of the hair you want to shade. How it is? Curly or straight? Short or long? These questions are important to define the volume and the lightness of the hair. Ask your hairdresser: you'll know that the lighter the hair is, the more it stays curly and fluffy. If the hair is long and heavy it smoothes, ect.

2. Don't forget the volume

Unless the character uses gel, or has dirty hair, always remember not to stick it to the head. Hair shold lay on the head's surface, but still have volume. Thick or thin hair, it takes up space.

Try to follow the hairline to give every lock an orientation and its space.

3. Shading

Once you decided how to draw your hair, it's time to color and shade.
Here's a step by step process:

I usually color the hair after the lineart. I set the lineart layer on "multiply", making sure to define some of the locks. Then I place under the lineart an other layer with the flat color.

After the flat color, i create a new layer, set it on "multiply" and shade with the same color used below. I usually use an airbrush, for a smooth transition.
On a new "Multiply" layer i project the cast shadows. They are shadows that the light creates hitting surfaces, like hats, jewelry, hairpins, buns and other locks.
To make a more interesting transition between the light and the flat colors, i set a layer on "Overlay" at 65% and I use the color of the hair itself, or the color of the ambient around, to give the locks a first ray of light. Try to remember where the light come from, to light up just the areas you need.

Time to make it glossy and shining!
Above the "Overlay" layer I place a new layer, set on "Add Glow". The light strike could be a little bit too strong, so try to play with colors (I never use pure white) and opacity. To make the locks more defined, I erase the center of the stroke, and blend the light. To make the light follow some hair, I use the "Finger Tip" blend, moving the light up and down the strands.

4. Practical Example

This is the final result!
I hope this tutorial will be useful to you. <3

If you use it, please tag me on your creations, I'd like to see them!

You can find me on Facebook and Instagram:
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