Improve Your Hair Drawing Tutorial!





Hello, everyone! I know it’s already at the end of January but happy new year! I’m looking forward to share more tutorials for this year. So, to start off, today I’ll be sharing everything I know about hair, from the the main key points in drawing hair to hair movements! So, without further ado, let’s get into it!


1. Hair basics
2. Hair key points and different hair styles steps
- Straight hair
- Wavy hair
- Curly hair
- Coily hair
- Spiky hair
- Bangs
- Tied up hair
- Braided
- Buns

3. Significance of hairstyles
- hair quality
- Bangs
- Hair symmetry
- Ahoge

4. Hair movement
5. Hair colouring steps
6. Rendering hair in different styles

Hair Basics

Hair fills up the majority area of our skulls. There’s a distinct line that part hair area from the nearby area which is the hairline. There are different shapes of hairlines which is determined by its shape and height from the forehead.

*top row from left to right: straight hairline, bell-shaped, widow’s peak
*bottom row from left to right: triangular hairline, spider creak.

Hair key points and different hairstyles steps

In drawing hair, there are 3 crucial points that I’ll never miss which are the (1) focal point (2) hair flow and (3) ribbon. So, for this part, I’m going to demonstrate by drawing typical straight hair first.

The basic steps are planning and sketching, lineart and colouring and details.

Demo 1: Straight hair

Planning and sketching:
So, the plan is to draw a straight medium hair that part in the middle with short bang.
1. I mark the focal point first in the middle. This sets as a starting point of the hair flow and parting of hair.
2. Sketch hair flow lines from the focal point downward. Since this is a straight hair, I’ll proceed with straight hair line flows.
3. Then, I’ll draw strings of ribbons. These ribbons act as the hair sections. My go-to method is to draw 1-3-2, these numbers refers to the widths of the ribbons. This helps to create natural looking hair.

Once you’re satisfied with the sketch, proceed to lineart. Before that, I want to show how I draw the hair section for each ribbons. I like to add smaller strand of hair and small cracks in the section to give the illusion of more convincing hair.

1. I line the hair sections first based on the hair line flows I’ve sketched. This is personal preference, but I prefer to keep the section lines minimal to avoid it looking too jarring. Besides, the hair sections can be softly emphasised during colouring part later on too.

Front and 3/4 view:

Back view:

!!! I do like to keep the lines inside the hair to be thinner than the outline lineart. The slightly thicker outline is to create apparent boundaries between hair and other parts, otherwise it might look like they’re blended together.

That’s for straight hair. While the 3 points remain important, different hairstyles have different hair flow. So, I’ll be explaining for other hairstyles too!

Demo 2: Wavy hair

As the name stated, the hair flow will be wavy. Aside from hair strand, I also like to add subtle holes that gives illusion of hair strand part from the hair section. For the front face example, I use symmetrical ruler for faster result. I do like to alternate the wavy lines so that the hair look like they overlapping. Try not to draw similar wavy lines parallel to each other, otherwise it’d look unnatural.

Demo 3: Curly hair

I draw zig zag as the hair flow. The curls may be tight or loose, bigger or smaller curls.

1st example is a big loose curls. Overlap those curls so that the hair doesn’t overall looks sparse. For the empty space behind those curls, I just add lines imitating the curls.

For the 2nd example is for tight curls. This may be personal preference, but I do think when it comes to dense hair, I like to focus more on the outlines to prevent crowding. Instead of drawing the whole curls, I draw incomplete outlines of the curls to show the overlapping curls. For the outside, I draw more prominent smaller curls to emphasis the idea of curly hair.

Demo 4: Coily hair

It’s more fluffy, voluminous hair that form tight curls from the scalp. Again, to avoid overcrowding, instead of drawing each strands, I prefer to let the hair outline to emphasis the hairstyle. Since it’s voluminous, the hair flow is more outward. For the outline, I draw tight scribbly lines to imitate its “coiliness” of hair strands that stick out.

Demo 5: Spiky hair

Example 1: Hard spikes

Instead on the usual rectangular ribbon ending, I draw triangular endings. The hair section can be drawn as 1 spike if you wished, but I add smaller strand to make it more fluffy.

2nd example: Soft spikes

Another example is for soft spikes. This time, I draw smaller spikes that curls a bit at the end.

Demo 6: Bangs

Next up is the bangs. There are a few points that you can take into consideration while drawing.

I) square or pointy ends. This may depend on the overall hairstyle.

II) Full or side bangs. I’ve shown the full bangs, as for side bangs, it depends on how the hair part. Either parting in the middle, left or right.

III) Layered or tucked bangs. For layering, I try not to make the top layer to have more sections, otherwise they will cover the bottom layer. And I tend to draw top layer a bit shorter or at least different directions. For tucked, the subtle hair lines within the hair section are important to visualise the tucked look. I add more lines within the tucked area.

IV) No bangs? What if your character doesn’t have bangs? Draw the hairlines instead. These 3 are the common ones. The empty spaces for sparse lined hairline can be covered during colouring. Plus, it looks more soft. Zig zag for prominent hairlines and wavy for wavy, curly and coily hairstyles.

*from left to right: straight sparse lines, zig zag, wavy lines.

Demo 7: Tied up hair

Front and 3/4 view:

Back view:

Before that, I want to show how to draw the hair when it’s being pulled to 1 direction. This time no bangs, I use straight hairline. I like to draw the hair sections overlapping and more prominent hair section lines. Add little hair lines to show the direction of the hair.

Ponytails. I draw a bigger hair section, then adding more sections behind it and hair strands on top of it. For the ending,I draw slightly curl endings to make it look livelier.

Demo 8: Braids

For the hair flow, I use “Y” method to divide the braids into sections. I like to add the hair strand holes and hair strands layered on top of the braid. The slight messy makes the braids look convincing. Here’s what it looks like with loose and tight hairstyles.

Demo 9: Buns

Buns can be tight or loose. For buns hair section, I imitate a ball of noodles. While the hair sections are overlapping like any other hairstyles, this time the curves give it away. For tight bun, the curves are more as the hair is condensed into a ball while loose buns may have 1 or more loose loops.

Significance of hairstyles

Hairstyles can be an important point to create a more convincing character. They can tell different stories. So, these are the points that may affect your characters’ descriptions and personality at a glance:

I) Hair quality. For instance, fluffy hair may indicates a playful and outgoing character while the straight hair shows a balanced and mild mannered character.

II) Bangs particularly its length and coverage. Characters with bangs that cover both eyes are usually drawn as non significant characters. Sometimes, side and main characters may have 1 eye covered by bangs as a sign of mystery or secrets to hide.

III) Symmetry. Symmetry creates a sense on balance and unity. It may be opposite for unsymmetrical style. unsymmetrical hairstyles can be horizontal and vertical. For instance, spiky hair on top along with straight long hair on the bottom. It may show a character with hidden personality. While even placing of the braid can be considered unsymmetrical, it may show a sign of dependable character.

IV) Ahoge or cow lick. It’s more common in anime. Ahoge can be short, long, more than 1 or curly.

It also can be used to show emotions, in animation, ahoge would flick around to show happiness and downward if sad.

Hair movement

Now that we’re done with the basic, let’s dive a bit deeper on hair movement which is affected by gravity and wind. Here’s a clip of various hair movement practice I did. While it’s running, I’d like to point out a few key points to remember.

If there’s no wind involved, the gravity is the focus. Let’s say a character’s head is tilted, the hair will be perpendicular to the ground. Another example is when hair is pushed upward, while the weight of hair is supported by the hands, it creates the bending of hair. Remember that hair is flexible and very light.

What if wind comes into play? Then wind will be the focus. Of course it’s based on the direction of the wind. If it hits face front, then hair around the hairline will be affected the most. The hair behind the skull, the tip of the hair will be impacted while the hair that nearer to the back of the skull will be affected less because the air flow is blocked by our face. For the hair flow, I draw the top and bottom hair flows to collide around their tip area. The stronger the wind, the more closer the hair sections collision will be.

Let’s say a character is laying down, the hair will spread and disperse. If a character is spinning, the hair will follow the path of of character’s movement, but with slight delay.

Simple colouring steps

For the colour palette, I prefer to choose in the tone as the base colour, playing around with the hue, value and intensity for highlight and shadow.

1. Base colour- I use auto select tool to select area outside the hair and invert the selection. This helps to fill in the area along the lineart so there wouldn’t be any empty patches. Fill in the colour using bucket tool.
!!! Make sure that your lineart is completely connected otherwise the colour will bleed into other area. If your styles is more of patchy lineart, fill in the lineart patch using the same base colour.

2. Gradient- I use soft air brush for smooth transition. I like to add lighter tint from neighbouring hue around the focal point and face, the darker shade and the end of the hair.

3. Shadow. For shadow, I use wasablur brush to cover the bigger part that may not be hit by light and mapping pen for smaller creases in between hair sections. I like to subtly erase the inside part of the shadow. It’s more of a stylised option.

4. Highlight. I use wasablur brush with smaller size to draw a line of highlight where the light may hit first. To make it look smoother, I use invisible “ink” while keeping the wasablur brush to erase the outline of the highlight. I add new layer on top with add(glow) blending mode to enhance the lighting part.

5. Details. To finish it off, I draw thin hair strand sticking out of the hair for finishing details. I also change the hair lineart colour to fit more with the red-ish hair colour to blend them well.

Rendering hair in different styles

I like trying out different art styles be it for work or hobbies, so before ending this tutorial, I want to share some insights of drawing hair in different art styles based on what I’ve learnt. While the important steps usually remain the same, there are 3 things that make art styles differ from one another

The line quality. Typical shoujo manga for instance commonly has thin lines with lots of details while some comics use thicker lines but toned down details. I’ll share the brushes I used below.

Next is the shape. Some styles tend to exaggerate the edges of their lines while others go with rounder edges, these 2 give opposite impact, perhaps influence the tone of the story or the characters.

Last but not least is shading, previously I demonstrated a mixture of cell shade and soft shade. For full soft shade, the choice of brushes is important. I’d suggest to go with watercolour, air brush types to achieve the look.


That’s it for todays tutorial! I hope these basics can help you improve your hair drawing. Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll see you in the next video. Bye!



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