Draw Hair Step-by-Step

You're not alone if the idea of drawing hair gives you anxiety. It's natural to assume that drawing hair would be challenging due to all of the intricate details and varied textures found therein. However, this challenge need not be insurmountable, as there are ways to streamline the procedure and make drawing hair less daunting.

In this tutorial, we'll examine drawing hair, and I'll show you a straightforward, multi-media method based on careful observation and application.

We'll start with a straightforward procedure that is divided into four steps.

How to Draw Hair in Four Easy Steps

Although I've labeled this as a four-step process, it really only consists of three. The third and fourth procedures are performed simultaneously. Making sure the head's framework is drawn correctly is a prerequisite to actually drawing the hair. Before drawing any hair, we must first define the head structure, which will determine the hair's shape and movement.

The First Step: Outline the Hair's Outer Form

Assuming the head's framework is sound, the first step is to establish the hair's outer contour or outline. This includes creases on the forehead, the cheeks, and the shoulders where hair has fallen over the skin. The hair may rise off the head and cover a large portion of the face in some cases. Obviously, the initial contours drawn will vary from subject to subject due to the uniqueness of each individual's head of hair.

Draw the outline of the hair

Advice: Your method for drawing hair will be affected by the medium you're working in. Graphite pencils are used for this exercise. When using pastels to draw hair, for instance, some artists prefer to forego drawing the hair's contours in favor of simply filling in the shape with a solid color.

We'll use a harder and lighter, 2H pencil to sketch the contour lines lightly and loosely. Too much pressure on this harder pencil could cause indentations in the paper, so we have to be careful.

Second, sketch out some forms to represent the "clumps" of hair.

As we outline the hair's general shape with contour lines, we'll also sketch out smaller shapes to represent individual tufts of hair. The term "clump" refers to the shape formed when many individual hairs bunch together.  

Draw clumps of hair

To draw each individual hair would be illogical. It would take an enormous amount of time and the resulting hair would look very artificial. Instead, we should view hair as a structural component. In this step, we'll define the shapes, and in the next, we'll define the volumes that those shapes occupy.

Third, build up the quantity by improving the quality

The way light bends and refracts off of shapes helps us make sense of them. Light is interpreted via numerical value. As a result, value is the key to deciphering a drawing's forms. The value of a color describes how dark or light it is. The contrast between a subject's dark and light areas tells us about the light's intensity and the shape itself.

To convey the fullness of the hair, we must take into account the values and tones seen within the hair and incorporate them into our drawing. Generally, there exists an entire scale of possible values. As a result, we can expect to find a full range of tonalities within a single hair's breadth.

Drawing the form of the hair

Some things are fairly certain because of how light works.

  • Values in the background will be higher.
  • Values in protruding areas are reduced.
  • Light and dark values exist independently of hair "color."

More light is "caught" by areas of hair that are either closer to the light source or further away from the head. As expected, this causes the surrounding area to become less dark.

We also know that the value of an area should be lower if it recedes or is prevented from receiving light.

There will be a full range of tonal variation in all hair colors. Both blonds and blacks have areas of their hair that are noticeably darker, called highlights.

When we take these factors into account, we can predict that the receding hairline and facial features will be of higher value. We also know that the top of the head, being the area closest to an overhead light source, is where highlights are most likely to be located.

Starting with a harder 2H pencil, we'll establish where the darkest value will go, where the midtones will be, and where the lightest value will be. To avoid losing the strongest highlights, we'll let the white of the paper do the heavy lifting.

When we've finished with the lighter value and lighter tone areas with the harder pencil, we'll switch to the darker, softer pencil. We'll think about the texture as we work on the value range and the illusion of form.

(The value is established as the hair's texture is defined.) Therefore, this process's third and fourth steps are dealt with simultaneously. )

Like shape, texture is primarily defined by its values. Together, the subject's light and dark tonalities reveal its textural qualities. The perception of coarse texture is frequently the result of a lack of transition or gradation between values that are highly contrasted.

The perception of a smoother surface texture is often achieved through the use of smooth transitions between values achieved through even gradations.

However, tone and value relationships are only the beginning of texture's complexity. It is possible that the viewer's perception of the subject's texture will be affected by factors such as the paper's surface, the medium used, and the artist's technique of application.

Soft hair should still show signs of linear texture. To make it look like the hair is in straight lines, we'll apply the medium with strokes that follow the shape of each "clump." Cross contour lines is another name for these traces.

Drawing hair texture

We'll use a blending stump to work graphite into the tooth or texture of the paper between each application. This will help make the softer graphite applications look even more natural and cohesive.

You can use an eraser to lighten any areas of the hair that need it. These spots are easiest to erase with an eraser pencil or pen. The eraser can also be used to develop lighter hair strands.

Finally, we'll add some individual hairs that grow out from the main body of the hair. Quick, deliberate marks with a sharpened HB pencil can create the appearance of these stray hairs.

Drawing hair with pencil

Because of its complexity, drawing hair can be difficult. But if we separate them out, the procedure becomes more manageable. Drawing hair is no different from drawing anything else once you learn to see it in terms of shapes, lines, and values.   

Using Hair as an Example

Drawing is like any other subject in that it requires practice. The more we work with a topic, the more we learn about it. You can gain a lot of experience by drawing a full head of hair. However, the prospect of doing so may be frightening to some people. It might be more effective to start with a smaller section of hair. In this instance, a solitary hair will suffice.

You could begin by snapping a picture of hair, possibly your own. Focus on separating out a specific section of hair. Try to find a distinct cluster of hair that can be used to create a shape.

Lock of hair

A single lock of hair can also be preserved using the four-step method we just discussed.

  1. First, use a few floaty, loose lines to establish the shape.
  2. Separate the complex shape of the hair lock into its component parts.
  3. The shapes of light, dark, and intermediate values should be looked for first.
  4. Strokes in the right direction can help you build up texture and value.

Drawing of a strand of hair

Carving Wavy Hair Straight

The first two illustrations demonstrated how to depict wavy hair. However, not everyone naturally has curls. How, then, does one go about doing this with straight hair?

So, it's really not all that dissimilar In fact, this method can be applied to drawing hair in any style. The only caveat is that the value of straight hair is less likely to fluctuate drastically. Layering will create contrast between dark and light, rather than within individual "clumps" of hair.

Once again, let's start with the hair's exterior shape definition. Again, we can break this down into more elementary shapes that characterize the aggregates.

The starting point for investigating value-relationship patterns Squinting at your topic of study may help. It's possible that doing so would increase the contrast between the lighter and darker shapes.

Steps to drawing hair

After that, we'll use directional stroking to add texture and value variety.

Below is an example of a drawing that was developed using graphite and white charcoal. The drawing is finished on toned paper, which emphasizes the white charcoal touches. Below is an excerpt from Portrait Drawing: The Intelligent Approach.

How to draw straight hair

How about wavy or curly hair? This kind of hair seems like it ought to be different.

The end result may be different, but the reasoning behind it is the same. Still, we must consider the hair's overall form as our starting point. More individual hairs in curly hair will often wander away from the rest of the head. This is why we'll ignore the individual hairs and focus on capturing the overall shape. After the outline of the object has been drawn, the individual hairs can be added.

After the outline is complete, we can think about the source of illumination. Here, the illumination comes from the top right corner. This causes a halo to form above the right temple. There are bright spots, but there are also some areas with low brightness and high contrast. Even if the hair is a light shade, this holds true.

How the light source affects curly hair

Once we have a firm grasp of the lighting, we can move on to establishing the hair's texture and tonal value. Each grouping of hairs should be treated individually, with the direction of the strokes following the shape of the hairs. Curly hair results in a more compact collection. The direction of the strokes for each "clump" should follow the curvature of the hair since the hair is curly.

The individual hairs can be added after the bulk of the hair has been completed. This helps make things more realistic. Lost hairs are best tamed with deliberate, assured strokes. Don't put undue pressure on yourself to make it perfect; it doesn't have to be a carbon copy of the subject.

The completed portrait from The Colored Pencil Course is shown below, along with detailed views of the marks used to depict individual hairs.

How to draw curly hair

Methods That Vary

Drawing hair is an art that has no definitive method. Like many other aspects of figure drawing, the way you approach a head of hair can be drastically altered by shifting your perspective. Hair has a wide variety of textures and light reflection properties.

No matter what strategy or method you employ, keen observation is essential to your success. There are always more than one "right" answer and numerous perspectives to consider.

Here's Yet Another Detailed Illustration:


To start, sketch the hair's exterior outline. Take note of the contrast between the dark and light hair. Try drawing shapes to represent these regions. Don't get caught up in trying to capture each hair. Focus on the shapes themselves and the worth they contain.


Then, starting with the darker shapes, add value. You should gradually increase the value over time. Take care that it doesn't get too dark, too fast Don't think about your hair; instead, focus on forms, tones, and outlines.


Keep adding shadows to the forms and lines you can make out. Make sure that any directional lines you draw in the hair follow the natural direction of hair growth.


The significance of contrast Always keep a baseline price in mind. Your hair will really pop with this!


To create more contrast, play around with the values. You can make lighter areas by erasing and darker ones by adding more graphite.


It takes time to draw hair, so please be patient. Relax and let the drawing come together piece by piece.

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