How to Draw and Paint Hair in Photoshop

YouTube is a fabulous tool for all of us creative folk wanting to expand our skills in digital painting, drawing and design. Creating a desired character for whatever our purpose can be a rather tedious task when our skills don’t match our vision. However, we are fortunate to live in an age where many amazing artists like to share their skills online, allowing the less experienced to learn a thing or two. A typically challenging aspect of creating a character is often the implementation of their hair, yet thankfully there are some valuable YouTube videos out there in cyberspace that can help take your next character from bland to simply beautiful – just as you had imagined. Note that you should get a Wacom tablet (what all the pros use) if you want to paint digitally.


1. How to Draw Hair with Sycra

Great for beginners, Sycra explains why you should see the hair as part of the head-mass from the start – drawing the form of the entire head instead of just the face. He shows you why you should pay attention to the direction of the hair, how to use hard and soft lines and how to avoid drawing each individual strand of hair (which is good news as that sounds awfully monotonous)! Sycra suggests you utilize Google Images for hair reference and he shows you what brushes to use in Photoshop. This tutorial is a great way to start learning how to draw hair!



2. Concept Cookie’s Simple Hair Drawing Method

Another good (and relatively short) tutorial for beginners. Using three tones along with standard hard and soft brushes, Tim from Concept Cookie demonstrates in ‘Drawing Realistic Hair’ how he is able to paint hair with a realistic shine. The painting is built up layer-by-layer, progressing through darks, midtones and lights, all the way up to the wispy strands of the hair. He also explains why it’s important to always make your brush-strokes follow the curvature of the head in order to create a more convincing 3-dimensional form.


3. Proko’s hair drawing tips

This quick video from Proko uses traditional examples but the lessons can be equally applied to digital painting as well. The instructor, Stan, teaches fundamentals such as drawing the form of the hair and connecting shadow shapes and gives some great tips as well. He suggests that artists should digitally paint hair with the same approach one would take when sculpting hair out of clay. It is important to build the hair in layers, starting with the basic shape, and finally adding highlights and small details. Stan shows the step-by-step process of drawing hair and how to create the right texture for each value range rather than focusing on individual strands.


4. Xia Taptara’s highly detailed paintover session

Xia Taptara’s Paintover session is also a good way to learn how to render hair. To summarize: before you begin drawing hair, make sure to pick a reference photo with good lighting. Start by outlining the hair before you think about adding details. Make sure to use a round brush to start and begin drawing the big shape. Use smaller brushes to add some individual strands and show the details of the hairstyle. Use different tonalities to add dimension to the hair and use a soft brush to give an appearance of light shining on the do. The shine should generally be on the top and side of the hair where diagonal lighting would most likely be reflected at the viewer. Xia also shows you how to add texture with different brushes.


We hope you found these videos useful. While each of these artists rely on the same fundamental drawing and painting techniques, in vogue since the renaissance, they all have developed their own way of using Photoshop, forming their own styles and using their own combination of standard and custom tools. Although fundamentals are the most important, one must remember, there is never one ultimate way to paint or draw something. We hope you will take the most useful pieces of information from all these videos and adapt them into your own art, so that you can build solid fundamentals and ultimately develop your own hair style 🙂


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