How to Draw Hair: Overview of the 3 Part Formula
Once the hairline’s drawn in, it’s time to jump right into the deep end… and this simple, three part method is going to stop you from sinking…
Here’s an overview of the three part process from start to finish.
Sketch in the Hair
Define the Hair
Render the Hair
It’s really that simple. The coolest part is that you can easily use this same method to draw any style, type or cut of hair that you like.
Step 1: Sketch in the Hair
We already know that for some, hair can be messy, random, erratic, and a complicated nightmare to tackle.
Luckily for you it won’t be, because by the end of this tutorial, you’ll have a neat set of tricks up your sleeve that’ll make the entire hair drawing experience a whole lot smoother.
So why is hair such a struggle to draw anyway? The problem lies in the back to front way we tend to go about it. If you didn’t know any better, you might’ve attempted to define each strand of hair first, while at the same time tried shaping it into the desired style.
If you’ve ever gone down that road you probably already know where it leads - to an unnatural looking bird’s nest of tangled wire.
I’m here to tell you that there is a much, much easier, simple and less headachey route available for us to take here.
It’s as simple as flipping that work flow around so that the overall mass of hair is drawn in first, while the smaller details are added in later on.
When it comes to drawing the hair of your comic book characters it’s easy to throw in too much detail…
It depends on your style, but you have to remember that your character IS a comic book character, which means the look you’re really going for here is a simplified representation of real hair. So to get that comic book look, we’ll need to depict the hair as ‘chunks’ of light and shadow rather than individual strands.
Let’s begin sketching in the hair.
There are three key elements to focus on here:
Shape, Flow and Movement
Before you summon your inner hair style guru, you’ll want to decide where to 'part' the hair. Usually it’ll be straight down the middle, or, on either side of the head. This ‘part’ is where the hair will be drawn out from.
Shape, Flow and Movement
Drawing out the overall SHAPE, FLOW and MOVEMENT of the hair is the first order of business.
This is where your focus MUST be to begin with so try not to concern yourself with intricate details just yet.
As you sketch in the hair, start from the top of the head then work your way around and down, sculpting it into the desired style.
Keep it light, loose and SIMPLE.
To give your character’s hair that ‘natural’ look keep your lines relaxed and avoid drawing them in completely straight or rigid.
Whether you’re referencing from life or you’ve already got a style in mind, break up the hair into giant clumps, as if you were grabbing a hand full of it and pulling it in the direction you’d like it to go.
The idea is to draw the larger areas first, then work in the smaller details later on.
By keeping it simple, mistakes are able to be easily fixed and changes effortlessly made. Think of this stage as the basic structure that everything else will be built on top of. Once the overall shape and style is sketched in, you should be left with a solid base to build upon.
Hair Styling and Appearance
The next challenge is actually coming up with a hair style to draw. There is no right or wrong here; you can go for the tamest, most boring hair style in the world or the craziest, out there hair-do imaginable.
It really comes down to the kind of character you are drawing.
A character’s hair style can give us all sorts of clues as to where, who, what and even when they’re from.
A futuristic Sci-Fi hair style will likely be in stark contrast to that of a medieval Knight. The well-trimmed cut of a high up business man will be completely different to that of homeless wanderer.
Some hair styles might even be confined to a particular gender, genre, race, era or culture.
The style you choose can also be used to describe a character’s personality.
For example, giving a male character long hair might communicate a feminine, cool, calm and collected personality. While a shorter hair style may communicate a well organised, sharp, straight to the point attitude.
If you’ve already got a fairly solid idea about the style and look you want to go for, it shouldn’t take long to initially sketch up before taking it to the next level.
Certain aspects of the environment such as weather and wind, the movements and position of your character will affect the hair’s motion.
If you want your hair to look realistic, make sure you also keep these elements in mind.
Maybe you haven’t decided on a final hair-do for your character and you’re looking for some interesting ideas to get the ‘creative ball rolling’.
Jump onto the internet and do an image search for last year’s men and women’s hair styles.
This will not only spawn all sorts of potential ideas, but it’ll also serve as an excellent source of reference material to work from. Hair references can come in especially handy if you’re working on a character from a particular time era, or culture.
In fact I have my own gigantic library of reference images sourced from books, holiday snapshots and the internet
which cover as many different cultures, races and eras as possible.
For example the hair styles of medieval Europe probably differed greatly from modern day Japan.
Working with references can also teach you a lot about how hair sits on the head, how it’s cut and layered, or how it tends to flow together naturally to form a particular shape or style.
Although the ideal situation is to never have to ‘rely’ on references they are still incredibly valuable when it comes to spawning new ideas and in studying and learning about the way it really looks.
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