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Drawing tutorial: How to draw hair in pencil - the basics

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Free Drawing Lessons and Advice: How to draw hair in pencil

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I hear from artists all the time that they hate drawing hair. I love drawing hair and fur, and making it look realistic.

I thought I'd share how I draw realistic human hair or animal fur in pencil. In this article, I'll assume that you already have the basic form of the head and face in place, and just focus on drawing hair.

Every artist has his or her own way of doing things. Just because you don't follow what someone says to the letter doesn't mean that you are doing anything "wrong" at all. You might get something from me, and something else you can use from other artists

Just take what you can use and know that everything you create is special in its own way and is unique like you.
I taught myself many drawing techniques just by experimenting. You can usually do this same technique for human hair or pet fur.
Start by using a heavy enough paper. Regular typing or computer paper or the student grade drawing paper isn't very good for this - you want a Bristol paper, at least 2 ply, so it can hold up with the erasing technique that I will explain in a moment.

Looking at the photo or the person - look for the darkest areas of the hair. Try not to obsess over the fact that it's hair, if that intimidates you. Try to ignore that it's hair, and just work on focusing your eyes on what is dark and what parts are light.
I like to draw in the darkest areas first, then use the side of the pencil to fill in the rest of it. You might notice that this is the opposite technique of what you would learn in a painting class, where it's usually advised to work light to dark.)

If you have trouble seeing the dark and light areas, then try turning your reference photo sideways or upside down. Look for shapes in the hair that are dark. Just copy those shapes. If you are drawing from a live model, you would still look for basic shapes in the hair, you just can't turn your subject upside down! Take my advice, don't try that, it makes the model cranky.

On top of that, draw in the lines - not too heavily though. Use flowing movements, following the lines of the hair in the reference photo (or the live sitting, whichever the case). Don't feel pressure to match every line exactly, you just want to get the feel and direction of the hairs going at this point. Resist the urge to 'save time' by just filling in in whatever direction you feel...when you fill in, the direction of your lines must go in the same direction of the hair shafts, not diagonally or horizontally. This seems silly to say...you'd think it would be common sense - but I have seen it in a lot of drawings.

You want some of the actual hair strands to show, but you should not see every strand. Use a tissue (Kleenex type without lotion) to blend areas in which the lines seem to prominent. This will soften it nicely so it should look like hair. Keep working at it until it looks soft and touchable, or frizzy and dry, like real hair or fur can.


See also:

Darla Dixon, Artist

Darla Dixon Portrait Art & Illustration


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