Hair today…

Earlier today I got a drawing request. It’s about hair. Yes, hair. Brianna posted this:

Love them, Mirriam. You do great work. Do you have any tips for sketching hair? For some reason I have never been able to draw even slightly decently hair.

I know the feeling, Brianna. I struggled SO MUCH with hair up until… oh, pffft; less than half a year ago. It was a continual fight to make hair look halfway decent – or halfway like hair, for that matter! It used to look either like stringy noodles – 


or a solid mass –

And neither look particularly… uh… *cough* realistic.  But then I came across this tidbit of information from my favorite artist John Howe – 

You can’t draw hair.

You can’t. It’s a fact. Hair is impossible to draw. The most you can do is draw the suggestion of hair. And once I realized this, it changed the way I drew hair. Now of course, it depends on what kind of hair you’re drawing. Curly hair depends. One thing you MUST REMEMBER when drawing curly LONG hair is that the hair WON’T BE CURLY on the top of the head. If it’s long, the weight of the hair is going to pull the hair on the top of the head FLAT. It will get curlier the farther down it goes.

With curly SHORT hair, you have to do lots of little ‘squiggles,’ basically. There’s not much more to it, as show in this example:


Wavy hair is a different story altogether. Wavy hair is pretty much wavy all the way through, from the top to the bottom; not quite straight, not quite curly. Here’s an example of wavy hair, from a picture of Loki:

His is medium-length; so I drew it more wavy at the top and straighter at the bottom. Everyone’s hair is slightly different; so once you have ‘set way’ you draw different types of hair, don’t ONLY draw hair like that. Experiment.

Then, there’s straight hair, like on Rose.

With straight hair, it’s even more of a ‘suggestion’ than when drawing curly hair. Use fine, careful strokes, and not too many or else it will look completely fake.  In the picture below, an illustration for Port Yonder Press’s Book of the Sylvari: An Elven Anthology, I had originally drawn the dead queen’s hair lighter, but it blended into the floor. So I was asked to make it ‘stand out,’ which I did with lines.

REMEMBER: When drawing lines in the hair, they are not STRAIGHT lines. They must move and flow with the direction of the hair.

Tricks of the Trade

1. Remember that hair is alive. Unless the person you’re drawing has greasy, limp hair, don’t draw it in long thick strands or hundreds of stringy strokes. Hair turns up at the end or curls under; it lays differently in different places.

1. When drawing underwater/supernatural creatures, hair is animated due to suspension, like in the Wailing Woman below: 

3. Hair moves in the opposite direction of the person who owns it. If a person is looking up, the hair falls down. If the person is running forward, the hair streams behind. If a person is falling down, the hair falls ‘up.’

4. Even short, straight hair has some body; if it’s short, then ends of hair will be visible over the whole head, not just the bottom, like in the picture of Murtagh below:

5. Hair is NOT ALL ONE SHADE. Use different levels of pencil leads when drawing hair; or at least, use varying levels of force with your strokes if you prefer to use only one pencil.

I really hope this was helpful! I myself still struggle with hair sometimes, so I don’t feel exactly over-qualified for this… but your wish is my command (some of the time)! If you have any more questions, feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to answer!

~ Mirriam


10 thoughts on “Hair today…

  1. Those are all really useful tips, thanks Mirriam! Though I may not be the best artist, I do enjoy it, and I always struggle with hair. And faces. Bodies I can generally do, but it’s just… heads that are difficult.

      • Haha, yeah. I did a lot of drawing my main character for NaNo (2010) but I always left her face blank. I did her head and hair however. OH! Something else I can’t draw– feet and hands. :/ They always look like kind of oddly shaped mittens… and for feet, they never have any shape. Growl.

        This is kind of annoyed sounding… sorry. My Nook was acting up, so I’m a bit peeved. Perhaps I shall have to go to B&N and complain bitterly to the salesperson if it happens again. *grin*

        Oh! Funny story– you know the famous hands on the top of the Sistene Chapel? In fifth grade we were drawing them, and everyone was just kind of like, “YAY! We get to play with pastel chalk!” and then the art teacher wanders over to this one girl and looks over her shoulder, pauses and says, “I think you forgot a hand…” And it was true. She had just randomly left a hand out of the picture… Since I was talking about hands in the first paragraph this seemed relevant.

        Okay. This comment is getting ridiculous. I’m going to end it now… *grin*

    • I KNOW! Books harldy ever have anything on HAIR! One book that is AMAZING for drawing hair is by Ed Org, called “Draw and Paint the Realm of Faerie.” He is the most amazing pencil artist in the WORLD, and his hair is BEAUTIFUL.

      • ooh! I might have seen that somewhere…I’ll try to find it the next time I’m at Barnes and Nobles. I always like to look in the art section when I’m there. Thanks!!!
        P.S. yours such a an good artist! seriously, wow

  2. I am saved. ALL HAIL MIRRIAM! Thanks for the tips, because I’m actually working on something with strange hair (a boy *gasp*!).

  3. Awesome tips, Mirriam! I’ve noticed your hair drawing has gotten better too 😀 Very helpful! Thank youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!

  4. Murtagh! YAY! Sorry, I just had to get that out of my system… 😛

    Great tutorial! Hair has always been a bit of a mystery to me. (And not just drawing it– I never know what to DO with my own hair!)

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