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How to draw hair

5. February 2022

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Drawing hair may seem daunting and difficult, but it’s really not that bad! The secret is the hair structure – unlike other head and facial elements, hair doesn’t have too many unique, defining characteristics; it only differs in colour, volume, and waviness. That’s why we will learn to draw a face actually starting with the hair before adding other features.

Real-life anatomy

Hair plays an important role in portrait construction since it makes up for a large portion of the actual head shape – and that’s why you need to be familiar with the anatomy of a skull.A skull is much like a ball, but if you just add some hair around it willy-nilly, your human will look more like a poodle-alien. To avoid this, keep in mind that a human skull is not, in fact, a perfectly round ball.

The forehead is more like a flat wall, with ears connected by temporal bones that are more airplane shaped. Only the parietal and the occipital bones are actually sphere shaped. 

Always keep the head shape in mind – regardless of the hairstyle, there is always a skull underneath it, with the hair following the skull shape or standing out, not shaping the skull.

So how do you draw hair?

Now let’s get to work and learn to actually draw some hair step by step.

First and foremost, don’t draw hair without having a base – that would be the skull. Try to define the main parts of your hair by following the skull shape and decide how the hair will be arranged geometrically. Follow the temporal (front view) or the parietal or the occipital bone (profile and three-quarter view). Pay special attention to the little curls on the forehead.

Remember that hair is much better at reflecting light than our skin and keep this in mind when shading and adding highlights and contrast. To add shading, use long, neat strokes following the shape of the head, basically adding individual hairs. Make sure you know how to properly hold a pencil to keep them nice and neat. Let’s not forget about aerial perspective too! Only the hair closest to the viewer should be visible; the hair in the background will usually merge into a single body. To achieve this effect, simply use a piece of paper to blend out your strokes. When you feel confident about being able to follow the rules above, go ahead and dive into your first hairstyle!


Let’s go back to the top of the head for a moment. There is a secret you need to know – you can do all of the above without a model or a reference picture since all heads are built following the same set of rules.

Try and see it for yourself – get yourself a life model (with hair, obviously – bald models won’t do here) who is ready to be immortalized on paper and compare the scheme to what you see. 

Now let’s find the frontal eminences (two rounded elevations on the frontal bone of the skull) – they are usually located at the intersection point of the upper row of the square we used to draw the face in and the vertical sides between the eyes and the ears (closer to the ears). These points mark the zones between the eyes and ears (the frontal and the parietal zone).

You will also need to determine the height of your hairstyle – go ahead and draw the shape of each zone, keeping the added distance in mind.

Now add detail to hair strands around the forehead and give them the desired shape, then move on to shading when you feel like your hair construction is done. Start from the darkest areas (shadows and cast shadows), then move on to midtones and finish with highlights.

Here’s a useful little trick for you: grab a rectangular eraser and cut it across, creating two triangle pieces – now you have two erasers with fine tips to comfortably erase the smallest lines and add gentle highlights and glowing spots of light!

Highlight the hairs in the front with bold, confident strokes and add any hair that is not on the parietal plane around the edges. 

Are you intrigued and ready to start? Dive straight into it, and if you want to learn from the best, sign up for one of our courses! We suggest taking a look at our portrait drawing course to really master hair with ease and confidence.



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