How To Draw a Person's Hair From a Photograph

Drawing Hair

A person's hair style is likely to be the most complicated part of many portraits you draw.
You'll need to use different lengths of pen stroke - sometimes short, sometimes longer or in the case of close-cropped hair just random dots.


Hair naturally grows out of and around the contours of the head.

When hair gets to a certain length it can remain straight or become curly or wavy depending on each individual.
Add to this the fact that, as humans we resort to curlers, straighteners, gel, backcombing and so on in our effort to control nature and that's a wide variety of hair styles.

Whatever hair style you want to portray, bear in mind the way hair naturally grows particularly at the crown and anywhere close to the scalp.

Beyond that look how the hair has been styled and draw pen strokes in the direction the hair is going, following any changes of direction.

Be patient and don't try to get it right all in one go.
By continually adding pen strokes in the right general direction you'll build up a hair style.

Blonde Hair

Blonde hair surprisingly often has quite dark shadows, particularly at the crown and around the cheek area.
Don't be scared to put these in - they'll make your portrait more convincing.

However, in the lightest areas don't be tempted to draw too many individual hairs.
An indication of the general direction is fine and our brains read it as blonde hair.

Brunette Hair

Dark hair, conversely, tends to be defined by the light areas in it.

Take this example.
Without the reflections we've left as white paper this lady's hair would look far less realistic.

Where we used black pen strokes to indicate the direction blonde hair was growing, here you'll see small areas of white doing the same job.

Very Curly Hair

When dealing with very tight curls, use small groups of almost circular strokes and change direction often.

For frizzy hair, Afro-Caribbean styles etc. rather than pen STROKES try letting your pen dance about drawing random "S"-shapes, figure-"3"s and "8"s, coiled springs and wriggly worms.

Look for lighter areas and draw less there, more in darker areas.
But always keep in mind the hair grows out of and around the scalp.

Give Yourself a Break

Although you want to do the best job you can, be aware that whichever part of a portrait you're working on you will see in great detail and be hyper-critical of.

The hair is just one component part of your portrait.
Nobody will ever examine it as closely as you have.
They'll just get an overall impression and probably wish they were as clever as you.

So don't beat yourself up and don't be paranoid.
It's just cartoon hair - and it's fine!

Comments 7 comments

surf traveler profile image

surf traveler 6 years ago

Very well explained, I'm trying to learn to draw and found your article on how to draw a persons hair helpful.

耻辱所以 5 years ago


耻辱所以 5 years ago


SamiAnne profile image

SamiAnne 5 years ago

thanks this is great.

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

Thanks for posting this neat overview on drawing hair styles.

Adrianne 4 years ago

this is great for homework

Ron 4 years ago

I like this awesome hub very much, so much excellent stuff.

Ron from Fitness Tips

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