Drawing the Details: Hair
The difficulty people often face when sketching
hair is that there is simply too much information.
It is impossible to draw every hair, and yet, how
else do you convey the texture and flow? How
do you get across the delicate, formless quality
and not end up with something that looks more
like a helmet?
There are so many different hair types – and different
ways of styling it – that every case has to be dealt with on
an individual basis. However, there are ways to simplify
what’s happening and various techniques for depicting
texture and body.
Things to Remember
Sketch the overall shape of the hairstyle rather than
individual strands of hair.
Let your mark-making follow the direction of flow and
describe the texture of the hair.
Less is more: there will be areas of light and shade.
Sometimes, it’s enough to pick these out.
Don’t forget the head shape beneath the hair. However
‘big’ the style, keeping the head in mind gives you form
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SKETCHER’s corner seeing it
1 Look for the overall shape of
straight hair, which flows out and
down from a central point on the
parting line. 2 ‘Choppy’ hair is a
mass of curves, but it is not totally
random: sections of hair will flow in
the same direction. 3 Natural
African-American hair has a curly texture that does not flow; it is far
more sculptural. 4 The ‘flow lines’
in the linked sections of a plait
travel in alternate directions.
3 Blend the watercolour pencils with a waterbrush. This
will begin to give the sketch body.
4 Make sure that the
brush marks also follow the flow lines of the hair. It’s
good to leave some white paper highlights where the
hair is lightest, even if, in truth, it is a paler brown rather
Shading to Give Form
A bob needs to be viewed as an overall shape,
but the watercolour marks still follow the
direction of hair flow. The build-up of shadow
along the bottom lifts and rounds the bob. Note
the touches of green and purple to gently
dampen the yellows and oranges.
Watercolour, rainbow pencil
This long hair was curly and wayward despite
the ponytail. Too many lines would have quickly
become a mess, so I drew only those that
described a change of hair direction. The dark
shadows against her back, at the nape of her
neck and at the hair tie act as a contrast, pinning
the hair in place and preventing confusion.
Sailor fountain pen, black ink
When hair is very black, navy blue can be
a more attractive colour for the shadows
than black or grey, and it is less likely to
obscure your mark-making
The important thing to get right when drawing a
plait is the angling of the sections up (or down)
towards the middle. Note how the two sides are
offset, with dark shadows where they meet,
creating a zigzag shadow up the centre. The
occasional pencil line for texture tells us it is hair.
These four people had very
different hair types. Though I
have used the same pencil, the
marks I have created are very
different, so the four textures are
Note the greater intensity of marks
at the neck, where the underside of
the hair is in shadow