First of all, lets’ get this out of the way. Drawing hair is not easy. It’s actually pretty hard to draw good looking hair, the difficulties already start from the fact of thinking where the centerline is? Where the hair is split in half. If you know what I mean? You also have to take into account the angle of the head. Hair surely looks different from above than below.
You also have to think if the character is outdoors and if the wind is affecting the movement of the hair. If the wind is blowing from the right, the hair should lean left. Also, the clothing should lean left as the wind gets “stuck” in the clothing. The same thing with long fur, wind affect that also.
So do think the situation the character or object is in. At this point, you might have already realized that hair is actually rather difficult to draw. There are a lot of things to thought out before starting the drawing process. You should think about what you want to tell the viewer with the hair. What kind of personality the character has and how is that presented through the hair?
Drawing anime hair with an idea
Rest at ease because there is always a solution to everything. Well at least to most of the things. I give you one way of approaching to draw the hair. First, we start with the character, situation, feel and personality we want to show. For this particular character, I visioned to give her this easy-going, chill like mood and vibe.
I also wanted the wind to blow from the right/from her back so that the hair would cover her face a bit and the hands also. Giving that nice flow from behind and making the mood easy and calm. Kind of like waking up and feeling this joy all around.
Tip! Cover places that are hard to draw
Sometimes you might hit a wall and just don’t know how to draw some specific thing, like arm joints, finger positions (quite hard to master) etc. In those cases, you can try if you could cover them with something. Clothing, hair, accessories? Anything that fits the overall image and makes sense.
No need to be ashamed if you don’t know how to draw something. Very few people know. There is also always the way of studying. Trying to figure out how to draw something. It’s not the easiest way but it does help you in the long run. Covering some parts is not cheating.
It is just creating another way to overcome an obstacle. When you are drawing and wanting to progress with the image. It might feel too much of a burden to start learning and studying some difficult part. Just when you are in the flow of drawing. It kind of breaks the flow and creativity quite a lot.
That’s why there are those different sessions when you practice and study drawing. So you don’t interrupt the flow state during those creative drawings.
Draw the main hair shapes
When I have the mood and feeling in mind. I start to design the character. Giving this chilled yet happy look on her face I move on to the hair. There are a few ways you can approach drawing the hair. Either you just start to draw the hair detailing it out. Or you create these major shapes.
These shapes give you the overall feeling right at the start. With these big blocks, you can easily see how the hair works or not. You can also easily try different sizes and flows to the character’s hair.
The benefit of doing it this way is the so-called “undo effect” or regret phase. You are not yet too far with the hair only to realize it doesn’t work. I hate the feeling of drawing something quite long and then realize that it just doesn’t work. I mean, you have spent so much time and energy on it and then it doesn’t work. I hate it.
So even though I sometimes draw hair quite detailed in the beginning do check the major shapes at some point.
Those give you a direction and overall look of the whole hair. It’s easier to design a hair when you just draw big chunks of it. Rather than drawing individual hair strands. It’s also faster to draw big blocks. Getting that feel right with ease.
Choose between main hair shapes
After you have created a few major shapes and feel like you just want to move forward. Think about the end result you want to achieve with the hair. Think about the personality of the character and also the personality of the hair. Yes, hair does have personality. It tells something from the person and also gives opinions. Good and bad. Hopefully good opinions.
I could have chosen a more flowy hairstyle with a lot more volume. However, the character is this easy-going and like to have a slightly shorter yet huge volume hair. The character is also more down to earth type. I think in this case the more flowy hair would have made the character a bit more. Well not so down to earth type.
Maybe a bit outgoing “party” kind of girl. Or this adventurous type of. Shorter hair gave me the flow I was aiming for.
Creating the hair structure
Pick a shape and reduce the opacity of that particular layer to something like 20-30%. Create a new layer on top of the shape layer and quickly sketch a slightly more defined structure of the hair. In this phase, your goal is to define the hair a bit more. Adding strands and smaller blocks of hair.
Really create that variation in the hair. Do not define too many details at this point. You have plenty of time and opportunities to do those later down the road. The goal was to define it further but not too much. Keep it loose. This way you also relax your mind and don’t focus on unnecessary details.
Keeping your mind open to new opportunities is always important.
You never know what your mind throws at you so you should keep the sketch loose. Give it the space it needs.
If you go in with the details, it becomes more and more irritating to add new elements to the drawing. This could be my personal problem here. I don’t like to do things twice. Kind of like, you have drawn something and spent time on it. Then something cool comes to your mind.
Something you just have to add to the drawing. At this point, it is a pain to erase and delete those nice details and lines you created earlier. You know.
It’s never too nice to delete something you have put an effort to. So keeps this in mind when sketching and also knowing when to get to the details phase.
Adding details to the hair
When you have a nice structure and the main blocks are defined further. Still maintaining the major shapes and seeing that the hair works for the person. It is time to move to the detail phase.
You should reserve time for this phase, as it will take some time to get this completed. Go through the main blocks and structure you created previously and this time add those details in.
Break boring looking shapes by adding hair strands here and there.
Also, break the flow of the hair by adding those curls.
Did you remember the wind? Yes, even though the wind is blowing from right to left. When you draw the curls, curling the hair inward and towards the right. This creates excellent differentiation between the flow and breaks the mundane flow to the left.
Tip! Break the flow of the hair
One key point I would like to give you is that you should break shapes. If the shape is big and bulky, break it apart. Break the shape into multiple smaller shapes. Another way is to create strands of hair to intersect the big shapes thus breaking the big shapes.
Big shapes create dull drawings. Break them. Cross them. Divide them. Dull shapes make dull drawings. And, yes. I have made plenty of dull drawings and even still create those. We are not perfect.
Finalize the hair and make it look awesome
The last phase of drawing hair is to make the hair support the character and make the character lively. Specifically, in anime, the hair is extremely important. That is also the reason why I always make an effort to draw an awesome hair for the character. You shouldn’t deviate from that.
Put effort into the hair and it will make your character feel and look so much better. In the last phase of drawing hair, I sharpen the details. Look that the overall shape is looking good.
I check that the hair supports the character and also gives the feeling I was after. Down to earth, chilled, calm and overall just gentle. You should make sure that the details are correctly placed and make sense. Adding details everywhere does not help.
Create details wisely and efficiently. Only place them in spots that add interest to the drawing.
Having too small hair details is not a good idea
This is a bit tricky have to admit. This is all related to the canvas size, resolution, the thing you are drawing, elements you have and so on. I try my best to explain it so you see what I mean. Here it goes. When you are zoomed in and drawing those details to the hair or basically anywhere to the drawing.
You should every now and then zoom out quite far and see if that detail is even visible anymore from a distance. Do you know what I mean?
In the past and even still I have had this habit of drawing some awesome detail. Just to notice that when zoomed out you can’t even notice the subtle detail you draw for 10-15 minutes or so. Be careful of these.
Always keep in mind the big picture and only add details that are visible from a distant. There is no use to draw something super awesome that is only visible when you zoom the hell in. Makes sense, right?
I usually zoom in and out quite often just to see if something is visible or not. Quite soon you will notice what is the right size for a detail.
Just remember that it is always, and I mean, always related to the drawing and settings you have in place.
Drawing your anime hair to completion
Of course, ultimately the last thing is to color the hair and call it done. I would say that the most important thing here is to think about the volume of the hair. Create shadows that support the volume of the hair. As the hair that I drew was rather chunky, the shadow also had to be quite thick. Do think about the volume of the hair when shading.
I surely hope you liked the step-by-step guide on how to draw hair. Hair definitely is not the easiest one to draw but hopefully, you found some new tips & tricks for yourself.
I usually speak from the perspective of cel shading. These tips, however, can be applied to any style in my opinion. Drawing hair is fun, even though sometimes challenging. Anime deserves some cool hair.
Available resources for this artwork
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- Color palette
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