How to Draw Hair

Pencil Portraits - How to Draw - Hair

As the saying goes, 'it is easy if you know how'. But, knowing how to draw hair is easier said than done. Yes, it is an involved process, but the principal is simple. Get the basics right and you will be able to draw hair that goes up, down or around and around.


Wavy Brunette


Straight Blonde


Curly Redhead

Throughout my tutorials I have stressed the importance of how to mix the different grades of graphite. That process will be push to a new level with the methods I will be demonstrating below.




Probably the biggest factor that will contribute to the success of how you draw hair will hinge on the contrast.

Here, we have to consider three different types on contrast.

  • Contract in Colour, between light to dark.
  • Contrast in Texture, from slick to curly.
  • Contrast in Context, How the hair matches the rest of the drawing.

Firstly, let's look at the contrast in colour and how to create that sheen that is so important to its attractiveness, be it blonde, black or brunette. Or if it is straight, wavy or curly.


Endemic to every hairstyle is the way it falls. Or by the way it stands up! With long hair it is sometimes referred to as how it flows.

In the first example above the flow is broken up into smaller 'bunches' that tend to take its own path as it falls towards the shoulders. In the second example, the flow is more uniform. Compared to the third where there is very little flow.

Consequently, the way hair reflects light will depend on the way it flows. Is the flow consistent as example two or doest break-up as in example one, or more so as three? The busier the hairstyle, the more will be the need for 'highlight'. Which will in tern require a greater effect to draw.

Note: Here I am not referring to colour highlights but rather how the light shines on it and highlights the contours of the hair.

After the flow or strands of the hair has been mapped, the first aspect to be identified is those parts of the hair flow that are highlighted.

To demonstrate how to draw hair, I will first be focusing on how those highlights are drawn. Thereafter, we will look into the colour of the hair ranging from light to dark. Then we need to look at flow or consistency of the highlights ranging from straight to curly hair.

Unfortunately, in art, nothing is standard. There will always be variations as 'rules' start over overlapping. Consequently, much of the below will need to be adapted to suit your particular study. But the principals on how layering the different grades of graphite to draw hair will remain much the same.

Draw Hair Highlights

Here we have examples of 3 different colours being Blonde - Brunette - Black.

The density of the highlights will generally diminish the darker the hair gets. The first layer added is the highlights draw with a sharp 4H grade. glossary-tag Because you will be using a hard grade of graphite, do not to apply excessive pressure. Be gentle so you don't dent or damage the paper.


Wavy Brunette


Straight Blonde


Curly Redhead

Next, lightly erase these highlights. I guess I should explain why? You have probably noticed that graphite has sheen if it is tipped to the light. This is particularly noticeable in those darker areas. Whenever you erase pencil, tip the paper to the light to see if that sheen can still be seen. If so, erase it more. The harder grades of graphite are usually more difficult to erase and if not properly erased will causes 'graining'. Just because the erased graphite is no longer visible it dose not mean it has been totally erased.

However, in this case we will take advantage of this process to draw hair highlights and to create a grain or flow in the hair. This first layer drawn is the one that is binding to the paper. Consequently, the additional layer we apply over that can only bind to those areas where there is 'exposed' paper and not to the base layer of the highlights.

Draw the Body of the Hair

After the highlights have been done you need to consider the colour range of the hair you are drawing.

With blonde hair you would use the harder grades up to H grade. Compared to black hair where you can use all grades up to 2B. However each grade should be applied in sequence. Okay, lets use the brunette and see how this is done.


Wavy Brunette


Straight Blonde


Curly Redhead

Once you have done that move on to the next portion, start with the highlights and do the same. Later, when you have completed a common area, you will have to return to it from time to time to add the finer touches, shadows and the check context contrasts.

As an extension to the above I will be setting up some pages that show you how to draw hair of a specific types or conditions. These will include colour highlights, including the grey highlights, wet hair and how to draw hair of various types and lengths.

Google Search