Learning to draw realistic hair in Photoshop # 1

Recreating realism is a complex aspect in art, but you can succeed in this if you raise your skills to a whole new level.

In this tutorial, I will show you how to draw four different hairstyles using different hair textures and various curly designs. I will show you the step-by-step process of achieving realism using the technique of working with blending modes

The final result:

1. We get acquainted with brushes

We cannot get to work until we arm ourselves with the appropriate tools. And in order to draw the image in digital form, I will use the Wacom Intuos 3 graphic tablet. There are many different brushes available online on the Internet, and perhaps a wide selection of brushes will make it difficult for you to choose. Let me simplify this process by telling you that you already have unique brushes that are waiting for you in Adobe Photoshop CC.

Just press the key F5, so that the brush settings panel appears. Press the button Brush sets (Brush Presets) and select a brush from the list of standard brushes.

Rigid Round Brush Push Opacity

The main brush I will use is my favorite brush. Rigid Round Brush Push Opacity (Hard Round Pressure Opacity brush). Favorite, because the brush has shaded edges and high sensitivity of the pen. This brush is quite versatile, with its help you can create sketches, as well as curly hair structure.

Dry Brush

The second brush we need is a texture brush. Dry brush (Dry Brush). To achieve a super realistic effect, never forget to add a bit of grain, as well as texture to your work. Later I will show you how to apply this brush, which will help to recreate the texture of coarse curly hair.

Many novice users make a mistake when they start creating paintings without first selecting the source images used as samples. They see that their favorite designers start to create their paintings right away, so they think that they should follow their example.

No need to hurry when recreating realism, so do not run ahead of the locomotive. There is no better way to understand how things look in real life than studying photos. Professional designers spend thousands of hours working with a brush, recreating and studying certain lighting conditions, so they are more familiar with different scenes than the average person.

I will use the following four images as samples that will help us in making hair:

  1. Straight short hair
  2. Straight long hair
  3. Curly long hair
  4. Hard curly hair

Draw a sketch or outline a contour?

There is an eternal debate on the topic, draw a sketch or outline a contour. I know it sounds like a dirty trick, but it’s all about practice, and I don’t want your excitement about your drawing abilities to prevent you from listening to other good advice. Therefore, even if you are not self-confident and feel as if you “cannot draw,” I promise you, you will be able to cope. Just circle the outline of the image to get the sketch you need.

3. Familiarize yourself with blending modes.

Working with layers in Photoshop with different blending modes, you can save a lot of time. Below is the whole process of creating a separate hairstyle. It is not necessary to observe this order, but I definitely start with layers in the mode Normal (Normal).


Set the resolution of your document 300 dpi (dpi) this will work with the brush at high resolution. When creating the initial outline, you should always start with the mode Normal (Normal) to apply base colors and create a basic drawing.

Soft Light

Does your sketch annoy you? Black lines of the picture do not always look brilliant, especially if your sketch has a slightly arbitrary shape. To perfectly align your sketch with the color shades of the pattern, change the blending mode to Soft light (Soft Light). Play with Opacity (Opacity) at its discretion, and you will see a huge difference in obtaining a realistic effect.

Multiply (Multiply)

Every time you have to work with different blending modes, create a new layer.

Layers with blending mode Multiplication (Multiply) should always be used to create the shadows, so you do not need to select the appropriate shade in the color picker. Just move the brush over the area that should be in the shade while holding down (Alt). This will help you choose a color cast from a part of the image and automatically multiply it to get the darkest result.


Whenever I think about the blend mode Overlap (Overlay) I think about the light. On a layer with overlay mode Overlap (Overlay), you can add both warm and cold light to lighten the hair in such a way as to recreate natural light. However, be careful with this blending mode, since You can overdo it.

Linear Dodge (Add) (Linear Dodge (Add))

Create a new layer, change the blending mode for this layer to Linear Dodge (Linear Dodge) to instantly add bright highlights to the hair. And all you need is to use the closest color shades that you can choose with the tool Pipette (Eyedropper Tool (E)).

Now that you know the whole process that I usually use when I paint my hair, let’s try drawing different hairstyles.

4. How to draw short straight hair

Step 1

Let’s start with a simple hairstyle “Caret”. Draw short hair, do not forget to draw the head with the body, and also, do not forget that the hair should be a little more loose to add dynamics to the hair. Paint over hair and skin with one tone on a new layer. Change the blending mode for your draft to Soft light (Soft Light).

Step 2

Add a new layer, change the blending mode for this layer to Overlap (Overlay). Using a bright yellow brush, paint the light highlights on the hair where sunlight can fall. This will help turn the dark brown color into warmer tones.

Step 3

Add a new layer, change the blending mode for this layer to Multiplication (Multiply) and, using the same brown color from the main outline, add shadows to the hair. If your drawing starts to look a little spotty, remove the drawing and then make sure Rigidity (Hardness) your brush has been set to 100%.

Step 4

Continue to apply brush strokes, adding hair curls, while reducing the size of the brush. Keep your original image on hand as a sample until you are confident enough to continue experimenting on your own.

Step 5

Work on your hair tone. Add individual curly hairs to give more dynamics, and then soften the edges with a white brush or eraser lightly brush the tips. Finish the collar blue.

Step 6

Create a new layer below all layers and use a linear light blue gradient to fill the background.

Step 7

Finally, create a new layer, change the blending mode for this layer to Linear Dodge (Add) (Linear Dodge (Add)). Paint the remaining light highlights with a brush sized 1-5 px. Upon completion, short straight hair will look like the screenshot below.

5. How to draw straight hair with bangs

Step 1

The next style we will draw will be the same straight hair, but this time with a bang. Draw a sketch, pay attention to how the bang will be laid.

Even if you are going to use dark hair color, use light base colors. Paint the hair on a new layer, and then change the blending mode for the layer with a draft on Soft light (Soft Light).

Step 2

Now let’s add some shadows. Create a new layer, change the blending mode for this layer to Multiplication (Multiply). First draw the darkest shadows. Ensure that the shadows are soft and that the base layers are visible through the shadows.

Step 3

Add a soft light to the outer edges of the hair, use a layer with blending mode for this. Overlap (Overlay).

Step 4

Fill the background with a beautiful peach gradient. Add details to the hair, experimenting with color, and also using a small-diameter brush to recreate individual strands of hair. Even if it is a straight hair, there must still be some kind of dynamic that creates a feeling of realism.

Step 5

Keep working on your hair. When you are ready to add light highlights, create a new layer, change the blending mode for this layer to Linear clarifier (Add) (Linear Dodge (Add)). Draw the final light highlights, and add shine across the bangs. The final result can be seen in the screenshot below.

6. How to draw curly hair

Step 1

Next, we draw curly hair. We can break a hairstyle into separate curly locks. Learn how curls curl. Draw a separate curl to understand how curl curls. For the main part of the hairstyle, the curl has a simple “S” shape, which is the base curve for the hair.

Step 2

Add basic colors to your sketch with curly hair. Change the blending mode for the draft layer to Soft light (Soft Light) and then create a new layer with blend mode Multiplication (Multiply) to draw the shadows.

Step 3

In general, the technique remains the same as when creating straight hair. Add shadows before adding light highlights. Add light highlights on a new layer with blend mode Linear clarifier (Add) (Linear Dodge (Add)).

Step 4

To give the image a final look, add a linear gradient to the background. Select the small diameter brush again to add bright light highlights. In order to recreate a certain texture, be arbitrary when coloring individual hairs in this step, since Curly hair is often less docile.

7. How to draw short curly hair

Step 1

The latest hairstyle is tight curly hair. This is usually an ethnic hairstyle that is rich in texture and requires more steps to recreate than for previous hairstyles.

Start with a sketch using a hard round brush, just like with previous hairstyles.

Step 2

Add base colors, but this time apply a linear gradient to the hair, the color of the gradient is light blond. This gradient will help us to understand more about how much hair should be multi-layered. Next, change the blending mode for the draft layer to Soft light (Soft Light).

Step 3

Try to imagine how different layers of hair lie on your head when you begin to focus on the shadows. Colors will vary depending on the action of the hair dye. In this case, on the original image, the girl’s hair is painted in ombre, so you will have to experiment with different colors on separate layers to set blending modes for these layers. Overlap (Overlay) and Multiplication (Multiply).

Step 4

As a woman with wild curly hair, I am very familiar with this texture. But in order to recreate this texture, you need to additionally apply other brushes.

Draw the texture with the dry brush we talked about earlier. Dry brush will help recreate the curly nature of African hair, so do not forget to apply the brush along the entire length of the hair.

Step 5

Continue to strengthen curly hair texture. These curls are very different from curly hair, therefore, use curved lines along the entire length of the hair to simulate thick curls.

Step 6

In conclusion, add a pink background, and also add a warm light to give your hair a pop look. Change the blending mode to Linear clarifier (Add) (Linear Dodge (Add)) to add bright spiral curls and make them look as if they are flying forward.

And that is all! The lesson on how to draw realistically can be a rewarding experience. Today you learned a lot about lighting, textures and color shades, as well as what you can create in Photoshop.

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial and learned today how to draw four different hairstyles. What is your favorite one? Thank you for being with me. Good luck!

The final result:

Author: Melody Nieves

Like this post? Please share to your friends: