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Are you having a difficult time drawing hair with graphite pencils?
Drawing hair is a struggle many artists face until they learn some simple techniques that help them to draw hair that looks like it is flowing off the paper.
Below are the steps I use when I draw realistic hair with graphite. The techniques I use can also be applied to a charcoal drawing.
There is a video at the end of the post to watch the techniques I use for drawing hair.
How To Draw Realistic Hair With Graphite Pencil
Before we get started, here is a list of all the drawing supplies I use:
- Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Board Pads 9″ x 12″ Smooth
- Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Board Pads 9″ x 12″ Velum
Shading Pencils Set
- General’s Factis Magic Black Eraser
- Tombow Mono Zero Refillable Eraser
- Prismacolor Kneaded Rubber Erasers
- Alvin Dry Cleaning Pad
How To Draw Hair Step 1
Start by lightly sketching out the locks of hair.
Use a 2H pencil to map out the different sections of the hair. You do not want to draw the lines too dark at this stage. Lighter lines will be easier to erase if necessary.
Study the reference image and look for clumps and locks of hair rather than trying to draw individual pieces of hair.
When you draw hair, you are drawing the value you see, not each piece of hair.
A pencil line does not create hair. The different values and highlights you draw create the illusion of hair.
As you draw the clumps of hair, ensure the lines are going in the direction the hair is flowing.
Always look at your reference before adding graphite to the paper.
The direction of the hair can change direction or curl under.
- What direction is the hair going?
- Is the hair curling?
- Is the hair underneath going in a different direction than the hair on top?
This first step is the most crucial step in drawing hair.
You need to draw each section of hair and the direction the hair is going before adding value. This will provide a solid base so you can continue to add value for thick realistic hair.
Draw Realistic Hair With Graphite Pencil Step 2
The next step is to add value to the sections of hair.
I like to start with the darker areas and work towards the lighter sections.
The value you draw will create a three-dimensional illusion of hair.
I use an HB pencil to build up the darker areas and shadows at this stage.
The shadows will make the hair look as if it is popping off the paper and look more natural.
I do not make the shadows too dark at this stage. It is only to let me see where the darker values are.
I will add more value as I continue.
Subtle value changes and highlights will create the illusion of natural hair.
If you add too much value in the beginning, everything else you draw will have to be adjusted accordingly.
Continuing to layer graphite as you go is easier than trying to lighten the dark areas.
Blending Value With A Camel Hair Brush
After I have added enough value to the darker areas of the hair, I lightly brush over the area with a camel-hair paintbrush. You can use other brushes but make sure the bristles are soft.
If the bristles are too hard, it will damage the tooth of the paper, making it difficult to add more layers to your drawing.
Follow the direction of the hair and work from dark to light.
Lightly brushing over the area will soften the lines and spread some graphite to the lighter areas creating a nice smooth value change.
You will notice that your lines will look lighter after brushing over the area you are working on.
At this point, look at your reference image and compare the darkest value of your reference image and your drawing.
You will need to add more graphite to make the hair look fuller and softer.
Continue this step until you are happy with the thickness of the hair.
Be patient. This step can take several attempts until you are delighted with the results.
Blending Values With A Blending Stump
I save this step until last because blending with a blending stump is not as easy to control as the soft brush.
Lightly blend over the darkest areas and move towards the lightest sections with the blending stump.
Do not add any pressure. Just use the weight of the stump to blend the areas and move in the direction of the hair.
Adding too much pressure with the blending stump will destroy the tooth of your drawing surface, making it nearly impossible to add and remove graphite.
The blending stump will remove graphite from the drawing surface, so you might have to add more graphite to the darkest areas.
Always refer to your reference photo.
Continue this step until the hair looks exactly the way you want.
Many artists fall short because they stop too early.
Drawing hair takes time, and you will have to repeat these steps multiple times before you achieve what you are hoping for.
The Final Step For Drawing Realistic Hair With Graphite Pencil
The final step is what will make your hair look photo-realistic.
Take your Tombow Mono Zero Refillable Eraser and draw in highlights by removing graphite.
The key is to study your reference image and see where the lightest sections are.
Make a chisel tip on the Tombo Mono Eraser with an Exacto knife and lightly draw highlights.
Less is better when you are drawing in highlights.
Just take out a few strands here and there.
Here is a video to watch the techniques I use for drawing hair.
I hope you got some tips on how to draw realistic hair with a graphite pencil.
I look forward to seeing your artwork soon.
Drawing Hair With Pencil Overview
Start with the foundation – look at the reference image, identify the blocks and clumps of hair, and draw in the hair blocks.
This step is the same if you draw curly, straight, or wavy hair. Do not be concerned with stray hairs at this point. Adding stray hairs and highlights is the last stage of drawing realistic hair.
Identify The Midtones – The next step is to draw in the midtones. Study the reference image, identify the lightest and darkest sections, and consider the light source.
Add the midtones with your graphite pencil. Do not be too concerned with making this perfect you are just adding value to the drawing surface so you can build form.
Add Shadows – Add in the shadows and the darkest areas of the hair. The darkest area of a subject is where light does not hit.
Soften the lines – start blending the graphite and soften the lines with a brush or blending stump.
Remove graphite – start removing some of the lightest areas of the hair.
Continue the steps above until you are happy with the results. The more you repeat the steps above, the more realistic the hair will look.
The last step will be to add in the highlights and stray hairs.
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