Recreating realism is a difficult aspect of art, but you can excel at it if you take your skills to a whole new level.
In this lesson I will show you how to draw four different hairstyles, using different hair textures and a variety of curl designs. I’ll show you the step-by-step process of achieving realism, using the technique of working with blending modes.
Getting to know the brushes.
We can’t get started until we’re armed with the proper tools. And in order to digitally draw an image, I will be using a Wacom Intuos graphic tablet 3. There are many different brushes available online on the Internet, and perhaps the 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 waiting for you in Adobe Photoshop CC.
Just press the F5 key to bring up the Brush Presets panel. Click Brush Presets and choose a brush from the list of standard brushes.
Stiff Round Brush Pressure Opacity
The main brush I will be using is my most favorite brush, the Hard Round Pressure Opacity brush. A favorite because the brush has shaded edges and high pen sensitivity. This brush is quite versatile, you can use it to create sketches as well as curly hair texture.
The second brush we’ll need is the Dry Brush texture brush. To get a super realistic effect, never forget to add some grit as well as texture to your work. Later, I will show you how to apply this brush, which will help you recreate the texture of coarse curly hair.
Many novice users make the mistake of starting to create paintings without first selecting the source images used as samples. They see their favorite designers getting right down to creating their paintings, so they think they should follow their lead.
You don’t have to rush when recreating realism, so don’t run ahead of the locomotive. There is no better way to understand what things look like in real life than by studying photographs. Professional designers spend thousands of hours working with a brush, recreating and studying certain lighting conditions, so they are more familiar with different scene options than the average person.
I will use the following four images as samples to help us when creating hair:
- Straight short hair
- Straight long hair
- Curly long hair
- Stiff curly hair.
Draw a sketch or outline?
There is an eternal debate about whether to sketch or outline. I know it sounds like a catch-all, but it’s all about practice, and I don’t want your excitement about your drawing abilities to keep you from taking other good advice. So even if you’re not confident and feel like you “can’t draw,” I promise you, you can do it. Just trace the outline of the image to get the sketch you want.
Getting to know blending modes
Working with layers in Photoshop with different blending modes will save you tons of time. Below is the entire process of creating an individual hairstyle. You don’t have to follow this order, but I definitely start with layers in Normal mode.
Set the resolution of your document to 300 dpi, this will ensure that you are working with a high resolution brush. When creating the initial sketch, you should always start with Normal mode to apply the basic colors and create the basic pattern.
Is your sketch irritating you? The black lines of a drawing don’t always look brilliant, especially if your sketch has a slightly arbitrary shape. To perfectly match your sketch with the color tones of the drawing, change the blending mode to Soft Light. Play around with Opacity as you see fit, and you’ll see a huge difference in getting a realistic effect.
Every time you have to work with different blending modes, create a new layer.
Layers with Multiply blending mode should always be used to create shadows, so you don’t need to pick up the appropriate shade in the color palette. Simply move your brush over the area you want to shadow, while holding down the (Alt) key. This will help you select the color shade from the area of the image and automatically multiply it to get the darkest result.
By using the Multiply blending mode, you enhance the shading effect.
Whenever I think of Overlay blending mode, I think of light. On a layer with Overlay mode, you can add both warm and cold light to lighten the hair in a way that recreates natural lighting. Be careful with this blending mode, however, as it can be overdone.
Linear Dodge (Add)
Now that you know the whole process I usually apply when drawing hair, let’s try drawing different hairstyles.
How to draw short straight hair
- Let’s start with a simple “Karee” hairstyle. Draw short hair, don’t forget to draw the head with the torso, and also, don’t forget that the hair should be a little more loose to add dynamics to the hair. Paint the hair and skin with the same tone on a new layer. Change the blending mode for your sketch to Soft Light.
- Add a new layer, change the blending mode for this layer to Overlay. Using a bright yellow brush, draw highlights on your hair where sunlight can enter. This will help turn the dark brown color into warmer tones.
- Add a new layer, change the blend mode for this layer to Multiply and, using the same brown color from the main sketch, add shadows to your hair. If your drawing starts to look a little spotty, remove what you’ve drawn and then make sure that the Hardness of your brush is set to 100%.
- Continue applying brush strokes, adding curls of hair while reducing the brush size. Keep the original image on hand as a sample until you are confident enough to continue experimenting on your own.
- Work on the tone of the hair. Add individual curly locks of hair to add more dynamics, and then soften the edges with a white brush or with an eraser to lightly trim the tips. Doris the collar in blue.
- Create a new layer below all layers and use a light blue linear gradient to fill in the background.
- Finally, create a new layer, change the blending mode for this layer to Linear Dodge (Add). Draw the remaining highlights with a 1-5 px brush. Once finished, the short straight hair will look like in the screenshot below.
How to draw straight hair with bangs
- The next style we’re going to draw will represent the same straight hair, but this time with bangs. Draw a sketch and pay attention to how the bangs will be styled. Even if you are going to use a dark hair color, use light base colors. Dye the hair on a new layer and then change the blending mode for the sketch layer to Soft Light.
- Now let’s add shadows. Create a new layer, change the blend mode for this layer to Multiply. Draw the darkest shadows first. Try to make sure that the shadows are soft and that you can see the base layers through the shadows.
- Add soft light to the outer edges of the hair, for this, use a layer with Overlay mode.
- Fill the background with a beautiful peach gradient. Add detail to the hair by experimenting with color, and using a small diameter brush to recreate individual strands of hair. Even if it’s a straight hairstyle, there should still be some sort of dynamic that creates a sense of realism.
- Continue working on the hair. When you’re ready to add highlights, create a new layer, change the blend mode for this layer to Dodge (Add). Draw the final highlights and also add glitter across the bangs. You can see the final result in the screenshot below.
How to draw curly hair
- Next, we’re going to draw curly hair. We can break up the hair into individual curls. Study how the curls are curled. Draw an individual curl to understand how the curl curls. For the main part of the hairstyle, the curl has a simple “S” shape, which is the basic curve for hair.
- Add base colors to your curly hair sketch. Change the blend mode for your sketch layer to Soft Light, and then create a new layer with Multiply blend mode to draw the shadows.
- Basically, the technique remains the same as when creating straight hair. Add the shadows before adding the highlights. Add the highlights on a new layer with Linear Dodge (Add) blending mode.
- To give the image a finishing touch, add a linear gradient to the background. Once again, select the small diameter brush to add bright highlights. In order to recreate a certain texture, be arbitrary in coloring individual hairs in this step, as curly hair is often less manageable.
How to draw short curly hair
- The last hairstyle is a stiff curly hair style. This tends to be an ethnic hairstyle style that is rich in texture and requires more steps to recreate than the previous hairstyles. Start by sketching using a stiff round brush, just as you did with the previous hairstyles.
- Add base colors, but this time apply a linear hair gradient, the gradient color is light blonde. This gradient will help us understand more about how the hairstyle should be layered. Next, change the blending mode for the sketch layer to Soft Light.
- Try to imagine the different layers of hair lying on your head as you start focusing on the shadows. The colors will vary depending on the action of the hair dye. In this case, in the original image, the girl’s hair is ombré colored, so you’ll have to experiment with different color hues on separate new layers by setting these layers to Overlay and Multiply blending modes.
- As a woman with wild curly hair, I’m very familiar with this texture. But in order to recreate this texture, you’ll need to additionally apply other brushes.
- Draw the texture with the dry brush we talked about earlier. The dry brush will help recreate the curly nature of African hair, so be sure to apply the brush along the length of your hair.
- Continue to enhance the curly texture of your hair. These curls are very different from curly hair, so, use curved lines along the length of your hair to simulate thick curls.
- Finally, add a pink background, and add a warm light to give your hair a pop of color. Change the blend mode to Linear Dodge (Add) to add bright spiral curls and make it look like it’s flying forward.