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How to Draw Hair in Pencil: Tips for Drawing Realistic Portraits
Many amateurs pencil artists are intimated to draw hair. It’s not that it’s difficult, but it takes time to depict a realistic impression. Rather than draw every single strand of hair, it’s better to build an overall impression, letting the viewer to fill in the blanks.
Materials for Drawing Hair in Pencil
• Paper –Use paper that’s heavy enough for erasing, so student grade or typing paper isn’t sufficient for this type of drawing. Two-ply Bristol board paper is able to tolerate much erasing and renders a smooth appearance.
• Pencils – Use a set of graphite drawing pencils that range from the lightest lead of H pencils to dark Bs. Typically, an outline is first drawn in an HB pencil with a 2B or darker graphite pencils to do the work of shading. A mechanical pencil is preferred by many pencil artists. In addition to not having to sharpen a mechanical pencil, it’s also ideal because it produces a cleaner drawing without the smudges of graphite pencils.
• Erasers – Kneaded erasers, regular pencil erasers and electric erasers work well.
• Tortillons or tissues – These are used for blending tones.
Creating a Contour Drawing
The first step in creating any type of drawing is producing an accurate contour drawing of a subject. A contour drawing is a basic line drawing without shading and details. It’s usually done using an HB pencil that is easier to eraser than a darker pencil. Many pencil artists use a gridding system for their contour drawing to get correct proportions.
Refining a Drawing
Switch to a 2B pencil to start refining the drawing. Studying a reference picture is important for determining which areas are dark and which ones are light. Use the side of a pencil to shade in the dark areas. Sometimes by turning a reference photo upside or sideways it’s easier to see light and dark areas. First draw the dark areas and then work on those portions of hair that are lighter.
Next blend tones using a tortillon or tissue. Continue this process until hair looks as realistic as possible. Blending helps create halftones. It’s important to blend with an object’s shape from dark to light, making sure it’s a smooth blend. To lift out dark spots use the tip of a kneaded eraser.
Drawing Light Colored Hair
Drawing blonde or gray hair just means working much lighter. Creating an illusion of light colored hair is done by using few pencil lines, less tone and additional blending. Softness is depicted by lifting out pigment. Harder graphite such as an H or F pencils are better than dark B pencils when drawing light or gray hair. Mechanical pencils are even better for drawing darker portions of light hair.
Drawing Curly Hair
Drawing curly hair can be challenging. When drawing curly hair pencil lines should go in the direction of hair growth so a careful study of the reference photo is needed. Study how cast shadows affect the overall look of a hairstyle. Highlights can be lifted out with a kneaded eraser.
Drawing Men’s Hair
When drawing men’s hair it’s important to show thickness. This is done by blending as layers are created by highlights that are made by lifting out pigment with erasers. As with any type of hair, first draw the shape. Then add tone and next blend and lift off highlights.
Finally, practice, practice, practice! Rather than throwing away those first initial drawings, it’s good to save them to note how each successive drawing becomes more realistic.