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How to Digitally Draw: Semi Realistic Anime Hair

Hair is something that artists either love or hate to draw. Some artists love to illustrate the bouncy wefts of cute curls or the ebb and flow of long, straight hair. Other artists find hair to be an absolute nightmare -- how do you draw hair so it looks natural and full of life and not like the straw in a haystack? Here are a few tips when it comes to digitally illustrating semi-realistic anime hair!

Not into reading? Don’t worry; check out instructor Alyssa Wongso’s video on How to Paint Semi-Realistic Anime Hair!

Start with a hairline

No matter the hairstyle you’re drawing, whether it’s short, long, or somewhere in between, you’ll want a hairline. Hairlines will serve as guides to where the hair will grow from. Hair naturally grows from hairlines, parts and crowns, so marking where those go is key to creating hair with a natural flow.

Visualize your hair in parts

Dividing your hair into parts allows you to better visualize how certain areas will grow from the head. Starting from the front and working your way to the back is most likely your best bet. Start from the bangs (if they have any), and then work backwards towards the back of the head.

Draw in the simple shapes first

When drawing hair, don’t start by drawing every single strand. That can make your hair feel stringy and unkempt, or it can make it look like scarecrow hair! Instead, draw your hair in large simple chunks, and add detail later.

Here’s a tip : The hair should NOT be drawn directly onto the cranium! Hair has volume and doesn’t lay flat against the head unless it’s wet or very oily.

Focus detail mainly around the hairlines/part

You usually don’t want detail to be absolutely everywhere when drawing hair. This can make it feel very busy. Instead, focus most of the detail around where the hair is growing from, and feel free to leave the larger areas without any drawn strands.

Here’s a tip: When working digitally, you can check if something you draw is skewed by flipping the canvas horizontally! With traditional work, you can hold your page up to a mirror to get the same effect!

Volume depends on hairstyle

The hairstyle you choose determines how much volume, or how “poofy” it is. For instance, a wavy hairstyle or a curly hairstyle will have far more volume than a straight hairstyle.

Here’s a tip: With hair with more volume, to add extra “bounce” you can add extra fly away hairs!

Tied/Braided hair should be pulled back

When drawing tied or braided hair, All the hair starting from your hairline should be pulled back towards where it’s tied. You don’t need to draw every strand, but a few lines to indicate the direction it’s being pulled towards is enough.

Here’s a tip: A braid can be drawn as a bunch of hearts going down a vertical line, with added detail afterwards!

Fill in your flat colours first

Before you start to add shadows and highlights, you should fill in a whole flat layer of colour! Digital art allows you to separate different sections of colour into different layers for ease of organization and editing!

Here’s a tip: You can change your line art layer type to multiply so that they blend in well with whatever colour your hair ends up being!

Add in your shadows

Create a new layer and turn on the clipping mask so it clips to your flat colours. Change the layer style to multiply and draw in your shadows with a light, pale colour -- this can be anything, but pink or blue is recommended! Do this for multiple layers to give your hair volume! Make sure you identify where your light source is so you know where to draw your shadows.

Add in your highlights

You can use your lasso tool to select certain sections of your hair to fill in the highlights. You can hold shift to select multiple things at once! Using a lighter colour, fill in your selections to create the highlights in your hair!

Here’s a tip: You can slightly erase the highlights that are farther away from the light source. Because they’re not as close, they won’t be as intense!

Blend it all together!

All that’s left to do is to blend in all your highlights and shadows! On a new layer, blend in your hair by using the eyedropper tool (Alt) and colouring pigments in back and forth. In MediBang, you can use either the watercolour brush or the acrylic brush, or you can take a different brush and turn on opacity by pressure in the brush settings.

You can add extra highlights and flyaway hairs to make your hair feel more natural, but if you add in extra highlighted flyaways, make sure you draw them in highlighted areas, and not in shadows!

Here’s a tip: Blend in the hairline so it feels more like it’s naturally growing from the head!

And there you have it! The rendering process is about the same no matter what hairstyle you do, but make sure you follow the flow of the hair and blend in the direction that it grows for the most natural looking results!

We often get requests for hair tutorials in our Cartooning and Anime classes and our Digital Art classes, which you can find on our website! Be sure to also check out our free digital art tutorials playlist on YouTube, and our other digital art blogs on our website for all your digital art needs!

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