• Kirsty Partridge

How to Draw Hair in 5 Easy Steps

In this blog I’m going to go through my step-by-step process for drawing realistic hair with charcoal (it will work with graphite too). The full real-time drawing tutorial for this study is available here.


Step 1

Starting with the sketch outline, my tip would be to simply sketch sections of the hair such as locks and clumps, rather than any individual detail.

Use your H charcoal pencil to block in the direction the hair is flowing (this is very important!) and add the mid-tones for each section of hair. I like to start off very light with these directional lines and then apply more pressure as I add the shadows. I work the lighter areas first and then build up the shadows afterwards.


The direction of hair can change from section to section, so pay attention to your reference photo and spend plenty of time on every single lock of hair. It is very hard to create a realistic looking drawing without a reference photo, so I would highly recommend utilizing one.



Extra Tip 1: You don’t need to shade in every square inch of the hair, so don’t be afraid to leave some parts white for highlights in the hair. We will come back to this and use a brush for blending.

Extra Tip 2: Make sure you use individual sweeping lines when shading. Scribbling motions or backwards and forwards motions can ruin the realism of your drawing.


Step 2

Now I like to use my 2B pencil, as it is a darker charcoal and perfect for building up shadows that are in the reference photo. These shadows are important if you want your drawing to pop, as they create a lovely contrast that catches the eye. As an added bonus it also makes your hair look more natural. However, make sure you are preserving your highlights else there will be no contrast to the study.


Step 3

This is one of my favorite steps and for this you will need a round, fluffy brush. Very lightly sweep the brush over every section in order to blend and soften your pencil strokes. Follow the direction of hair and go section by section for best results. Any white highlights will become less bright and more realistic looking. Simply an amazing technique for any charcoal drawing that needs some lovely blending. Once the hair is suitably softened, I like to go back with a blending stump and blend some more, mainly to soften any areas that are still grainy. It’s also great for adding individual flyaway hairs which are key to increasing how realistic your hair looks. No-one’s hair is perfectly flowing together – no matter how hard I try!


Step 4

After blending, check your reference photo and go back in with your two charcoal pencils. You might need to further build detail, hair texture and intensify the darkest shadows after all that blending.




Step 5

Another one of my favorite steps, this time use a stick eraser to create some dazzling highlights. A stick eraser is great for creating the illusion of hair texture and can also be used to add in more flyaway hairs. If it gets too dirty and starts having little effect then don’t worry, chop a little bit of the nib off and continue. Finish off with any final touches you want, and your realistic hair drawing is complete.


Here is the final piece;


If you would like to pick up more helpful tips and tricks then check out my online charcoal drawing courses, where you can learn to master realistic drawing in charcoal and more!


To see these tips in action then watch the video below.



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