Wavy long hair
1. Find the outline.
Wavy hair tends to have less body than curly hair, but it’s still thick enough to stand out from the head.
2. Find the flow.
Draw some guidelines or arrows to get the directional flow of the hair right. Notice in your reference photos how the hair never goes straight up and down. “I let the inner strands run into each other,” Lamb says. A little randomness adds realism.
3. Fill in strands.
“Start off spreading them out first, and then fill in the gaps afterward, working from outside in,” Lamb says. As you fill in the strands, you can use a wider brush to add dimension.
Straight long hair
To draw straight hair, follow the same steps as for wavy hair. Just remember that straight hair tends to have less volume than curly or wavy hair, so it might sit a little closer to the head. The directional flow will also vary less, but there should still be some slight curves. Once you have your outline and flow, fill in the strands and add color.
The process for drawing dreadlocks is similar to that for other types of hair. Draw the outline first, and then just draw the general shape of the locks, which are like thin rectangles. Refer to your reference photo to see how the locks fall. Note how much heavier long locks appear than short ones, and how locks that start at the top of the head go outward before falling downward.
Once you’ve drawn the basic shape of each lock and you’re happy with the directional flow, you can draw over the edges with organic-looking, wavy lines. Add loose hair strands at some of the edges and around the hairline. For realistic detail, draw small, shallow U shapes inside each lock. The upward curves at the edges will give the appearance of depth. This process can take a long time, but do this for every lock, varying the darkness of some curves and edges to add texture. For highlights and shadows, go back to your reference photo to see how the light reflects off of each lock or gets lost in the layers.
Finish it off with shadows, highlights, and color.
Well-drawn highlights and shadows will give the hair a three-dimensional look. Again, refer to your reference photos and note how different types of hair reflect light in different ways. Even on the same head of hair, different areas of the hair reflect light differently. “Pay attention to how the light hits different strands,” says Lamb. “With straighter hair, the light concentrates on the bends, but curly hair has so many bends and so much dimension that you’re not going to see as much light.”
Consider the light source and notice where the shadows fall. “As you get closer to the body, like underneath the chin, the hair will be darker because less light is going to hit there,” Lamb says. “I just use a bigger, more transparent brush and go over it lightly, following the lines that are already there.”
If you add color, remember that one person’s hair can contain many different colors. And if you draw Black hair, remember that natural Black hair is never completely black. “Add a little bit of tone to show that it’s black but there are also some extra colors in there,” Jemison says. These colors will also add to the sense of three-dimensionality.