Artistic Anatomy Lecture: Hair

This video explains how to approach drawing hair. How to break down the sections of hair while also capturing the more detailed, refined areas.

54 min. video

The key to articulating hair is to treat the hair as a mass first, and then to subdivide the “clumps” of hair. Observing the direction of the hair creates structure to the mass of the hair as well. Lecture by Art Prof Clara Lieu.


Video Walkthrough

  • Why is hair so hard to draw? 
  • Think about hair as a mass.
  • Resist the temptation to think about hair as individual hairs.
  • To understand hair as a mass, look at how hair is built up in a sculpture.
  • Draw hair the way you would sculpt it in clay.
  • Look for the gesture of the hair, how does it move across the head?
  • Don’t even try to draw every hair, it’s not possible and it won’t look convincing either.
  • Use tone to block in the MASS of the hair.
  • In most portrait drawings, most of the hair is broad strokes of tone, not individual lines.
  • Add a few lines for stray wisps of hair for a more naturalistic look.
  • Show the direction of the hair.
  • Hair can look like short strokes, or long fluid ones.
  • Even straight hair will shift in direction.
  • Subdivide the mass of the hair into clumps.
  • Even straight hair can be separated into clumps.
  • Look for how clumps of hair overlap each other.
  • Lighting is incredibly important when drawing hair.
  • Poor lighting will cause your drawing to be flat to begin with.
  • Hair becomes volumetric when the lighting is well done.
  • Light is absorbed differently depending on whether the hair is wet, glossy, dry, etc.
  • Sculptures show how light enhances the mass of the hair.
  • Even hair that appears very messy has a form and volume.
  • Avoid “filling in” the hair, break it down into a structure.
  • Look for the direction of the hair in relation to the head.
  • The transition from the forehead into the hair should be gradual, otherwise it will look like a wig.
  • Consider how taut or loose the hair is, show the tension in the hair.

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