How to draw short hair (very detailed)

wm-rfa-how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-view-10_2Looking for a highly detailed tutorial on how to draw short hair? This is a very extensive one with plenty of examples, a full step by step tutorial and mini tutorial.

It’s an expanded version of the mini tutorial from my first hair article. So if you’ve seen the thumbnail for this article before, I’m not feeding you old content. What you’re getting in this tutorial is new content with more images, more steps, more explanations and over 2000 words of valuable content! Let’s get into it!


I hope I don’t lose you during any step in the application part of this tutorial, so here are a few things I want to cover with you before we start. Let’s talk about:

  • Grouping Hair
  • Layering Hair
  • Hair Flow/Direction
  • Shading
  • Detailing Short Hair
  • Lighting and Consistency
  • How to Draw a Small Section of Hair (Mini Tutorial)


Grouping Hair

Grouping is a great way to approach drawing a an entire head of hair, especially if the sheer amount intimidates you. This method can help you draw hair faster because you’re simplifying something that looks complex.

When you’re in the grouping phase, you’ll want to draw using very light outlines. These groups will eventually be broken down into smaller, more detailed sections of hair.

In the grouping phase, all you need to think about is the length, overall design and flow of hair.

If you’re drawing from a reference image, you can identify groups of hair by zooming out of the image or standing back to find patterns in the hair. Group hairs that are flowing in the same direction and/or close together.


Layering Hair

This part is self explanatory, but I decided to include it just in case. If you get the idea, move on to the next point.

The order in which you draw each group of hair is important. If you’re drawing a hairstyle where the hair is prominently parted at the side of the head, you’ll want to start your first layer there and work your way out.

The image below is an example of drawing from the part and working your way down the side of the head.


If all the hair is brushed from the back of the head towards the front, start your first layer of hair from the back of the head where the swirl or whorl is located.

If the hair is brushed from front to back, you’ll draw starting from front to back.


Hair Flow and Direction

wm-how-to-draw-short-hair-flowIf you have a reference image, look for patterns in the hair to find out the general direction where the majority of hair is flowing. In the image above, the hairs at the top of the head are all pointing in a similar general direction while hair on the side of the head seems to have a more unique flow. You can use arrows in your reference image to help visualize the flow.

Avoid drawing hairs that follow the exact direction your arrows are pointing. You can make your drawing look a lot more interesting by pointing the hair in several different directions, while still appearing to point in the same general direction.


Dark Spaces

Drawing hair isn’t about creating as many lines as possible. Between some hairs, there should be dark space. These dark spaces are important and can make a head of hair look more interesting to the eye and give the hair more volume or depth.

wm-dark-spaces-exampleYou can introduce dark shadows in areas like the swirl behind the head, spaces between large groups of hair or even areas where overlapping, curly or unruly hair appear.


Detailing Short Hair

If you’re drawing from a picture and you’ve lost track of which hair you just drew and you don’t know which patch of hair to draw next… there’s really no need to copy the exact picture hair by hair.

If you end up reading through this entire tutorial, you will be more comfortable playing it by ear instead of pouring over the tiny details from your reference image.

Below are just a few ways you can detail hair. You can incorporate a few or all of them in your drawing wherever you see fit. Come up with your own formulas. It’s a lot of fun!



Lighting and Consistency

Overall Lighting:

rfa-overall-lighting-exampleIf you often find it hard to keep track of the overall lighting while you’re drawing, it really helps to plan ahead. You can do this by outlining/shadow lining areas of the hair you want the light to fall on or areas you want to have the most shadow and then shade these areas in. This step should be done before grouping and layering.

Lighting Across Particular Sections:

Once you start drawing the individual hairs, it’s easy to lose track and end up with inconsistent lighting across small groups of hair. Here’s an example:

particular-lighting-exampleYou can easily change the highlighted section of hair by pinching your kneaded eraser into a long thin shape and swiftly remove graphite from your drawing.


How to Draw a Small Section of Hair – Mini Tutorial


Step 1: Light Planning

mini-tutorial_drawing-small-section-of-hair_lightingHave a good idea of where you want the hair to be lightest and where it should be darkest. Use a soft but sharp pencil to shade the darkest areas of hair. I used a 6B. If you don’t want such dark shadows, use a harder pencil. Make sure to use strokes that follow the hair’s flow.


Step 2: Add Individual Hairs

You can start drawing the individual hairs now. If you’re not comfortable with that just yet, see the mini tutorial from the original hair article. You can do this step with many pencils or you can use one. I usually draw one group of hair at a time. But in order to make this mini tutorial short, I’m working on all 3 groups at the same time.

Using a 4B mechanical pencil, I created strokes that were bold to begin with, but ended lightly as I approached the areas I wanted to highlight. Then I used a sharp HB pencil to fill in some spaces. I applied a variety of pressures to get a mix of different values and line thicknesses.

Some lines are shorter or longer than others. This is great, but make sure the area that you want to highlight has not been shifted.

Step 3: Directional Strokes

Now, you’ll want to draw from the end of the hair towards the highlight. If you draw the hair ends as dark as the root, the hair will have more of a curve to it.

The thing you need to keep in mind here is that the stroke needs to appear as though both ends are faded out or thinned out. The way to do this is to draw each hair using 2 strokes going in opposite directions. You only need to do this if your hair ends are noticeably blunt, making them appear unnatural.



Step 4: Touchups

If you haven’t been mindful of the prearranged lighting and your highlights appear to be off, use your kneaded eraser to redefine them. If you want the highlights to pop more, increase the level of overall darkness and/or use an eraser to brighten up individual strands of hair.

If you’re still reading, you’re one heck of a patient person. I think you’re ready for the full tutorial now!

How to Draw Short Hair From the Side


Step 1: Head Outline

rfa-how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-1Draw the shape of a head from the side. You can use this tutorial for proportions. Make sure to draw the ear and neck in this step as well. I used a 4B pencil so that you can clearly see my outlines. If you’re afraid of the outlines showing through in the end, use an HB pencil.


Step 2: Hair Length

rfa-how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-view-2Decide on the length of hair you’d like to draw. In this example, the hair is shortest around the back and sides, while the hair on top of the head is longest. Once you’ve decided on the length, grab a blunt 4B pencil and use the shadow lining technique to outline the hair.

Make sure the distance between the hair and head is consistent.


Step 3: Separating Top From Side Hair

rfa-how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-view-3Erase any outlines that you made for the head and then use an HB pencil to create an outline that separates the hair on the side of the head from the hair on top of the head.


Step 4: Overall Lighting

rfa-how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-view-4If you don’t want to lose track of the overall lighting, use an HB pencil to shadow line areas of the hair you want to the light to fall on and then shade around those highlights. You can shade using a single tone or take it a step further and introduce darker tones. I used a blunt 4B pencil for that.


Step 5: Grouping, Layering, Flow and Shading

wm-rfa-how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-view-5_1If you did step 4, use a 4B pencil to layer groups of hair starting from the swirl at the very back of the head. If you didn’t do step 4, use an HB pencil. Make sure you keep the overall direction/flow in mind as you draw.

You can cover the entire side of the head or work section by section. I stopped as soon as I got close to the area I wanted most of the light to fall on.

wm-rfa_how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-view-5_2When you start shading, start by defining the darkest areas before drawing individual hairs (sharp 6B). If you happen to cross into the area you wanted most of the light to fall, do not introduce overly dark tones.

After you’ve defined the major shadows, start drawing individual strands of hair. Naturally, you’ll start breaking large groups into smaller groups and you’ll find ways to incorporate overlapping hairs and other unique and interesting patterns.

For the individual hairs, I used a 0.5mm 4B mechanical pencil.


Step 6: Repeat

wm-rfa-how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-view-6Continue working around those highlights. When drawing hair at the nape of the neck, curl the hairs in towards the neck. For areas close to the back of the head that aren’t getting much light (the light source for your drawing may be different), focus more on mid tones and dark tones instead of trying to define highlights/shine. It’s okay if the hair doesn’t stand out.


Step 7: Grouping, Layering, Flow and Shading

wm-rfa-how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-view-7_1Working in small sections at a time, I drew layer upon layer of large to medium groups of hair. Working in layers helps me carefully plan out the hair direction and flow.

wm-rfa-how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-view-7_2In the image above, I shaded around major groups of hair, making certain areas darker than others to show some depth. Since this is the area I wanted the majority of light to fall on, I used an HB 0.5mm mechanical pencil and a 2B pencil to draw the individual hairs.


Step 8: Fixing/Adding Highlights

wm-rfa-how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-view-8If you’ve shaded too dark, or simply want your highlights to pop more, roll your kneaded eraser into a ball, pinch one section so it’s flat and sharp and then run the eraser along areas you want to highlight as though you’re drawing white hair.
The image on the left is before erasing and the one on the right is after.

Step 9: Grouping and Layering

wm-rfa-how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-view-9In step 2, if you can recall, I wanted the hair on top of the head to be longer than the sides. The longest hairs you will have to draw will be in your first layer. The following layers are overlapped by layer 1, so they’ll appear shorter.

Step 10: Adding Dark Space and Individual Hairs

wm-rfa-how-to-draw-short-hair-from-the-side-view-10_1Use your creativity to define shadows along random areas of hair. These might be areas that you’re not sure what to do with or that would have looked awkward if you did draw hair. You’ll know what I mean if you’re following along and applying this to your drawing.

After you’ve drawn the shadows, use your mechanical pencil to break groups of hair down into smaller groups until they start looking like individual strands of hair. While you’re drawing the strands, improvise and find unique ways to incorporate unruly, overlapping, loose hair, etc.


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37 thoughts on “How to draw short hair (very detailed)”

  1. Thank you so much for taking out the time to actually write this down and share. Your tutorials are really amazing. Thank you ❤.

  2. I just had to leave a comment to thank you so very very much. I’m just getting back into drawing after about 8 years and I stumbled on your videos on YouTube. You are better than the art teacher I had in college! lol Your teaching style is perfect for me and I have printed out ALL of your tutorials to make myself a reference book to keep by my desk. Thank you so much for making the transition back to knowing what I’m doing so much easier lol

  3. Hi, Darlene

    I have been looking all over internet for a tutorial that I can really understand. I am not saying others or those you can find on YouTube aren’t good, it’s just they aren’t good for me. They either cut a lot from the videos or the speed is so high; or those who make the tutorials talk a lot and too much, most of the time using a complicated language an lots of irrelevant details that makes me lose focus on the drawings and lesson itself. What I really mean is that, I appreciate the simplicity yet the complex composition of your tutorials, the effort to make them in such way that even a beginner who has never held a pencil in his hands; the clear way you present and describe the techniques and the clean and detailed way you wrote the articles on this page. Thank you!
    All the best!

  4. Thank you Darlene so much for this very detailed hair tutorial! You did a fantastic job and I picked up some very good tips from it. Keep up the awesome work and thanks again for sharing!!

  5. Darlene you are really quite remarkable. The lessons that you teach give just enough information to make you think and force you to figure out some of the details on your own. In doing this it gives you not only more confidence but makes the piece an individual creation. Also the homework at the end is a nice touch making the student go back and rework or improve their earlier work. Facebook or other social media is not for me so the only way I can communicate with you is email. Thanks again for all of your hard work and dedication to the aspiring artists in the world. I have recommended your site to five people already and will continue to refer more.

  6. Question, is it hopeless to expect good/close results using any old pencil?
    P.S. As everyone said, good tutorial. I love how you break it down. :)

  7. Marina Dolores Garcia Solorzano

    Your parents made a mistake when they gave you a name; you should be called: Darling! thank you so much for your helpful teaching!

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