I've always loved drawing people and my medium of choice has been standard drawing pencils, but I often struggle with hair - specifically long hair. I've come across a couple techniques that have helped me make it look a little bit more three dimensional and given my subjects some body and shine, but I would like to know what you're techniques are for perfecting long hair in a pencil drawing.

Do you draw the hair in large chunks? What are some techniques I can use to make it look realistic e.g.: soft, reflecting the right amount of light, not too perfect, etc.?

  • Welcome to Arts & Crafts. I removed the word best and that is subjective and can attract opinions. I also made the title and actual question. Not a requirement but it helps other users, in theory, get to the content easier. We have some good drawing talent here so I expect you will get some good answers.
    – Matt
    Oct 3, 2016 at 19:52

2 Answers 2


There is a natural temptation when drawing hair to think in terms of individual hairs and equate these to pencil lines. However this tends to get in the way as there is no reasonable way to draw every individual hair even in hyper-realistic styles.

Instead forget that hair is lots of individual strands and concentrate on what it looks like as a surface/form/texture and in terms of light and shade. It is often easier to draw smooth, glossy hair as this tends to have more defined highlights.

In this example image you can see distinct bands of light and shade which are far more prominent than individual strands.

enter image description here

It may also be useful to look at ways in which hair is represented in sculpture and more abstract graphic styles such as comic strips and art nouvea. This may help you to think in terms of the form and texture rather than the material.

also bear in mind that photographic realism is not always the goal in portraiture and often you are trying to capture an impression of a subject rather than just mechanically reproduce an image.

  • 3
    I would add that it also flows in ways similar to drapery, of varying stiffness and springiness, to address the long hair portion of the question. Perhaps something on drawing in segments, or how to develop the forms you mention?
    – user24
    Oct 5, 2016 at 0:40

Hair can be hard to draw sometimes, but I think it is very fun! Here are the steps I personally go through to assure realistic looking hair.

  1. make a light outline of the general hair shape.
  2. Make ‘pieces’, or several sections of hair.
  3. Start shading from the darkest parts of the hair
  4. Blend with the lighter strands of hair
  5. Add details such as flyaway strands, and extra detail.

Hope this helped!

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