How to Paint Hair Texture

Written by diana prince
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How to Paint Hair Texture
Learn to create the look of realistic hair texture in your painting. (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

In order to elevate the realism of your portrait painting, you need to master the skill of capturing both facial expressions and hair texture. You can bring your subjects' hair styles to life by incorporating the proper materials and following techniques that will add both depth and body. With a little practice, you can ensure that your paintings will bring hair to life, rather than leave it lying lie flat.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • 1 cup dark brown acrylic paint
  • 1 cup medium brown acrylic paint
  • 1 cup light brown acrylic paint
  • Plastic containers
  • 1 medium, flat-tipped paintbrush
  • 1 small, round-tipped paintbrush
  • Art paper or canvas

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  1. 1

    Pour some dark brown paint, medium brown paint and light brown paint into separate containers.

  2. 2

    Dip a flat-tipped paintbrush into the medium brown paint and paint across the entire section of hair on your art paper or canvas, creating a solid base colour. Whether you are painting freehand or already have sketched on a guideline with a pencil, you need to ensure the medium shade of colour is used as the base coat. Wait for the paint to dry completely. Acrylic paints usually take 10 to 15 minutes to dry; refer to the instructions on the paint to be sure.

  3. 3

    Dip a smaller, round-tipped paintbrush into the light brown paint and paint vertical, slightly curved lines throughout the hair to create highlights. Even natural, uncolored hair and hair that has been dyed a solid colour has highlights, however subtle. The lighter colour of paint helps to bring this out and create a lightness and definition in the hair. Repeat this a few times over the upper sections of hair, near the top of the head, as this is the area that would reflect the most light. Continue adding as many light pieces as desired; the more and thicker the strands, the lighter overall the hair will appear. Wait for the paint to dry completely.

  4. 4

    Rinse your paintbrush, dip it into the dark brown paint and add thin lines beside each of the light brown streaks. This will add lowlights and finish off the look of natural hair texture. Continue adding as many dark pieces as desired; the more and thicker the strands, the darker overall the hair will appear.

Tips and warnings

  • You can substitute the brown shades for shades of another colour, such as yellow or gold for blonde hair or red or orange for red hair.
  • Lightly dabbing over the lighter and darker streaks with a sponge as you paint will blend the colours better and help you achieve a more solid, yet still textured, hair colour.
  • Take time to consider how the hair would naturally fall before painting. Straight hair falls more downward, while curly hair tends to fall slightly out to the sides.

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