How to Create Hair on GIMP

Written by darrin koltow
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How to Create Hair on GIMP
Gimp's layers can hold different hairstyles for a particular head. (Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images)

Creating an image of realistic hair in Gimp is a project that can teach you much about colour, lighting and how to create digital paintings using Gimp's image manipulation tools. A helpful preliminary step in painting hair in Gimp is by studying images of hair in photos and illustrations, and especially studying real hair on people. Simulating hair with Gimp yields several benefits. One is the skill needed to touch up flawed images of hair in digital photos. Another is a greater understanding of how light and shade work together to give 3-D volume to real hair.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Click the "Paintbrush" tool, then drag the mouse over the canvas to outline an oval that's a little bit taller than it is wide. This oval represents the head. You'll need the head to clearly represent the image you're going to create as hair.

  2. 2

    Click the "New layer" command from the "Layers" menu to create a new layer on which to draw hair. By drawing on a different layer from the head, you'll avoid the problem of ruining the head's image.

  3. 3

    Click the coloured swatch at the bottom of the toolbar, then click a colour you'd like for the hair.

  4. 4

    Click the "Paintbrush" tool, then drag around the outline of the head to produce a halo of hair.

  5. 5

    Click the "Erase" tool, and then drag the cursor over any parts of the hair that should be hidden by the face and head.

  6. 6

    Click the toolbar's colour swatch to open the colour palette.

  7. 7

    Click the eyedropper tool, then click the hair you outlined previously.

  8. 8

    Click the right-handed arrow to move the colour onto a new button in the palette.

  9. 9

    Drag the "V" slider slightly to the right, then create another button. This step makes a lighter tint of the colour you clicked with the eyedropper. You'll use the lighter tint to paint those areas of the hair that face the imaginary source of lighting that highlights the hair more directly. The "V" mentioned in this step stands for "Value," which means darkness or lightness of a colour.

  10. 10

    Repeat the previous step to create colour buttons for both dark and light values of the hair colour you originally clicked the eyedropper on. This will create a palette you can shade the hair with.

  11. 11

    Click the "Paintbrush" tool, then click one of the darker buttons you made in the previous step.

  12. 12

    Drag the cursor over parts of the head that you believe to be facing away from the light, given a light source above the hair and head. As you paint, think of the hair as an egg-shaped volume whose upper portions are well lit, whose sides are fewer wells lit and whose undersides are in shadow.

  13. 13

    Repeat the previous step for progressively lighter shades of the colour buttons you made previously.

  14. 14

    Click the image menu's "Flatten" command to merge the hair with the head.

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