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The Easiest Way to Draw Realistic Hair with Graphite

Drawing realistic hair - 1
Drawing realistic hair - 1
Drawing realistic hair – 1

Like most pencil artists out there I was utterly intimidated by hair when i started drawing portraits. Not finding something that could actually help me, I started developing my own technique. After so many years, this initial way of drawing hair is still my favorite because it is the easiest, fastest and most accurate way compared to anything else I have found!

My technique is relying on creating stray white hairs. I once made a tutorial about this, which you can download here. However this was many years ago and I now do a few things differently. So, yes, I am sharing my big secrets today! 

All the tools I use are shown in the following picture:

Drawing Realistic Hair - tools
Drawing Realistic Hair – tools

1. A 0.3 mechanical pencil without any leads in it (!!?) I’ll explain later.

2. A pencil eraser.

3. A blunt, quite soft, normal pencil. I use a 4B or 6B normally. The softer the pencil, the darker the hair.

The process is very straight forward, just requires control and practice. Once you’ve mastered it however, you won’t be able to live without it!

Firstly, I create the stray hairs. Using the mechanical pencil (without leads), I “draw” lines on the paper. Actually pressing the pencil quite hard, I make indentations on the paper. (I cannot draw since there is no graphite in the pencil) These indentations are “below” the surface of the paper, so they will stay white even when the area is filled with graphite. Under some conditions, which I will explain later.

Drawing Realistic Hair - indenting
Drawing Realistic Hair – indenting

After that, the only thing I do is filling the area with graphite, using the blunt soft pencil. I use long strokes, following the flow of the hair.

Drawing Realistic Hair - filling with graphite
Drawing Realistic Hair – filling with graphite

And that’s all! Literally. Of course, I normally stylize my hair after that (not MY hair, oh well you get the point).That’s where the pencil eraser comes in. I use it to create additional hairs.

Simple but effective. The final result is normally super detailed and super realistic.

Drawing Realistic Hair 2
Drawing Realistic Hair 2
Drawing Realistic Hair 3
Drawing Realistic Hair 3

There are just a couple of points you should keep in mind. Oh yes there is a catch! But only a small one!

1. Make sure you use a smooth but “fluffy” paper. Meaning soft and thick. Think about pizzas. A pizza can be thin and crispy or soft and thick. We want the soft and thick one. Only this way indentations will be deep enough to stay white. Otherwise, graphite might glide in them, and the whole technique is pointless.

2. Use a BLUNT pencil to draw the hair. For the same reason as above. If you attempt to fill the area with a sharp pencil, it can easily fill the indentations and destroy your beautiful stray hairs.

3. Less is more. Do not attempt to create every single detail, you’ll go crazy. The beauty of this method is that it creates the illusion of details, when in fact all we pay attention to, is a bunch of stray hairs!

That’s all folks! Keep creating and please share YOUR way of creating Hair!

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