Digital Painting Tutorial: How to Paint Hair - Part 2
Hopefully you’ve already read my tutorial ‘Introduction to Painting Hair’, if you haven’t, there’s a link in the description below.

We’re going to look at my painting of Christina Ricci and even though a photo is used as reference, you don’t have to match it exactly. Facial features are often way more important to get right in a portrait (although caricatures are a mystery to me ;). The same person can have many hair-styles, as long as you don’t go too crazy, you can be a bit more relaxed.

There’s many techniques to painting hair, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to go about it. Have a look at other artists techniques and adopt one or adapt to suit yourself, it all comes with practice. There are some great tutorials and examples on deviantART for painting hair.

I mostly use a single brush in Photoshop, just the soft round brush, but vary the size and pressure using a Wacom Intuos3. I don’t use bristle brushes, they seem to be too uniform, but maybe I just need practice. Oh, and get a drawing tablet! Mice suck for painting! :p
Start with basic sketch. Often I’ll leave the hair until last. No real reason although most times the hair will fall over the face. I start with a single dark colour. No highlights on this side.
The great thing with this portrait is that the hair is out of focus on this side of the head. I just used a larger soft brush and various transparency levels. Done in a matter of minutes, Boom!
Christina has quite dark hair here so I lay down the darkest hair tone for this painting. Normally I would lay down a lighter base colour, but not the darkest, and build light and dark from there.
Painting the basic shape, then gradually add lighter tones and colours. Keep in mind the layers and curls of hair, and which parts need to be painted first. Start at the back and work forward.
Final highlights, always keeping in mind light sources. I’m drawing at 300ppi and using a 12px soft round brush for individual hairs. Throw in some stray hairs to give added realism. Photo reference was used for basic hair shape but you can be quite free with hair as long as it looks natural. Shading and how the hair blends into the face is important, otherwise it looks as though the person is wearing a toupee.

Blurry? I say ‘Depth of Field’ and fast to paint, Boom!

Depth of Field (DOF) is basically what is in focus. You can show depth with perspective, lighting/shading and focus. Although you can have the entire image in focus, having sections in high detail, but others blurry, can give realistic DOF effect. However, a ‘lens’ can precisely focus at only one distance at a time. You can’t randomly blur stuff in a painting and expect it to look realistic. Google DOF ;)
Final Painting.