Digital Painting Tutorial: How to Paint Hair - Part 1
O.k., for the record, I hate painting hair... it totally smacks of effort! :p
Unfortunately, if you’re painting portraits, furry animals or small marsupials, hair is almost always a requirement, *ehhh* :p
Anyway, here’s an introduction to the different styles I’ve used to paint hair. There’s several techniques, I’m still learning and getting better as I’ve only really painted hair since the beginning of 2013. In the old days it was Ball Point Pen or pencil.

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 on deviantART for painting hair that admittedly, I must have a closer look at ;)

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.
More in-depth tutorials will follow.
These portraits basically had a dark base layer with pretty much just 2 shades of highlights, a mid-tone and highlight just to give the hair a bit of texture and depth.

As I mentioned in my “Painting Eyes Tutorial - V1”, keep that in mind as you often don’t need to go too overboard on details that you won’t see. Your mind can imply detail from feedback it gets through your vision. It’s great you can zoom up in Gimp or Photoshop, but you don’t need to be photo-realistic at 900% zoom :p This hair looks pretty crappy zoomed up, but zoom out and it looks fine and takes less time to paint, Boom! :D
These portraits have more textured hair, although I’m using a slightly larger and softer brush.
This means you still don’t have to go crazy on detail and results in quite a nice soft “painted” look. You can see in the close-up that there isn’t a lot of detail.
It wasn’t my intent, but when I was finishing this painting (just the hair to go), I just wanted to be done and finish it, there’s only so long you can stare at Alicia Silverstone ;) So, I used quite a soft brush for the last of the hair (over the shoulders) and it resulted in not a bad attempt at depicting depth of field and out-of-focus.
hese portraits (including below) were a bit more difficult. However, I think I’ve worked out a technique that’s working for now. You can see from my YouTube Speed Painting videos, but I lay down a dark base colour for the hair, but not the darkest tone. Then I use a darker tone for the shadows and to help define the shape of the hair. Then I use lighter tones and finally highlights. I use a single soft brush (not a bristle brush) set to about 7 pixels (my image is 300ppi) and basically draw each strand of hair. You get quite fast, finaly you scribble a few random hairs to make it look more natural. Smacks of effort, but quite rewarding when you’ve finished :D
If you’re using a mouse, step away from your computer, smack yourself, save up that coffee/booze money, and buy a Wacom!...You will save yourself much wailing and gnashing of teeth :P

* I claim no responsibility for any injury caused by smacking ones self, nor the force by which the smack is administered.