Tame the Mane! Here's How to Draw Curly Hair

Everybody has at least one defining feature, the thing that makes them look like themselves and nobody else. When you're drawing somebody's portrait , you want to get that feature just right.

So what happens when that signature feature is hair — more specifically, a thick mass of curls? That might sound tricky to draw, but we're here to tell you it isn't. This step-by-step guide will show you the way.

Drawing Curly Hair

All you need for this tutorial are basic supplies: paper, pencils and eraser. You may not even need a reference photo, though it can help.

1. Start with the Head and Neck

Draw an oval for the head and then draw the neck. Put some guidelines where the nose and eyes would be.

2. Draw the Shape of the Hair

Outline the general shape of the hair. Don't skip this step! The silhouette will indicate hair style and length.

3. Set Guidelines for the Curls

This is as simple as drawing wavy lines to indicate where the curls will go. For longer hair, make long, relaxed lines. For shorter hair, make shorter, more zigzag lines.

4. Begin Adding Definition

Here’s where you start to bring the curls to life. While all hair is different, there are some general rules for defining curls:

  • Think of curls as ribbons. Start them at the part and let them hang from there. You want the strands to twist over onto themselves, so you’ll have front and back sections. The front section will overlap with the back, which will appear smaller and less curved.
  • Hair is layered, and the pieces on the sides and the back of the head look more like soft waves than tight curls. To make your drawing more natural-looking, focus on several ringlets and imply a wavy texture behind them.

  • Vary the length of your curls. If you know anything about curly hair, you know layers count. They keep the hair from turning into a frizz bomb. So vary the length of the curls. The ones near the top of the head will be shorter than the ringlets at the bottom.
  • Remember that longer hair is curlier at the tips. Hair is straighter near the top of the head because the length of the curls weighs the strands down.

5. Shade the Hair to Give it Definition

Shading gives your drawing form and depth, so darken around the ringlets and the underside of the curls. You'll be surprised at how lifelike your drawing will become.

Not too hard, right? Once the hair is out of the way, it's time to move on to drawing the face.

Learn More Now

Get tips on drawing realistic heads, hair and facial features in our free Drawing the Human Face guide.

February 11, 2019
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Tame the Mane! Here's How to Draw Curly Hair