Hair Tutorial (Lots of pics, you've been warned ;)

This is how I did the hair for this piece.. it changes from picture to picture but the basic method stays pretty much the same.

Hair Tutorial by Mai

1.Add a new layer over your figure then use a base color and a decent sized brush to block in your outline. (My picture is 800 X 720 and I used a size 13 brush to paint most of it and the added the smaller side piece with a size 5 )

2. Add a new layer. Then select the hair outline from the previous layer. (You can do this by Ctrl + clicking on the first hair layer )

3. Normally I pick a color slightly darker than my hair color but with black I pick a color that I will use as highlight color. Then take a small brush and draw lines indicating the hair flow.

4. Take a lighter color and take a slightly larger brush than the ones you made your hair flow outlines with. Use this to make larger lines following the hair flow.

5.Smudge this along the lines, smoothing it out but not changing the shape. (My smudge tool was a size 27 with a strength of 23. You want it to blur the lines, smear it a little bit but if your smudge tool is too strong then it will warp the shape of the lines. )

6.Paint more lines in a slightly different shade. Smudge again. I know most of the base color is covered up and your probably wondering why bother? Why not just make it of of the two colors you're using.. you could do that.. but the black does show through.

7. Hide all the other layers besides your hair, select all, copy merged, then paste it again.

8. Move it to the right spot with the move tool. (With the move tool selected, your arrow keys nudge the image over one pixel at a time. Useful for better control. )

9. Smooth this out with the smudge tool. I added more paint strokes in and then smoothed some more.

10. Make a new layer and add in large shadows with a darker color and a larger brush.

11. Take the smudge tool and smooth it out.

12. Change around your shading layer to whatever suits you, sometimes it looks best on multiply, sometimes darken and sometimes normal works better. Alternate opacities might look best to you also. ( I left mine on normal but then darkened the color a little bit by going to image>adjust>hue and saturation )

13. Then make a new layer and paint on some shine. Once that's painted smudge those. I use a back and forth tight zig zag motion. Check what blending mode looks best. I again left mine on normal but sometimes overlay or color dodge work better. Heck, sometimes I go through the whole bunch of blending style changes just to see... because you never know when difference is going to look cool. :P
(In this screenshot I had my shadows on multiply, I later decided it was too dark and went back to normal.)

14. I then merged the shine and shading layers together because I was lazy and did not want to make copies of them both and then merge the copies. You can do that if your worried about messing up somewhere along the line. I save all kinds of layers that I will most likely not use again... just in case.. and sometimes they've come in handy. ( Now if I could just remember to save my work often.. *I can still hear Cali in my head yelling SAVE!* because I have had photoshop lock up and I tend to lose all my work. )

15 Once they are merged, I then smudged them together to smooth them out a bit.

16. I then made another copy of all the visible layers (select all, then go to edit>copy merged) and pasted it on a new layer.

17.Once its moved into the right place again. I went to Image>adjust> hue and saturation and lowered the saturation and made it darker.

18 I then made another layer and added more highlights, painting and smudging them into place.

19. I copied the layers and pasted the merged version on top. Then I altered the hue because the purple tint just wasn't working for me.

20. I then erased some of the hair that I didn't think looked right in the shape and smudged the edges. If you aren't sure how you want it to look then make a copy. Erase, smudge and play around with it. You can always go back to the other version if you feel you've erased or smudged too much. For pulling strands away from the main body of hair I use a pretty strong smudge brush around 80 usually.

21. On yet another layer I add the little fly away strands. Personally, I still don't feel I've gotten the hang of the fly away strands.. what's too much or too little etc.. Put in what you feel is right. You can always add or take away from it later.

22. Next,smudge your strands. Lower the strength of your smudge brush or you'll probably loose the little strands. I had mine around 25-33. If the strands don't taper well at the end or one or two look a little wide. Use your eraser tool on on a small brush to smooth it down the way you want it to go.

23. Go back to your main layer of hair and,using a small smudge brush, smudge back and forth along the flow lines of the hair in any area that is pulled back from the face in order to make it look like it is naturally growing from her head and not a wig O_o

24. Select your body (And clothing ) and erase any hair that shouldn't be over the top of it. Such as hair that would be behind clothes or any overlap painting that you might have made on the cheeks and neck that shouldn't be there.

25.Next take the dodge tool and using a fuzzy brush set really low, dodge the highlights of your hair and the strands to make it shine a bit more. If your hair isn't black, then you can use the burn tool on a low opacity for the shadows also.

26 Make a new layer and select both your strands and the main hair. (ctrl +click one layer, then ctrl +shift click then next layer ) fill the selection in on your new layer with a dark color (black or some color in your picture) and then deselect it.

27. Go to filters>blur> guassian blur and blur it. I used 8 for this picture. You want it to be fuzzy but still have its shape.

28 Set it to multiply and put it under your hair layers. Then click on the move tool and use your arrow keys to nudge the selection down a couple of pixels and to the left or right.. depending on your light source. You should now have a small shadow around the hairline.

29. Select your body (and clothes) and then go up to the top bar and go to select >select inverse. Now hit delete. This takes the shadow off your background and leaves it just on the face and clothes.

30. You might have to smudge some extra places in your final scene to smooth it out and make it look like a part of the picture but that's about it.

Things to try:

If black hair gives you a hard time then do all the work in another color. I tend to use hot pink. (mostly because I rarely paint with hot pink so I'm certain it will stand out. ) once you've got the whole thing the way you want it to look go to Image >Adjust>Hue and Saturation and lower the saturation and darken the hair. You might find that your shading disappears somewhat. This is where it helps to have that shine and shading layer still around and seperate. Find that layer and put it back on top.. change the coloring to look right with the now black hair. If you didn't save your shine layer.. then just add another layer and paint in some extra shine or use the dodge tool on your hair layer.

White hair can be done this way also.

Try your smudge tool with fingerpainting on. Sometimes I like it on and sometimes I like it off. I find its great for shading but I tend not to like it for doing the shine.

Hope this makes sense and helps someone.

Guest 19 years ago
How do you get your ideas for hair shapes and styles? Do you use references?
Mai 19 years ago
Nope, not usually. I have long hair and lots of it... so I see it all the time. I have used references for short hair though because I've only had short hair once in my life.. and that to me chin.

And once for someone who wanted super curly long hair. Reference pictures are wonderful though, I should use them more often.
ROzbeans 19 years ago
This is magnificentivlyfabtabulous! Thank you for posting this, Mai! I'll have to try this, your hair looks SO much more realistic and so god dang bouncy!
Mai 19 years ago
ops: Thank ya Ma'am