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Lab Assistant
Original Poster
#1 Old 16th Mar 2008 at 12:32 AM
Default Tutorial: Hand-Drawn Hair
How to make hand drawn hair in photoshop

Hello and welcome to the tutorial! Today we'll be getting some practice at drawing hair by hand in Photoshop. This tutorial is ideal for users who have a pressure-sensitive digital drawing tablet at their disposal, but the way I explain this should also work well for people using a mouse or touchpad. If you don't have photoshop, you can still do this in another program with a good brush tool and smudge tool (since these will be all you need, really) such as Paint Shop Pro, Open Canvas, GIMP, and others. Let's get started!

First of all, this is a dodge/burn-free tutorial. I know a lot of people use the tool, but dodging and burning is more often bad than good- it has side effects on the saturation of the affected tones that you have to compensate for with other tools and adjustments. It's just more reliable to do the color variations yourself. So, with that said, we need to create a palette of the different tones we'll be using for our sim's hair. You can search for images on google according to hair color and swatch them in basic shades using the eyedropper tool. For a good result, we'll want 5 tones from darkest dark to lightest light (4 will do for black hair). Here's a set of palettes I created for different hair color schemes; they can be tweaked using hue/saturation for variations on color and lighting:

In this tutorial we'll be working with black hair, so I'll just explain the extra step taken for the other colors in a separate example.

Open the picture you are going to use to draw the hair. You can use a short base hair if you want (if you do this, you should create your palette from the tones of the base hair so the end result blends well) or your sim can just go bald/cropped. I elected for the second option here... poor Lenda, this look doesn't suit her :P

Create a new layer on top of the background layer. Using your darkest dark from the palette and a hard round brush, start to lay in the basic shape of the hair. Start with your brush size at about 7px, and work your way down to 1 or 2px for the ends and smaller bits. Don't lay in any individual strands yet, just stick with basic shapes, and don't worry if you cut into the face for now, that's why we're on a separate layer. Also, be sure your hair looks filled, as you don't want any bald spots when you're adding in details later. Other thoughts about hair shape:
*Try not to conform the hair to the shape of the head-- hair has volume, and even super-fine or slicked hair will come off the head a little bit.
*A good general rule, no matter the hair texture, is to lay it out in vaguely triangular chunks. Hair tends to lay in sections, not individual strands, and the ends tend to be thinner so they give the appearance of a lot of blunt points (although with hair that has not been trimmed in a while, the ends tend to fray increasingly and lose their shape).

Sort of ugly, huh? Well, it won't be so much after this step. Using the same color, zoom in as much as you're comfortable with and start laying in finer details using a 1 or 2px brush. While it's okay to let some wild hairs go, try to retain some of that chunkiness, as otherwise the hair starts to look shapeless and frizzy. You'll notice how heavily I laid in strands around the ends to give the hair body and a softer look.

On the same layer, lock the transparent pixels to prevent stray strokes (in PS it's the checkerboard symbol in the layers window) and select the second color from your palette. Setting your round brush to 50% hardness and about 4-6px, begin to lay in strands of that color (mouse/touchpad users: to get the tapering line, you can smudge the ends, or just use a smaller brush size. Do vary your brush size to get strands that are different thicknesses). Be attentive to the way the hair flows and align your strokes with that to create the beginning of some nice texture. Don't try to get too close to the roots, especially at the part, since these tend to be darker by nature. Just draw natural strokes, paying attention to where they start and end, and it should work out well.

Now for the non-black-hair part, here's what to do: same as above, but lay the color in nice and thick. Don't cover the base color completely and don't make it look un-strandy, but do try to make the second color the more prevalent of the two. Then, using the middle tone from your palette and making the brush a little smaller, lay it in on top once again. Here's an example using red hair:

Continuing with the black hair... we now get to do that thing that nobody thinks of: define our light source! This is extremely helpful in showing where to place shadows and highlights on all surfaces, not just hair. Since this picture already has a fairly well-defined light source judging from the location of the shadows on Lenda's face, we can just doodle in our cartoony little sun opposite those shadows (imagine that it is also partway in front of her). You might think it's silly; it helps me, so whatever floats your boat.

Create a new layer on top of the one we've been working on. On this layer, using your second lightest color and a 2-3px brush at 100% hardness, begin to lay in your lower-key highlights, followed by your lightest light in 1px for high-key highlights. The more you layer these, the more highlights you will get, so experiment some and don't be shy. Notice how the light source defines the highlights; the ones on Lenda's right side are brighter and fuller than on her left.

Since all these strokes have left the hair texture looking blocky, you can now use the smudge tool to soften the strands out and blend them.

Now for the final touch: shadows. With black hair since it's already quite dark this might not be as necessary, but it's useful for lighter hairs. Using your darkest dark again, change your round brush to a pixel size of 10 or more, reduce its hardness to 0%, set it on airbrush if you prefer, reduce the brush opacity to 50% or less (depending on lighting and personal taste) and on the same layer, block in some subtle, soft shadows; for instance in the area where the hair meets the back of the head and possibly in the center of the part. You can also accentuate the space between pieces of hair by adding a little shadow.

You are done! For the before/after picture I sharpened the layer once and upped the contrast slightly for stronger highlights. If you want, you can merge the hair layers together and reduce the opacity so you can erase the areas that block out the face and/or earrings, etc. I hope you found this useful!
#2 Old 2nd Apr 2008 at 11:05 PM
Thank you so much!
#3 Old 2nd Apr 2008 at 11:11 PM
Holy Whhhaaa!! Thanks! I think I'll try this
#4 Old 2nd Apr 2008 at 11:13 PM
whoa, cool! did you use a drawing tablet?
Lab Assistant
Original Poster
#5 Old 3rd Apr 2008 at 12:32 AM
Yep, I did- I use a Wacom graphire 4x5 glad you guys like the tut!
#6 Old 3rd Apr 2008 at 4:51 AM
This tutorial is really nice. Can it be used for if you want to make actual custom-content, to give detail to a hair texture? I really like the result and I think it will be helpful for making nice hair of my own.
Lab Assistant
Original Poster
#7 Old 3rd Apr 2008 at 8:29 AM
I have tried to use this for my own CC hair textures before, I haven't had very good results but I think that's more due to my lack of practice (and patience, maybe) in texturing than the method itself. Try it out!
#8 Old 4th Apr 2008 at 1:14 AM
*mashes thanks button*
#9 Old 17th Apr 2008 at 3:39 AM
Thank you Enders, I bought a tablet just so I could do hair like Lenda's - thanks for the tut
Lab Assistant
Original Poster
#10 Old 19th Apr 2008 at 6:14 PM
No problem aww you got one just for this... well you will find it very useful for a lot of different things! (and don't worry if you find it hard to use at first, I couldn't even point and click when I first got mine!)
#11 Old 25th Jun 2008 at 12:39 AM
thanks u soo much! i'm sooo gonna try this! :D
#12 Old 4th Jul 2008 at 9:38 PM
Wow... :sprint:
I didn't know I can do such kind of things in photoshop! I have to try it :D
Good job and really good tutorial :clap:
#13 Old 6th Jul 2008 at 11:16 AM
Ohh Cathrine! This is great! tHANK YOU SO MUCH!
#14 Old 1st Nov 2008 at 8:09 PM
Thank you so much for this! =]
Lab Assistant
#15 Old 9th Jun 2009 at 3:05 AM
I was always wondering how people make sims seem so realistic. I have almost NEVER seen the hair they used. This explains a lot! Thx for the tut!

"It's not the mesh ... It's not the texture ...It's not me ... I am pretty sure it's you."
Mez Isa Nintendork! Yayz Meez!
Field Researcher
#16 Old 2nd Nov 2009 at 9:54 PM
Wow, I will definitely try this. Thanks for this tutorial. :D
Test Subject
#17 Old 20th Nov 2009 at 1:39 AM
Ha what ever floats your boat. Thanks again Mate,
Lab Assistant
8th May 2010 at 8:22 PM
This message has been deleted by yasmine0615.
Test Subject
#18 Old 10th Aug 2010 at 5:17 AM
WOAH! thanks! wait... i don't know how to get it into the game help anyone?
#19 Old 10th Aug 2010 at 8:29 AM
You don't get it into the game. If there is a specific style of hair you want just for a picture, then this is how to draw it. Unfortunately, creating hair to go in game is a lot harder.

"Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so."
- Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)
Test Subject
#20 Old 11th Aug 2010 at 7:38 AM
dang it.... i'm very knew to think kinda stuff... (if you can't tell) :p

"Why So Serious Son? Why So Serious?"
Test Subject
#21 Old 1st Sep 2010 at 12:59 AM
I hope it's not bad for me to post in this; I just wanted to say what an amazing tutorial.
I already knew (the basics) on how to do this due to IMVU but this really helped; such great detail.
I'll defiantly try this!
Test Subject
17th Oct 2010 at 1:18 AM
This message has been deleted by whiterider. Reason: Spam
Field Researcher
#22 Old 23rd Sep 2011 at 5:42 PM
I always wondered how everyone how entered contests get their sims hair so perfect, or their banners, like on

Thanks for the tutorial. I will be using this. :D
Test Subject
#23 Old 7th Oct 2011 at 12:59 AM
Awesome! Thanks for the tutorial :D
Test Subject
#24 Old 6th Feb 2012 at 10:52 PM
Test Subject
#25 Old 15th Mar 2012 at 7:58 PM
Wow! That's really darned good!
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