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Thick flowing hair

Author: ironsun

Tools Needed

  • Photoshop


Remember him? Our beloved Don the Cat Guy is waiting for the hair I promised to give him in tutorial about Morphing in Photoshop CS. Using tabled is recommended, but I think that this could also be done with mouse.


Step 1 - Planning

First let's plan what kind of hair we want to do. We'll be focusing on big chunks of hair so let's start with some general directions that the hair will flow.


Eek! Pink and light violet! Hair will NOT be like that but those are colors that really stand out of the background making planning easier than using darker colors. Pink chunks are hair and violet ones some decoration-to-be.

Step 2 - Styling base of the hair

Because I want Don to have chunky messed type of hair I have different method to make it than standard strand-to-strand technique used to draw silky hair. I've found one of the Photoshop's styles to be just what I needed.

In styles tab, press the little arrow in the upper right corner to popup menu with lots of different styles. Click Photographic Effects and choose append in the pop up window to append new styles last to styles tab.


The style what were looking for is called Inner Bevel Drop Shadow. It is between Purple tone and Luminosity styles. Create new layer and apply style to it. Before painting, change direction of shading and color of highlights to correspond lighting in your image. After that shadows and highlights will fall in right places.

Normally drawing hair will go to darkest to lightest tone, but because the nature of the style, begin with the lightest tone of the hair and draw general shape of the strands. It's OK to paint over the character because we're going to clean all up when finishing the pic.

Use hard rounded brush with opacity at 100% and change size of the it to make hair look more alive.


Step 3 - Tone and depth

When you've finished painting the base, create new layer and apply same style to it as in last one. If you've changed the default style, easiest way to add same style is to right click on base layer and select copy layer style and then right click on just created layer and select paste layer style.

Continue painting chunky hair and remember to create new layer for every new color to give hair some depth.


Here's what I've done so far. It's not the most perfect piece of hair but in next step it's going to get some more detail.

Step 4 - Detail, detail, detail

We were aiming at chunks of hair but not that chunky ;) With large soft rounded eraser opacity about 50% erase some ends of hair. I'll be concentrating on Don's hair above ear because it has almost no definition at all.

Next it would be good to save the pic with different name because next we're going to merge all hair layers and give them more shadows and highlights. If something goes horrendously wrong we have the original to start again :)

In newly saved file hide all layers except hair layers. Then press little arrow above layers' opacity slider and choose merge visible. Now you've just one hair layer. If needed, use burn and dodge to define shadows. This is also good step to check out that hair looks OK. In this step you can for example erase hair that is overlapping character too much, change color of the hair and add decoration.

Step 5 - The End

This is how the image looks right now. Don the Cat Guy has got his mane and now he can finally run in the woods and feel the wind in his hair… ;)


If you have any comment, questions or suggestions, please feel free to email me.