I’ve been illustrating for over 5 years now, and it’s been a fun journey.
Transitioning from pencil sketching to digital illustrations wasn’t easy. Especially because I had no clue about human anatomy or figure drawing. And I got better only by practicing every day.
But one of the most difficult things I’ve had to learn was drawing cartoon hair. Luckily for you, I’m going to shorten your learning curve with this easy tutorial so you’ll learn how to draw cartoon hair.
I will show you how to draw cartoon hair of both types – straight hair and curly hair.
The process is very straightforward, and if you practice a little bit, you’ll get the hang of drawing hair in no time.
I am completely self-taught and what I’m going to teach you is my method of how I draw cartoon hair.
Now, I don’t draw many men, so I’m going to teach you how to draw cartoon girl hair for this tutorial. If you are interested in developing your art skills further and making money with it, do check out my new art course!
Okay, let’s begin with the basics.
This post includes affiliate links to products I truly (from the bottom of my heart) recommend, meaning at no extra cost to you, I may earn a small percentage which I will use to feed my sweet, adorable pooches.
Tools I’m using to draw my illustrations and the cartoon hair
Okay, before I begin the tutorial, I need you to know what I’m using to make my illustrations.
I’m currently using:
And I’m using the Procreate software. It’s a one-time fee of $10. And that’s it. You can draw on it forever for free after that.
I describe more about my illustrating process and tools in this post.
You can use any software because everything I’m going to explain below can be done with Photoshop and a graphic tablet as well.
How to draw cartoon hair – Straight Hair
Okay, I’m going to start with straight hair first because drawing curly hair is much easier, so we can save that for later.
1. Start with an outline of the head
I always start with a nice outline of the head. I use the dry ink brush (it’s free on Procreate), which is on a completely new layer. You want to draw a head because you need the shape of the head to draw the hair. It makes the overall shape of the hair more realistic.
2. Draw simple strokes of straight hair
Okay, next, I’m going to begin by drawing her hair over her scalp, and I’m going to pull it into a ponytail.
When you’re drawing the hair, make sure you’re using a new layer so that it becomes super easy to erase the mistakes.
You want the strokes to be in the direction of the hair growth. I’m going to draw it in pink so you can see it clearly. Notice the green arrows. So, if she were pulling her hair into a ponytail, that would be the direction of her hair strands.
Now that her hair is pulled up, we’re going to draw the ponytail.
Remember, straight hair is very fluid and actually adheres to gravity (unlike curly hair), so move your hand in long-flowy strokes. Don’t feel disheartened if it doesn’t come naturally to you at first. It takes practice.
3. Once you’re happy with the outline of your hair strokes, draw over the sketch
Okay, I’m pretty happy with the outline, so I’m going to create a new layer (working on a 3rd layer now) and draw the hair in dark brown. I’m going to lighten the head layer so you can see how the hair looks over the scalp.
Notice how the ponytail isn’t too tight because the hair is extremely loose at the sides and nearly flat at the top.
Now, I’m going to erase the scalp that is underneath the hair so we can perfect the outline.
To make things easier, I’m going to merge both layers.
And congratulations, we’re done with the outline of the cartoon head and the cartoon hair!
Now, all that’s left is to color the hair. Coloring is super easy, and I’m going to show you how to do that!
4. Add the base colors
This is super easy to do. Just make sure you’re adding a new layer for every base color.
This means one new layer for the eyes, another new layer for the skin, and another for the base hair color. I use the dry ink brush for coloring the base layers as well.
5. Draw the hair strands
Okay, this is great, but we want to add more details to the hair. And the best way to do that is to add a few individual strands.
Now, to draw the hair strands, we’re going to pick a color on the color palette by choosing a color that’s darker and more saturated. Whenever I say saturated, I mean brighter – which means moving to the right on the color palette.
See the diagram below for more information.
When choosing a color for the hair strands, we’re moving down on the color palette and a little bit to the right to pick a color that stands out in the hair.
Create a new layer over the purple color hair layer and click on it to select “clipping mask.” So now, when we draw the hair strands, we can only draw over the layer that is underneath. You don’t have to worry about coloring outside the area.
Following the direction of the outline, we draw the hair strands with the same ink brush.
We’re now going to add some highlighted strands to give the hair more color and texture. Choose a color that’s lighter than the base color. I’m going to decrease the width of the brush so that the highlighted hair strands are really fine before drawing a few strands.
6. Adding the lights and shadows
Okay, so straight hair is pretty glossy and reflects light more easily than curly hair.
So, we’re going to add a new layer over the other hair layers. And choose a nice turquoise blue and just add a few shapes over the hair. Adjust the layer property to “Add” and decrease the opacity to 10-15%.
Now, for the shadows – I’m going to choose a medium purple and then use the “Bonobo chalk” brush and go over a few sections of the hair to create the shadows. I’m going to change the properties of the layer by tapping on the layer and setting it to “Multiply” and then decrease the opacity to 25-35%.
7. Add the finishing touches
I’m going to choose a light pink for the blush and use the same bonobo chalk brush to add some blush to her cheeks. And with the dry ink brush, I’m going to add some purple lipstick in another new layer.
And we’re done.
Voila, you’ve just learned how to draw cartoon hair that is straight.
Let’s move on to drawing curly cartoon hair.
If you’re using Procreate, here are some fantastic resources:
- 8 Grainy Brushes for ProCreate
- Character Drawing Toolkit for Procreate (This pack comes with free drawing tutorial worksheets!)
- 21 Custom Pencil Brushes for Procreate
How to draw cartoon hair – Curly Hair
Okay, I’m not going to elaborate on drawing the head, because we already went through that, so I’m going to go ahead and dive into drawing the outline of the hair straight up.
1. Draw the outline of the hair
As you can see, curly hair can have any shape. And it’s totally fine because curly hair doesn’t follow any rules – including gravity.
So, when drawing the outline of curly hair, you want to make sure that you add some small lumps and some big lumps so that it looks slightly more realistic.
2. Add the base color
I’m going to draw the hairline because I forgot to do that and then go in with a nice warm chocolate base color for the hair.
3. Draw the strands
Okay, just like we drew the darker strands in the straight hair, we’re going to pick a slightly darker brown color for the dark curly hair strands and add that in. Drawing curly hair is a lot of fun because you can go whacky with the lines.
Remember, curly hair grows outward, so when drawing your strands, the lines should radiate outward – okay?
Now it’s time to draw the lighter strands.
To choose this color, we’re going to move up the color palette and then move right a little so that we get a lighter, saturated color. And increase the thickness of the brush a bit before you draw the lighter strands.
Wow, we’re nearly done!
4. Add the shadows and highlights
Now, just like we did earlier, we’re going to select the purple color and then draw the shadows.
I’m not going to use the Bonobo Chalk brush though because curly hair is so much thicker and denser and I like the shadows to be a little heavier. So, I’m going to stick with the ink brush.
And now we’re just going to change the properties of the layer to Multiply and decrease the opacity to our liking and we’re done with the shadows.
Let’s move onto the highlights.
Using the same turquoise blue as before, I’m going to carefully draw along a few of the edges on her curls because the light is hitting her from behind and the top.
And I’m going to click the layer and change the layer properties to “Add” and decrease the opacity to 10-15%.
And we’re done. You’ve just learned how to draw curly cartoon hair as well.
You can see this video to understand how I drew the curly hair:
Drawing isn’t easy especially at the beginning because there is a huge learning curve.
So, don’t feel disappointed if you don’t like your drawing. Remember all of this comes with practice. Keep drawing different hairstyles till you get the knack of drawing hair.
I draw a lot of hairstyles on my characters on a daily basis and I love experimenting with hair.
If you enjoyed this drawing tutorial, you might enjoy these other blog posts!
- How to Become an Illustrator
- How to start an art blog – a step-by-step guide!
- 10 things I wish I knew before becoming an Illustrator
- 10 signs you’re a natural-born artist
- 23 surprising ways to overcome creative blocks
- How to combat negative comments and trolls as an artist
- How to be a confident artist and keep drawing even when you feel like you can’t
Before I wind up, I want to cover some resources that helped me grow as an Illustrator and shorten my learning curve.
Resources to help you draw better:
Courses for Artists
If you enjoyed this tutorial, you’ll definitely enjoy my free art course that helps artists make money with their creative skills!
I highly recommend checking out Domestika’s Courses because they have courses on almost anything you want to learn and they’re structured beautifully. It’s very well organized and their website is super fast. Their app is lovely too. You can download the classes and watch them offline and the best part? Once you buy the course, you own it forever!
Use STRAYCURLS-10 during checkout to get an additional 10% off!
And if you’re using Procreate, here are some fantastic tools: