Bringing your portraits to life is much easier when you can give them a realistic head of hair.
Braids can be a great hairstyle to start out with, as although you might struggle with them to start with, once you’ve found and followed our step-by-step instructions for braids drawing, they’re easy to add to your artwork as a way to provide those final finishing touches.
In fact, you could even argue that doing this braids drawing is easier than braiding real hair!
To help you learn how to create braids that look like they’ve been styled at the salon, keep reading this article to discover our simple step-by-step tutorial on how to draw braids.
Before you begin, it’s worth reading this next section as it will walk you through the structure of a braid so you can understand exactly what it is that you’re attempting to recreate on the page or the piece of paper in front of you.
What You Will Learn In This Guide
We’ve put together this guide to help all ages and abilities master the technique for drawing realistic braids so you can bring your portraits to life with different hairstyles.
Hair can be hard to get right, but one great thing is that hair rarely looks completely perfect in real life, so it doesn’t need to be perfect in your drawing. You just need to follow a few simple steps.
We’ll walk you through each of these steps with detailed individual instructions, as well as provide you with a preview that shows you the journey your pencil will take from start to finish. Only looking for help with one specific area of braids drawing? It’s okay to skip ahead!
To find what you need, this is what each section of our guide will cover.
- A Quick Preview of All Steps
- The Structure of a Braid
- How To Draw Braids Step-By-Step
- Your Braids Drawing Is Complete
- Hints, Tips, and Tricks
- Final Thoughts
A Quick Preview of All Steps
We start with a quick overview of the different steps you will take. Don’t worry if you don’t understand all the details right away, because more information will be shared further down the post.
The Structure of a Braid
Braids, plaits, or pigtails… whatever you call them, the structure stays the same.
There are different types of braids you could use in your artwork that require different steps, but for this article, we’re looking at the structure of a simple braid.
A simple braid is usually made up of three roughly equal sections of hair which are interwoven in an overlapping pattern and tied at the bottom to hold the hair in place.
Starting with one of the outer sections, you bring one section of hair over the middle section and pull it tight, therefore the section you started with is now the middle piece of hair.
Repeat this step with the strand of hair that is now on the left side and bring it into the middle. Keep repeating on alternating sides, making sure to always bring the hair into the middle section regardless of which side you are pulling it from.
Once you’ve run out of hair to overlap, use a hair tie or a scrunchie to tie the hair in place so the braid doesn’t come loose or fall out completely.
As long as you have a pencil and paper, you are ready to start following the step-by-step instructions below!
How To Draw Braids Step-By-Step
Step 1 – Start With Two Vertical Lines
For the first step of your braid drawing, create the shape of the braid by drawing two vertical lines that run parallel next to each other.
Remember that hair is thicker near the top, so the braid will start off wider and then become narrower toward the bottom where the hair is tied. This shouldn’t be too dramatic, however.
You can draw this freehand instead of using a ruler as the lines don’t need to be perfectly straight.
Here you are just creating a rough outline of the braid for you to follow as you draw in the proper lines later, which will help you get the proportions of each section of hair right.
Step 2 – Define a Center
Now, draw a faint line down between the two outer guidelines.
If you’re worried you’ve drawn these first lines too dark, don’t bother starting over because they will likely be covered by some of the later steps anyway.
Step 3 – Add Two Guidelines
On either side of the center-line, draw another two vertical guidelines. There should now be 5 vertical lines in total and these will provide the basis for your braids drawing.
Step 4 – Create Zigzag Lines Inside the Guides
Create a zigzag pattern that travels down the middle of this shape, touching either side of the two inner guidelines that you’ve just drawn with the zigzagging line going back and forth.
The corner points of the zigzag line should be similar to a right-angle, although this doesn’t have to be exact.
As the outer lines of the braid get narrower toward the bottom, the zigzag pattern will also become thinner and the shape it creates with its back and forth movements will be smaller.
Step 5 – Draw Lines to Shape the Edges
For the next step of your braid drawing, return to the wider end at the top of the zigzag and draw a diagonal line from the first point in the zigzag pattern.
You will need to repeat this going down the braid, and the lines should run in an upward direction from each point where the zigzag hits one side and bounces back to the opposite side.
These lines should be extended until they hit the outer lines of the braid shape.
Step 6 – Make a Rounded Line from the Edge to a Center
Starting at the top of the braid, draw a small curved line in a sort of semi-circle that is neither too round nor too eclipse in terms of shape.
The outer point of the curved line should touch the left outer line, and it should join with the 4th zigzag, ending in the same place where it touches the line on the right of the centerline.
Step 7 – Create All Lines
The trick for repeating these curved semi-circle lines as you complete the rest of the lines for the braid is to imagine that the zigzag line makes up the inner side of each section of hair.
Every angle created by the zigzag line should be connected to a curve that draws the strand of hair back into the hair above it in the braid.
Step 8 – Remove Guides
Once you’re happy with the braid and you’ve drawn in each of the individual sections of hair as they would fall in the plait, you can use an eraser to rub out the guidelines from earlier.
This is why you only need to faintly draw in those first few lines, as otherwise, they will be more difficult to remove at this stage which means there is more of a risk that you’ll accidentally erase one of the lines you’re not meant to get rid of.
Step 9 – You Can Use a Straight Edge to Limit The Space
One way to make this part of the braids drawing easier is to use the straight edge of a notebook or a ruler that is lined up with the zigzag line before it connects to the curve.
This will cover some of the other guidelines on the page which makes it easier to focus on the section of hair that you’re currently drawing.
Just like plaiting a real braid, it can be tricky to remember where you are up to with the different sections of hair in your braids drawing, so this tip is invaluable for staying on track.
Step 10 – Shade a Corner
When you’re happy with the outline and the details, you can now start to shade in the individual strands of hair that make up the braid.
The best thing about drawing braids is that hair is never going to be perfect, simply because hair never falls perfectly in real life, so you don’t need to worry about making little mistakes.
Step 11 – Color In Each Section of the Braid
Color in each section of the braid with shading individually, starting with the ones at the top and traveling toward the bottom of the braid.
Step 12 – Keep Your Pencil Strokes Varied
If you want your braid drawing to look realistic, keep in mind that the natural texture of hair means it’s impossible for every section of hair to look the same.
Try to keep your pencil strokes varied and make sure every segment is a little bit different.
Step 13 – Draw in Darker Lines in the Corners of Each Section
To get the shading right, draw in darker lines in the corners of each section of hair and leave it lighter or completely blank in the center.
Step 14 – Make the Corners Darker
If your lines are too dark in the center, resist the temptation to try and correct this by darkening the corners of the braid completely.
Even if you’ve decided on having black hair in your braid drawing, when you make the corners darker instead of the center lighter, you risk losing the individuality of the strands.
This will leave you with a color-blocked dark braid that loses some of its texture.
Rather than going over the darker sections of the strand, use an eraser to rub out some of the darker lines in the center to create the same effect.
Step 15 – Make the Center Front of the Braids Look Shiny
Braids typically have a shine on areas that are the closest to the viewer which would be at the center front of the braids drawing.
However, it’s also important to think about where the light is coming from at this stage, as this could affect where exactly the lighter part of the braid sections should fall.
Step 16 – Color In the Segments of your Braid Drawing in Layers
You can color in the segments of your braid drawing in layers which will also help to build up the natural texture that real hair creates.
Step 17 – Two Layers of Shading
Usually two layers of shading are enough, starting with the darker lines first and then shading in the mid shadow second.
Step 18 – No Shading in the Center
After you have completed your second layer of shading, make sure that there is still practically no shading in the centers and use an eraser if needed to remove any lines.
Step 19 – Smooth Out the Shadow Areas
Now it’s time to switch tools, so put down your pencil and pick up one with a wider tip.
Using a soft, thicker pencil tip allows you to smooth out the shadow areas so that they appear more blended together.
Step 20 – Continue Coloring the Braid Sections with Shading
You should start to see the braid coming together now, as you’re almost done with this braids drawing tutorial!
The next task is to simply continue coloring the braid sections with shading. As you travel down the braid, the sections you’re shading will become much smaller compared to the top.
Step 21 – Draw Strokes Following the Curve and Alignment
Remember that with every segment, you should be drawing new line strokes that follow the curve and the alignment of the section you’re shading.
Step 22 – Finish Off the Hair Sections
Finish off the rest of the hair sections until the entire braid is finished.
Step 23 – Draw a Small Rectangle Shape for The Hair Tie
At the bottom of the braid, draw a small rectangle shape for the hair tie or scrunchie. You can use whatever sort of hair tie you want for this bit, as long as you know how to draw it!
Step 24 – Create the Tail of the Hair
For the next step of the braid drawing, create the tail of the hair.
Starting from the left side of the hair tie, bring your pencil downwards in a curved, slightly arching shape. End it in a point and curve it up to reconnect with the opposite side of the tie.
It should look a little bit like a diamond shape but without the point at the top end and curved along the sides.
Step 25 – Shade the Tail
Add some shading to the tail of the braid.
Step 26 – Create more Contrast
Now go in and create more contrast between the different sections of hair.
Do this by darkening some of the areas where the braid crosses over itself, as this will really define those different strands of hair to make it look like they are interwoven.
Step 27 – Define Single Strands of Hair
Okay, so about everything we said earlier about leaving the center of each segment of the braid blank… Well, ignore it.
It was an important step, but you can now start to define single strands of hair randomly in different sections of the braid.
Just make sure to keep things varied so you’re not repeating identical lines. Emphasize some lines and shading areas more than others, as this will create more texture.
Step 28 – Add In a Few Wayward Hairs for Effect
Depending on how neat or untidy you would like the braid to look, you may want to soften the corners of the inner zigzag line.
You could even create some subtle shading circles or dots in the very corner points to create more dimension in the braid.
You can also add in a few wayward hairs to give the effect that the braid is coming slightly loose as it would at the end of a long day.
Step 29 – Lighten Any Areas Using an Eraser
Take one final look at the braid as a whole and once again, lighten any areas that look a little too dark using an eraser.
Your Braids Drawing Is Complete
And voila, you’ve now completed our guide on how to draw a braid!
Are your arms aching as much as they would after completing a real braid? Hopefully not, as this guide should have shown you an easy way to map out a braid for salon-worthy results.
Hints, Tips, and Tricks
There are a few things that can make or break a braid drawing, resulting in hair that looks either realistic or ridiculous.
To make sure yours falls under the former category, here are some useful tips and tricks to help improve your braid drawing.
Getting the proportions of your braid drawing right can be tricky, but this is essential if you don’t want to end up with wonky sections of hair that just don’t look right.
This is why it’s important for your braid to start out wider at the top and narrow as it nears the bottom because this replicates the way the proportions of a braid would naturally look.
It’s also important to consider all the small details, as these could be throwing off the proportions for your braid even without you realizing it.
For example, drawing an elastic band that is too big for the hair ruins the illusion that it is what is holding all the hair in the braid together. To fix this issue, make the last two sections of the braid a little wider so they end at the sides of the hair tie rather than in the middle.
Following The Curve
If you’re drawing a braid that doesn’t fall straight down the back or over someone’s shoulder, you’ll need to know how to follow the curve properly in places a braid would naturally bend.
For a straight braid, the lines that you start shading represent the individual strands of hair that follow the slight curve of whatever section you’re working on.
However, this method doesn’t translate to drawing braids with a curve in the middle. In this case, you need to adjust how you draw the lines at the bend so they fall the right way.
Instead of following the curve of the inside segment as the braid bends to the right, sketch a few lines that run in the opposite direction to what you would expect. This is because of the crease that is formed as the braid twists.
Although the thought of drawing a braid may be intimidating at first, they’re really quite simple once you know the basic steps, and these come from creating a few basic shapes.
The reason this guide directs you to create the basic outline shape of the braid before going in with the finer details is to help break the braid drawing down into more manageable steps.
You can do this with anything and everything that you draw and it will help you achieve a higher level of accuracy in your drawings by allowing you to focus on the proportions before stressing about getting the smaller details perfect.
After following our step-by-step instructions and practicing your braid drawing a few times, you’ll be able to experiment with different braid styles and different movements in the hair.
Some of the braids that you could move onto once you’ve nailed down the perfect braid drawing include French braids and fishtail braids, although these are more advanced.
Or, for example, why not try two braids? Why not play around with drawing one that isn’t completely straight, but instead bends in the middle where it curves or curls?
There’s no need to stick to natural shades, either, so you can go crazy with your colored pencils to add bright, bold, box dye to your braids drawing. Add a streak of color or dye the whole head, or you can also use color to create more shadows and depth through layering.
Congratulations! If you have reached the end of this article then you’re one step closer to becoming an artist who can confidently add braided hair to their portfolio of drawings.
Whatever you decide to draw next, check out some of our other drawing guides to see if we have some more step-by-step instructions for your next art project!