How to Draw Curly Hair

The Curly Hair You'll Be Drawing
The Curly Hair You’ll Be Drawing

There are plenty of parts about portraits that make them difficult to draw, but hair drawing – especially curly hair drawing – can be quite the cherry on top of an already complicated cake.

Straight hair is a lot easier to master as it consists of simple, flowing lines, whereas curly hair is more three-dimensional due to the bouncy, cylindrical curls. Curly hair drawings can be harder to get right, so we’ve created a guide to help you draw the curls of your dreams.

It’s not as tricky as you might think, as the most important step is nailing the technique to create the curls, which you will then repeat until you’ve covered the entire head in curly hair.

So, don’t let yourself end up in a downward spiral just because you can’t quite perfect your long locks of curly hair, as we’re about to help you achieve a look so lifelike, the drawing will be able to practically walk off of the page into reality, curls bouncing behind it all the way.

What You Will Learn In This Guide

Whatever your age or ability, this guide will help you learn how to draw the perfect curls for your next portrait picture. 

First, we’ll help you map out the head, on top of which the beautiful curly hair you’re about to draw will sit. Once you’re happy with the proportions for the head and face, which will act as your guide, we’ll provide a list of simple step-by-step instructions on how to draw curly hair. 

You can follow each instruction closely for comprehensive guidance on curly hair drawing, or if you’re simply looking for a few tips that will help you refine your penciled curls, feel free to skip to the steps that are relevant to your concerns. 

Not sure where to start? Here’s how we’ve structured our article so you can jump straight to the section you need:

A Quick Preview of All Steps

It’s always difficult at the beginning of these types of guides to see how the initial steps will turn into a beautifully sketched, fully fleshed out drawing, so we’ve included a quick preview of every step to show you how your curly hair drawing will transform. 

This isn’t intended to be the guide you draw from, so don’t worry about trying to understand each step just yet. We’ll go into more detail when we walk you through the step-by-step instructions. For now, here’s an idea of what the drawing process will be like.

How to Draw Curly Hair Step by Step

How to Draw a Curl’s Structure

Before we get into the intricacies of each step in the process of curly hair drawing, it’s important to understand the structure behind these curls so that the finished strands of curly hair don’t end up looking too flat or two-dimensional. 

Curly hair follows what is similar to a zigzag pattern and goes back and forth. The front strands stand out and pull focus while the back strands are shaded and partially covered.

The exercise we’re about to get you to practice will make it much easier to perfect your curly hair drawing down the line, as being able to achieve the cylindrical shape of curly hair will make it look more realistic on the page. 

To start with, create a shape by drawing two vertical lines. Between these lines, draw several shorter diagonal lines with a downward right slant to span the length of this shape. 

Press lightly on the pencil and connect the right side of the first diagonal line to the top of the third diagonal line leaving one between them. Repeat this process as you move down the strand so that every diagonal line that touches the right side connects back to the left side.

The shape will still look like more of a zigzag pattern at this point, so draw a small vertical line that connects the right side of the first diagonal line and the right side of the line directly below it to mark the point where the hair turns and creates the curl. 

What you’ve drawn should be beginning to resemble more of a curl now, so use an eraser to remove the guiding lines that fall outside of the shape you’ve just created and soften the edges of the curl. 

Now you’ve nailed the basic technique of a curl, it’s time to practice different levels of tightness and density, or you can start to switch up the thickness of each strand. 

Why not try drawing a strand of hair that starts off straight nearer the top and becomes tightly curled as you reach the bottom, or try hair that is tightly coiled throughout?

With the basic structure of a curl behind you, you’ll be able to create any type of curl you like.  

All you need to get started is a pencil and paper. Curly hair drawings have never been easier!

How To Draw Curly Hair Step-By-Step

Step 1 – Draw a Straight Vertical Line

Draw a straight vertical line down the center of your paper. You don’t need to apply too much pressure to the pencil as you draw it, because these initial lines are here to create a guide for the rest of the drawing. 

That’s right, your curly hair drawing will start with just a single line. 

Draw a straight vertical line
1. Draw a straight vertical line

Step 2 – Draw Horizontal Lines

About a third of the way down from the top of the paper, draw a horizontal line that’s as long as you want the head to be wide, as this will create the eye level of the face.

Approximately one quarter up from the bottom of the paper, draw another long horizontal line that should be a little longer than the horizontal line near the top of the paper.

Between these two lines, closer to the bottom one than the top, add a very small horizontal line. This will later become the chin.

Draw a horizontal lines
2. Draw a horizontal lines

Step 3 – Mark a Few Shorter Horizontal Lines

In between these top two lines, mark a few shorter horizontal lines for the top of the nose and mouth.

Mark a few shorter horizontal lines
3. Mark a few shorter horizontal lines

Step 4 – Draw a Horizontal Line to Form the Forehead

Draw a horizontal line to form the forehead of the face. This should be shorter in length than the line below it.

Draw a horizontal line to form the forehead
4. Draw a horizontal line to form the forehead

Step 5 Draw two Diagonal Lines and Connect the Edges of the Horizontal Line

For the next step in your curly hair drawing, try to create a bit more of a face shape by drawing two diagonal lines and connecting the edges of the horizontal line that represent the top of the head and the line at eye level.

The line on the right should be slightly shorter than the one on the left.

Draw two diagonal lines and connecting the edges of the horizontal line
5. Draw two diagonal lines and connecting the edges of the horizontal line

Step 6 – Draw Two Lines for the Cheeks

Depending on how chiseled you would like them to be, draw two lines for the cheeks on either side of the face to create the middle part of the structure. 

Draw two lines for the cheeks
6. Draw two lines for the cheeks

Step 7 – Draw two Diagonal Lines for the Chin

Draw two diagonal lines for the chin. They should touch the bottom of the two vertical lines that make the side of the face and the horizontal line at the bottom of the face.

Draw two diagonal lines for the chin of the head
7. Draw two diagonal lines for the chin of the head

Step 8 – Curve the Lines out Around the Edges

Most of the people I know tend not to have sharp, angled lines for face shapes, so smooth these lines out around the edges so they’re curved slightly instead of sharp. 

Curved the lines out around the edges
8. Curved the lines out around the edges

Step 9 – Curve Outwards in an Inverted Arc

Curving outwards in an inverted arc, draw two lines stemming from the base of the head to represent the neck. 

Remember not to press down too hard on your pencil here, as the curls you end up drawing will frame the face and fall past the neck due to their length, covering the lines. 

This is more to get an idea of the proportions for the rest of your curly hair drawing.  

You can always use these instructions to draw curly hair onto an already finished face, in which case the steps up until this point can be skipped completely, although we recommend practicing it like this once or twice first before you risk ruining a different piece. 

Curving outwards in an inverted arc
9. Curving outwards in an inverted arc

Step 10 – Draw a Straight Horizontal Line for the Upper Part of the Hair

The next step when drawing curly hair is to draw a straight horizontal line to mark out where the upper part of the hair/head will come up to near the top of the paper.

Draw a straight horizontal line for the upper part of the hair
10. Draw a straight horizontal line for the upper part of the hair

Step 11 – Draw Guidelines for the Curly Hair

Create the structure of the hair by drawing guidelines that will show you where the curls will fall down the sides of the face. 

Curly hair can be quite thick, so leave a reasonable gap between the face shape and the top of the hair to create volume so the finished picture doesn’t look too flat or two-dimensional. 

Draw a guidelines for the curly hair
11. Draw guidelines for the curly hair

Step 12 – Mark the Lines on the Lower Half of the Page

In terms of hair length for this curly hair drawing, it’s also going to be long, so continue marking lines on the lower half of the page to indicate where the hair will fall past the neck according to the hair structure you’ve started.

Mark the lines on the lower half of the page
12. Mark the lines on the lower half of the page

Step 13 – Draw a Squiggly Line on the Top Point of the Face

Now you can move on to the curly part of drawing curly hair. 

Starting with the lines you drew to create the face shape, sketch some hair lines by drawing a squiggly line that runs from the top point of the face along the left diagonal line.

This will form the fringe, and the curls are usually tighter here, so the squiggly line should loop up and down quite closely. The hair lines on the opposite side can be shallower. 

On both sides of the face, these first hair lines should come down to be in line with the nose.

Draw a squiggly line on top point of the face
13. Draw a squiggly line on top point of the face

Step 14 – Draw two Squiggly Lines almost Parallel to Each Other

Draw two squiggly lines almost parallel to each other (but not identical – nobody can curl their hair that well!) on either side of the neck. Position them between the outer point of the diagonal lines you drew to create the chin and where the neck starts. 

These lines can also have shallower peaks and troughs compared to the first hair line, as curls at the bottom of your hair tend to be looser, larger curls compared to the fringe.

Draw two squiggly lines almost parallel to each other
14. Draw two squiggly lines almost parallel to each other

Step 15 – Draw a Few More Hair Lines on Top

Going back up to the top of the hair, draw a few more hair lines on top of the first one, starting where you’d like the parting to fall. 

This should be just to the right of the central line and as you bring them over and down to the left, keep inside the area lines you marked for the hair’s volume. 

Draw a few more hair lines on top
15. Draw a few more hair lines on top

Step 16 – Draw Slightly Shorter Lines on the Opposite Side

Similarly, for this next step in your curly hair drawing, you need to draw lines stemming from the parting in the other direction, again staying within the boundaries you created earlier. 

These hair lines will be slightly shorter than the ones you’ve drawn on the opposite side. 

Draw a slightly shorter on the opposite side
16. Draw a slightly shorter on the opposite side

Step 17 – Draw another Squiggly Line on the Right Side of the Face

Continue to bring the hair down by drawing another squiggly line on the right side of the face. 

Draw another squiggly line on the right side of the face
17. Draw another squiggly line on the right side of the face

Step 18 – Draw more Hair Lines on Both Sides Flowing Past the Neck

For this step, you’ll need to draw more hair lines on both sides, flowing past the neck.

Draw more hair lines on both sides flowing past the neck
18. Draw more hair lines on both sides flowing past the neck

Step 19 – Draw more Hair Lines

As you draw more hair lines you’ll begin to fill up the voluminous shape you drew to mark out the hair. Avoid crossing over your lines or drawing over existing ones at this point. 

The aim should be to fill the spaces between the hairs within the guidelines as this will create a more natural-looking head of hair. 

Draw more hair lines
19. Draw more hair lines

Step 20 – Fill the Gaps of your Curly Hair

Continue to fill the gaps of your curly hair drawing with hair lines on the opposite side. 

Fill the gaps of your curly hair
20. Fill the gaps of your curly hair

Step 21 – Start to Draw the Faint Curl Lines

Now you have a general outline and a guide as to where the curls will fall, start to go over the faint curl lines you started with, and draw in perfect hairs taking greater care. 

Think back to the exercise from the start of this article where you practiced creating 3-D looking cylindrical curls, as this will come in useful for these next few steps.

Start to draw the faint curl lines
21. Start to draw the faint curl lines

Step 22 – Layer another Curl on Top

Layer another curl on top of the one you’ve just drawn. 

Layer another curl on top
22. Layer another curl on top

Step 23 – Add Curled Hairs to the Upper Portion of the Head

Start adding curled hairs to the upper portion of the head, being careful with your pencil strokes. 

Start adding curled hairs to the upper portion of the head
23. Start adding curled hairs to the upper portion of the head

Step 24 – Add more Carefully Drawn Curls to the Left Side of the Head

Carry on adding more carefully drawn curls to the left side of the head. Try not to overlap them too much, as these will form the main strands of curly hair. 

Adding more carefully drawn curls to the left side of the head
24. Adding more carefully drawn curls to the left side of the head

Step 25 – Fill in Some more Lines

Fill in some more lines near the top and around the parting with small curved arches. These aren’t full curls as they will represent hair that sits under the main curls you’ve drawn so far. 

Fill in some more lines
25. Fill in some more lines

Step 26 – Drawing Some Circular Arching Lines

Moving over to the right side of the head, start drawing some more small, circular arching lines to fill in the hairs on the top of the head. 

Start drawing some circular arching lines
26. Start drawing some circular arching lines

Step 27 – Draw more Curls Down the Right Side of the Face

Start to draw more careful curls falling down the right side of the face. 

Start to draw more curls down the right side of the face
27. Start to draw more curls down the right side of the face

Step 28 – Fill in the Top of the Hair

Keep adding in smaller lines on the upper right side of the head to fill in the top of the hair.

Fill in the top of the hair
28. Fill in the top of the hair

Step 29 – Draw more Strands of Hair Down to the Middle of the Right Side

Bring these strands down to the middle of the right side of the head.

As you draw more strands of hair they will begin to overlap, but for now try to focus on creating the main strands of hair, as you can build the rest of the hair around these. 

Draw more strands of hair down to the middle of the right side
29. Draw more strands of hair down to the middle of the right side

Step 30 – Create a New Strand of Hair

Now move on to the lower portion of the hair. 

Starting from around the same point as the bottom of the first curl you drew on the left side of the curly hair drawing, create a new strand of hair that’s almost as long as the page. 

Create a new strand of hair
30. Create a new strand of hair

Step 31 – Add Curls that Start at the Jaw Line and Fall Straight Down

Keep adding curls that start at the jawline and fall straight down. This will be the hair that’s been pulled forward from behind the head to rest in front of the person’s left shoulder. 

Add curls that start at the jaw line and fall straight down
31. Add curls that start at the jaw line and fall straight down

Step 32 – Fill in the Gaps with Smaller Strands of Hair

Once you’ve added a couple of larger strands, fill in the gaps with smaller strands of hair. 

Fill in the gaps with smaller strands of hair
32. Fill in the gaps with smaller strands of hair

Step 33 – Add some Curly Hair on the Lower Right Side

Now it’s time to add in some curly hair on the lower right side. Again, start from around the bottom of the first few strands you drew on this side and create a new long curl.

Add some curly hair on the lower right side
33. Add some curly hair on the lower right side

Step 34 – Draw Smaller Strands of Curly Hair

Repeat the step of drawing slightly smaller strands of curly hair flowing down from the right side of the jaw, as if the hair has been pulled forward.

Draw a smaller strands of curly hair flowing down from the right side of the jaw
34. Draw a smaller strands of curly hair flowing down from the right side of the jaw

Step 35 – Add Curls in Between

Continue to add curls in between the ones you’ve already drawn so far to fill the gaps. 

Add curls in between
35. Add curls in between

Step 36 – Draw More Hairs in Between the Existing Lines

Now you’ve been around the whole head of hair and created the main curls, go back to where you started and draw more hairs in between the existing lines. 

Draw more hairs in between the existing lines
36. Draw more hairs in between the existing lines

Step 37 – Fill in the Gaps for Both the Upper and Lower

Carry on drawing curls and fill in the gaps for both the upper and lower portion of the hair. Always start at the top and bring the curls down, as it’s harder to do it the other way around. 

Fill in the gaps for both the upper and lower
37. Fill in the gaps for both the upper and lower

Step 38 – Draw fill Curls

At this point, there might not be any room left for you to draw fill curls, so just fill in the gaps with a curved line here and there as if it’s following a strand that’s been tucked under the other various strands.

Draw fill curls
38. Draw fill curls

Step 39 – Alternate Between Drawing Lines with Shallow Curves

Alternate between drawing lines with shallow curves for flatter curls, and tighter squiggly lines for bigger, bouncier curls. 

No two curls are exactly the same in real life, so you wouldn’t expect them to be in a curly hair drawing, either. 

Alternate between drawing lines with shallow curves
39. Alternate between drawing lines with shallow curves

Step 40 – Draw more Strands of Hair on the Right Side

Switch back to the right side and continue drawing more strands of hair.

Switch back to the right side and continue drawing more strands of hair
40. Switch back to the right side and continue drawing more strands of hair

Step 41 – Draw more Strands of Hair to Fill Out the Lower Portion

Where there is room, draw more strands of hair to fill out the lower portion the same way you did with the top of the hair area. 

Draw more strands of hair to fill out the lower portion
41. Draw more strands of hair to fill out the lower portion

Step 42 – Fill in the Lower End Portion of the Hair

As you can see, there is more space to fill in the lower end portion of the hair as this is where the curls hang loosely. So, keep adding more strands to create a full body of hair.

Fill in the lower end portion of the hair
42. Fill in the lower end portion of the hair

Step 43 – Draw a Few Shorter Curls

Not all of the strands have to be the same length, so draw a few shorter curls to create more of a textured wave look rather than the same curl hanging next to each other in a repetition. 

Draw a few shorter curls
43. Draw a few shorter curls

Step 44 – Fill Up Some of the Gaps to Create more Texture

Likewise, once you’ve started to fill up some of the gaps you can begin drawing your lines from behind some of the longer curls so they’re shorter in length.

This will create more texture in your curly hair drawing for more realistic results. 

Fill up some of the gaps to create more texture
44. Fill up some of the gaps to create more texture

Step 45 – Draw Small Curls and Lines

Continue to draw small curls and lines while you’re filling out the bottom portion of the hair.

Draw small curls and lines
45. Draw small curls and lines

Step 46 – Add Curls Wherever You Think They Might be Needed

Looking at the hair as a whole, go back and add curls wherever you think they might be needed to create a fully fleshed-out drawing of voluminous, curly hair. 

Don’t think too hard about where you’re placing them as the lines should go wherever your pencil is drawn to. There’s no right position for curly hair to fall in, so it would look unnatural if you try to be too exact with your lines. 

Add curls wherever you think they might be needed
46. Add curls wherever you think they might be needed

Step 47 – Remove Some of the Overlapping Lines

Now you’ve pretty much covered the whole head with curly hair you can start to remove some of the overlapping lines.

You should be left with fewer squiggly lines and more clearly defined strands of curly hair so the drawing will look less messy. 

Remove some of the overlapping lines
47. Remove some of the overlapping lines

Step 48 – Shade in Parts of the Hair

For the final step of this curly hair drawing, go through what you’ve drawn and shade in parts of the hair, making certain strands darker than others like real hair would look in real life. 

Shade in parts of the hair
48. Shade in parts of the hair

Artist’s Tips And Tricks

Hopefully, you will have found our step-by-step guide helpful, but there are still a few hints, tips, and tricks we’d like to leave you with so you can develop your curly hair drawings even further: 

Use The Right Tools

Everyone will have their own preferred pencils and drawing utensils, but here is a list of optional ways you might wish to improve your drawing experience for this project.

  • HB pencil (this is for the initial outline drawing) 
  • 2B pencil 
  • 4B pencil 
  • Kneaded eraser
  • Drawing paper

Using the right tools instead of the first piece of paper and pencil you pick up will make it much easier to get the lines looking the way you want them, leaving less room for error. 

Establish A Light Source

The key to realistic curly hair drawing is to determine the light source, so you can figure out where the light will fall on the hair, as this will help you bring your drawings to life. 

If the light source is directly in front of the hair, for example, it will shine straight onto it. 

You can make this clear by shading areas that are further away from this source, getting gradually lighter as you get closer to it. In this case, the lightest part of the hair will be at the front and in the center of the curl, depending on how you’ve drawn the strand to fall. 

The Shade Of It All

Shading is what comes after you’ve determined a suitable light source and this helps to create the area where shadows fall for more lifelike curly hair. Shading that’s been done well can do more than just indicate where the light is coming from, however. 

To make the curly hair look even more realistic, you can shade the hair using single, careful strokes of your pencil as these lines will make up individual strands of hair within the curl. For extra points, you can even draw a few wayward strands that fall outside of the main curl.

Finally, it’s worth remembering to only press down lightly on the pencil while you’re drawing the initial guiding lines for the curly hair, as otherwise, these may show up through the shading, or remain visible even after being erased. 

Conclusion

To conclude, drawing curly hair can be a complicated process, but once you understand the techniques for creating the curl’s dimensions and shape, the drawing becomes very easy.

If you enjoyed this tutorial, then you might want to have a look at our other drawing tutorials as well.

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