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
- How to Draw a Curl’s Structure
- How To Draw Curly Hair Step-By-Step
- Artist’s Tips and Tricks
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Step 22 – Layer another Curl on Top
Layer another curl on top of the one you’ve just drawn.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Step 35 – Add Curls in Between
Continue to add curls in between the ones you’ve already drawn so far to fill the gaps.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Step 40 – Draw more Strands of Hair on the Right Side
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.