In this tutorial, I will show you how I draw anime girl hair in 4 basic steps. Drawing hair requires real thinking on the part of the artist – as any good drawing does. This is especially true when drawing anime hair since we have to convey information and stylize all at once.
This is an anime hair drawing tutorial for beginners so we will focus on the simple anterior (front) view. I will first discuss the four-step method for drawing anime girl hair, and then we will go through six (yes 6!) examples together. With each example, I will attempt to show you something new to take into consideration when you draw.
To draw anime girl’s hair, first gain a basic understanding of where the head is beneath the hair,
then draw a detailed sketch as an underdrawing, then draw final line art on top of the sketch, and finally finish the drawing with basic shading.
If you had a chance to read any of my tutorials in the past, you know that I am focused on giving you systems to draw many variations and not just copy a basic profile view of anime girl hair. This tutorial is no different. The method employed here can be used to draw many other views and angles of hair, as well as other things.
This tutorial is no different. The method employed here can be used to draw many other views and angles of hair, as well as other things. We will cover the following:
- Draw Anime Girl Hair Method Explained in 4 steps
- Draw Anime Girl Hair Step-by-Step – Example 1
- Draw Anime Girl Hair Step-by-Step – Example 2
- Draw Anime Girl Hair Step-by-Step – Example 3
- Draw Anime Girl Hair Step-by-Step – Example 4
- Draw Anime Girl Hair Step-by-Step – Example 5
- Draw Anime Girl Hair Step-by-Step – Example 6 – Asuka from Evangelion
- Final Thoughts
A quick note, before going further, I will use the term anime to mean both anime and manga for simplicity. Although anime usually refers to animated, and manga usually refers to drawn (printed) art, the general style and approach to drawing is the same.
Draw Anime Girl Hair for Beginners – a 4 Step Method
Without further ado, let’s go over the steps, and then look at some examples.
Step 1: Identify Head Outline
So before we start drawing hair, we need to be clear on how the hair sits on the head. That is to say, we need to know how much volume it takes up. Is the hair very puffy and big, or does it sit just on the top of the skull, kind of like wet hair does? Before proceeding, identify the outline of the head.
In the examples below, I will draw a purple line to approximate where the head of the character is behind the hair. After a while, you don’t have to do that anymore, you will develop a feeling for it.
Do not skip this step until you get more confident at drawing hair however, because it will help situate proportions in the next step.
Step 2: Create an Underdrawing
Now that we know where the edges of the skull of the character are, we can start working on an underdrawing. An underdrawing is a loose sketch that is done first, before the final drawing. (it sits under the final art).
This is really easy to do with digital art since you can work on a new layer for the final line art. If you are using a pencil, draw lightly with a hard grade scale pencil (like a 4H). You can erase these light lines later.
In this underdrawing, work on determining the shape of the hair you want to achieve in the final drawing. Also, work on identifying the flow of hair, how the sections flow into one another.
Do not worry about the quality of your lines, or how presentable the sketch looks. As long as it makes sense to you and you feel like you can use it for the final drawing, it should work for our purposes.
All of the underdrawings in the examples below are indicated in Gvaat purple for reference.
Step 3: Draw Final Line Art
Now that we have a base underdrawing to work from, we can focus on drawing the final line art for our anime girl and her hair. Notice that because we took care of a lot of more complex work in the previous steps (like the shape of the hair, it’s flow and rhythm and where it is situated on the head), we can now work on the details and line quality for this step.
Our decisions can still change from the previous step. In fact when you draw, do not hesitate to make changes from the underdrawing if you see an opportunity to improve your drawing.
However, you will see that the decisions we will be making in this step are more of a micro than macro level. You will most likely find yourself changing smaller individual shapes to be more aesthetically pleasing, and not changing the entire hairstyle.
A full hairstyle change should take place in step 2, the underdrawing step. So if you find yourself wanting to change the style, go back to the sketch and redraw it.
One thing to add about final line art: to do it well you need to practice line control with your pencil/pen or stylus. Regardless of the drawing instrument, line control is a combination of input from the brain and muscle memory of the arm and hand.
Here is a quick exercise to practice improving line control when drawing hair, if you are having trouble:
Lightly sketch out a perfect circle on paper, use many sketchy lines if you would like. Create a sketch to be about the size of a water bottle cap. Erase (or set high transparency) to show only the hint of your sketch. Then attempt to draw a perfect circle over it in a single smooth and swift gesture.
Step 4: Add Basic Shading
Ok, now we should have final line art of your drawing of an anime girl complete. Let’s take it further with very basic shading. Let’s use just one color to suggest form.
In the above example, the only areas not shaded in are those indicating highlights. It’s a simple way to add some character to the drawing for beginners. Don’t get carried away with complex shading just yet.
Before you get into complicated shading technqiues, try getting your drawings to a place where they are coming out to your liking first. If you want to learn about a few things you can implement in drawing right now to start improving more quickly, read my post about it here.
Drawing Anime Girl Hair Step-by-Step – Example 1
Although I do not clearly draw the line of the head like in this example every time, I do identify it in my mind when I draw. So here, in these examples, I identified the line in purple for you.
In this front view, the eye line will always be around the center of the vertical line between the chin and the to top the head. So if you measure, the space between the chin and the eyes, is roughly the same as between the eyes and the top of the head.
(Note this is not always true, as the head begins to tilt upward or downward, things start to change. Learning how to draw various angles has to do with learning perspective and foreshortening, as well as the forms of the face. We will save these complex concepts for future tutorials).
Here is the under-drawing sketch for this example. I used procreate and an iPad pro to draw the face on a separate layer. The face is used in all examples here since hair is the focus. For the hair, you can see that I am more focused on the overall shape of the hair and less worried about what the lines look like at this stage.
These lines are just a guide for the final line art in the next step.
In this step I drew over the underdrawing with more precision. It could use more refinement and some shading still but much of the indecisiveness of the sketchy lines of the underdrawing is now left in the past.
Let’s look at more examples.
Drawing Anime Girl Hair Step-by-Step – Example 2
In step 1: identify the location of the head. You can even draw a bald character before you map hair onto their head.
Step 2: in the underdrawing stage I am focused on shapes, (overall shape of the hair), and lines leading to the tips of the hair in different areas.
Step 3: here is the final step for this example. Final line art is drawn over the underdrawing layer. We will cover basic shading in the examples below.
Drawing Anime Girl Hair Step-by-Step – Example 3
Step 1: Again, I identified the outline of the head so we can see how the hair maps onto it with this particular hairstyle.
Step 2: Here is the underdrawing for this example. You can see that I am deciding on the overall shape out the outline. Try to finalize the silhouette of the hair in this stage if you can, and leave the details to step 3.
Step 3: Here you can see the overall shape is the same but the details and the aesthetics of the lines are different from step 2. This is because the underdrawing step (step 2), is not about the aesthetics of your lines, it is more of a guide on how the hair should look, its shape and flow.
Let’s move to the next example where we will cover basic shading.
Drawing Anime Girl Hair Step-by-Step – Example 4
So here is the underdrawing step. We identified it earlier as step 2. However, as you get better, you will inevitably complete step 1 and step 2 at the same time.
You will draw the underdrawing of the hair and identify where the head shape is as you do so.
You will see here that I used a heavier line to create the overall silhouette of the hair. In doing this it becomes easier to see your mistakes and to evaluate the entire design. Focus heavily on the silhouette of the hair, since it is where most visible mistakes are made.
You can also try a final line art variation where you use a heavier line weight for the outline and thinner lines for definition inside the hair shape.
Step 3: Here we finished drawing our anime girl and her hairstyle. You will see that although I used the underdrawing as a guide, the overall expression of the shapes changed.
And this is exactly the point of having an underdrawing – it helps take care of big problems – like the overall design, so that when you are working over it on the final line art, you can think about the little details and the individual shapes that make up your art.
Step 4: For the final step of basic shading, let’s first shade in all of the hair to separate it visually from everything else, and then will erase paint for the highlights to provide a bit of volume.
Step 4: Here you can see that there are two sets of highlights at the top and bottom of the hair, usually indicating multiple light sources.
It is a good idea to keep shading very basic in the beginning. If you are just starting out, get to the point where you are happy with most of your designs and lines and the overall drawing, and get to shading then.
It is very seldom a good idea to spend time shading a drawing you are not happy with.
Drawing Anime Girl Hair Step-by-Step – Example 5
Here, let’s go back to step 1, and identify where the structure of the head is before we draw in the hair.
We are coming back to this because I want to highlight that this step is extremely important. It can happen in your mind or on canvas, but it really does need to happen.
You should understand where the hair maps on top of the head before going further.
Step 2 and Step 3: in this example, I am showing the underdrawing (pale purple) and the final line art (deep purple), to compare how one is different from another.
Step 3: I now got rid of the underdrawing completely. With this example, let’s try to create that thicker line weight for the silhouette and then draw in thinner lines inside the silhouette, I think you will like the result.
In anime and manga the contrast of lines is usually expressed not just with line weights but also with color variations.
Step 3: So here we see the thicker lines define the outline of the hair, and the thinner lines define the flow of it inside the hair shape. The contrast of line weights (thin vs thick) adds an extra level of interest to this drawing, do you agree?
Drawing Anime Girl Hair Step-by-Step – Example 6: Asuka from Evangelion
In this image, I am again showing the outline of the head for reference.
And here is the actual underdrawing sketch for this piece. You can see that a lot of scratchy indecisive lines come through. It was okay for me to do that at this stage because I knew I would replace these lines with better final line art.
In this step, I worried little about how the lines look, instead I spent most of my energy on figuring out the overall shape, flow and proportions of the hair and the rest of the drawing.
In this step we see the underdrawing (light grey), and the final line art on top. As you can see I changed the design a lot. It is okay to step away from the underdrawing sketch if you feel like it will improve your art. The sketch underneath is just there as a guide.
Here I added basic shading to show volume of the form. By basic, I mean really basic shading. It is all one color and is added with a big brush.
Shading is a complex subject and can take years to master. However, I know that that some of you are eager to add a bit of shading to your anime girl drawings! So let’s keep it very simple.
Here the light source is situated above. You can see that mainly by looking at the hair. The top of it is hit by light, and it casts a shadow from the head down to the chest. Similarly, the shoulders and arms are hit by the light source from the top, so I shaded-in the bottom sections.
For a detailed breakdown of shading form, check out this tutorial I wrote for beginners: Learn to Draw, Fundamentals of Light and Form.
Here is the shading layer just so that you see how simple it was kept for this drawing.
In this final, I fixed the eyes and added an extra highlight.
How to Draw Anime Girl Hair for Beginners – Final Thoughts
Practice, practice, practice!
Drawing an anime girl’s hair is not an easy thing to draw. Getting better at drawing anime hair should consist of both learning through tutorials and practicing what you learned through drawing. Draw every day and draw lots of hair. Find anime and manga artists who inspire you most and try to study their art and draw studies from their work.
By the way, there are so many things you can do to start drawing every day and to keep it up as a habit! If you are curious about it, check out my post on it here.
Good luck in your drawing practice!