There's an easy approach that you can take to painting a beard, or any type of facial hair. Instead of trying to depict individual hairs, squint and simplify it to its overall shape.
Approach it like any other solid object first. Once you've painted in the main shadows and lights, slowly break it up into smaller sections.
Keep your edges soft where the hairs end or start, and create harder edges where the edges align with the direction of the hair section you're painting, such as below the moustache.
You don't have to detail everything: reduce the definition in your shadows and handle them like visual noise.
Watch the full process
Then focus on applying fine detailing within highlighted areas, where you can also introduce much sharper lines.
One nice touch is to add extra highlights and glow to the edges of the facial hair, especially if you have strong back- or ambient light around your character.
After producing a quick line-work sketch, I move straight
into colours and block in the main shapes with a bigger brush.
I lay down the main values first and then slowly build up the details. This helps me to focus on the main features of the face: the eye-nose-mouth triangle and the prominent beard.
Words: Mark Molnar
Freelancer Mark works as a concept and visual development artist for the entertainment industry and freelances for film, game and animation companies. This article originally appeared in ImagineFX magazine issue 113.
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