The simple secrets of sun-drenched hair

I often use the free Paint Tool SAI to create my art. The program's Standard brush is ideal for depicting hair. You can also choose the Circular brush, which is designed for painting hair and wool, but I prefer the Standard brush, because it gives me more freedom.

I draw on one layer, over which I create several layers with light effects. When you paint human hair, don’t forget that it follows the shape of the head and has volume. I carefully do all my strokes along the hairline.

Soft brush

I start to paint with a Soft brush, and then move onto harder and thinner brushes. Where sunlight hits the hair, it results in a strong speck of light and reveals the hair's many shades. It's not necessary to draw every strand of hair. Instead, lay down a suitable foundation on to which you later draw a few strands and stray hairs.

Consider the effect of glare on hair. Using an Overlay layer creates an interesting effect of white soft spots. I also add shades of hair on the face, and drop shadows over the forehead from the character's bangs.

01. Establish the basics

Light source and glare

Light source and glare

I draw the face and establish the hair's colour, the light source and the main area of glare. I also apply the colours of the environment to the hair. I paint strands of hair with a Soft brush, especially those close to the glare. I paint the darkest areas of the hair and add reflections.

02. Forelocks

Illuminate the hair

Illuminate the hair

I smear strands that are further away from viewer with a little brush water. This results in a more artistic look. I illuminate the glare on the forelock with the Soft brush on a separate layer, and lighten the background. I add volume to the forelock with Overlay layers.

03. Adding details

Add light sparks, dust particles and reflections

Add light sparks, dust particles and reflections

To finish, I add detail to the hair using a separate Overlay layer. For shady areas, I prefer to add a little purple colour. I continue to add rays of light sparks, dust particles, reflections in the eyes and details to the skin. I aim to give the picture a tangible air of fantasy!

Words: Elena Berezina

This article originally appeared in ImagineFX issue 109.

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