How to Paint Hair in a Portrait in 3 Easy Steps

Knowing some key painting methods will help when you learn how to paint a person on canvas. Without knowing how to correctly add hair you could simply ruin your portraits. One of the last things that I do in a oil, acrylic or watercolor portrait is painting the hair.

One reason why hair is the last thing painted is because when strands of hair fall onto the face you need to have the face finished first. Here are three painting techniques for painting hair.

  1. Spread the flesh or skin color up into the hairline. 

    The idea that you want to make sure that you pull the skin color up into and exceeding the hairline is so that any flesh color that shows through the hair will already be there. It is very difficult to try to fix these areas later on.
  2. Work in films. 

    I’ve explained this principle with almost every aspect of portrait painting. Remember that the hair is much more than one layer. I recommend to start by painting the entire “hair area” with an under-painting or solid color of the hair. Use a light version of the color. Next, add diverse color without covering your under-painting. Use a liner brush when you get to the part where you want individual strands to show.
  3. Know when to finish. 

    Knowing when to stop is notably vital when painting hair. Imagine that you have gone through all the pain to create varying hair color, highlights and whispers, only to cover all the under-painting up. Now your left with only two tones rather than three or four. It is very very simple to overdo hair in a portrait. Although, you do need to apply several layers for a genuine look you do need to step back every so frequently and inspect your work.

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