1. Design & Illustration
  2. Text Effects

Create a Stylish, Vector Hair Typography Illustration

Scroll to top
Read Time: 10 min

I love creating portraits in vector but what I love even more, is doing wild and crazy hair styles. It was suggested to me recently to try crossing over the techniques of creating hair into typography and I just had to rise to that challenge!

So in today's tutorial, I'm going to show you how I created this stylish piece of hair typography in Adobe Illustrator CS5. I've also finished it off with a quick aged coloring giving it a vintage design feel. So let's get stuck in…

Step 1

When the concept was first suggested to me to create a piece of typography with hair, I straight away considered what sort of style to do it in. Whichever I decided on, it would influence what style of typeface I was going to use. I opted for long flowing locks, therefore a script/cursive typeface would be the best.

The next thing to consider is what sort of word to use. If you think about how hair behaves, it's not the sort of material which can create sharp angles of say the letters: M, N, V, W or Z. How exactly would you illustrate letters with dots, such as an "i" or "j"? So the requirements would need to be a word which was full of loops and curves and if possible, linked to hair and possibly vector art?

There was the possibility of "Brush", which would tick all the boxes however a capital "B" would have a slight problem with a sharp angle. It's then decided... the word "Style". The hunt for a lovely basic script typeface begins with my very basic collection!

I opted for "Edwardian Script ITC" as I rather liked the way the "S" coiled. This would look great in hair. I used the Type Tool (T) to add the text to my canvas and changed the Font Size to 300pt. I then adjusted the Tracking to 100 (the space between the letters). Without adding space between the letters, it wouldn't give much space for the hair.

Step 2

I've reduced the Opacity of the text to 10% and used it as a template to begin drawing the base shapes for the hair. I'm going to draw the strokes in the way I'd actually write out the letters, then I'll know later on how the hair would be over and under lapping each other. I've used a 10pt Stroke Weight and Profile "Width Profile 1".

If you're not using AI CS5, you can create the same shapes as Art Brushes via this tutorial. For all the strands of hair, I used the Paintbrush Tool (B), however I do use a graphics tablet (Wacom Bamboo A5). If you're doing all this with a mouse, I do recommend doing the strands with the Pen Tool (P) as you'll have a lot more control over the curves.

After you've drawn the initial strokes, build upon it with further strokes. Keep the strokes flowing in the same direction. Allow the strokes around the corners to fray and separate to give more of a free flowing style and to give the impression that it is hair.

Step 3

Select All of the stokes (Command + A) and go to Object > Expand Appearance to change the strokes to shapes with a fill. Then select Unite in the Pathfinder panel. You'll notice you may have several shapes rather than just the one. If this happens you'll need to create a Compound Path by Selecting All of your shapes (Command + A) and then going to Object > Compound Path > Make (Command + 8).

Step 4

As much as we'd love our hair to be nice and smooth, in reality it isn't. So I'm going to add some fly away hairs from the letters at a smaller stroke weight of 3pt. I'll also Expand these lines and Unite them to the base. In addition, change the fill color to a medium gray-brown (C=55, M=60, Y=65, K=40).

Step 5

Now back to remembering how I wrote the letters and which direction the strokes flowed. From this I can work out which areas will overlap where. I've represented this with arrows below:

Using the base color brown (C=55, M=60, Y=65, K=40), I created a transparent linear gradient and drew shapes to show the shadow cast from the overlapping hair. These are then set at Blending Mode Multiply with Opacity 100%. Once done, Group up all the gradient shapes (Command + G).

Step 6

Duplicate the "style" base shape and then use this with the gradient group to create a Clipping Mask (Command + 7). I've also dragged and dropped the original base shape below the gradients to keep them all in one group.

Step 7

This is where the fun begins and that's beginning to build up on the shading by drawing the strands of hair one by one. First of all, draw strands all over the bases, remembering to go with the grain of the hair. Use a lighter shade of brown as the stroke color (C=50, M=50, Y=60, K=25) with Width Profile 1, 3pt Stroke Weight set to Blending Mode Multiply, and Opacity 30%. Once done, Group the strands (Command + G) and drag and drop into the Clipping Mask group.

Don't worry if some of the strokes overlap each other. Due to the Blending Mode and Opacity, it will create more natural looking darker areas of the hair, which you can later use for placing highlights and hair in shade. With this in mind, let's talk highlights in the next step.

Step 8

We know where there will be shadows and that's around the areas where the hair is overlapping. Typically with hair, where it bends is where the shine is at its most intense. I'm going to create a light brown transparent radial gradient (C=25, M=25, Y=40, K=0) and use it as a fill with the Ellipse Tool (L) to draw several circles on the bends of the hair as shown below. The circles will be set to Blending Mode Overlay and Opacity 15%. Then group them Grouped up (Command + G) and placed in the Clipping Mask group.

Step 9

I'm now going to add some strands with the Paintbrush Tool (B) on the bends of the hair to help highlight it. This will be with Width Profile 1 brush, at 2pt Stroke Weight, with a light brown stroke color (C=40, M=45, Y=50, K=5) set to Blending Mode Screen and Opacity 20%.

I focused the strokes on the bends where the gradients were, however I've also placed some strokes in areas where I think there needs to be a bit more variety in the hair colors.

I'm going to add further highlighting strokes with the same settings, yet with Blending Mode Color Dodge and Opacity 20%. Once done, Group all the strokes (Command + G) and drag and drop them into the Clipping Mask group.

Step 10

Highlights have been added, now it's time for more shadow and darker strands. I'm going to use a different Profile, this time "Width Profile 5" with the larger end at the beginning of the stroke. The strokes have a medium brown color (C=50, M=50, Y=60, K=25) and have a 3pt Stroke Weight. I've set them to Blending Mode Color Burn and Opacity 30%.

I drew them first of all coming from and along where there are overlaps in the hair. I've then worked the strokes gradually along the grain of the hair. Finally, I Grouped them (Command + G) and placed them in the Clipping Mask group.

Step 11

I'm going to use a brush I created from my jellyfish tutorial, the circular blend brush, for the next step. I'm using this as another way to add shine to the corners of the hair. These will have a medium brown stroke color (C=40, M=45, Y=5), with a 5pt Stroke Weight, set to Blending Mode Color Dodge and Opacity 30%.

I'm going to use the same color and brush again, this time with a Stroke Weight of 1pt to add thinner highlights throughout the hair. These will be set to Blending Mode Lighten and Opacity 20%. Once done, Group all the strokes (Command + G) and drag and drop them into the Clipping Mask group.

Step 12

I'm feeling the hair is looking a little washed out and pale, so I'm going to overlap some color to bring it out more. I've drawn a Rectangle (M) across the text and then placed it in the Clipping Mask group. This is going to be a dark golden brown (C=50, M=70, Y=80, K=70) and I'm going to set it to Blending Mode Soft Light with Opacity 100%.

Of course, now it would be a great time to change the color to something more radical, depending on your taste. If you want your hair say pink or blue, change the fill of the Rectangle (M) to any shade you'd like. Then change the Blending Mode to Overlay and play around with the Opacity of the shape to get your perfect saturation.

Step 13

Now to add some additional stray hairs around the base. You'll need to place these hairs below the Clipping Mask group, so they don't overlap onto the shading of the hair. I'm going to use a medium golden brown shade (C=40, M=70, Y=100, K=50) and this time use the Width Profile 4 brush. It will have a Stroke Weight of 2pt.

Step 14

I'm going to do a couple modifications to what I have already, as I feel some of it is a bit too messy, so I want to tidy it up. The first thing I want to do is cover some of the gaps in the base, to make it more smooth.

There are several ways you could do this... for one you could draw shapes with the Pen Tool (P) and place them behind the Clipping Mask group. However what I'm going to do is draw strands of medium brown hair (C=40, M=50, Y=60, K=35) with a 10pt Stroke Weight and use the Pen Tool (P) with Width Profile 1, to add more precise curves around the text to cover the gaps. These will be placed behind the Clipping Mask group.

Step 15

The next modification I'm going to make is to define the "L" more clearly by creating more of a loop shape. Now I can do this very easily by removing a shape from the Compound Path, which is used to create the Clipping Mask group, with Pathfinder > Minus Front.

Step 16

Now to add a drop shadow effect. So first to duplicate the Compound Path you've just modified from the Clipping Mask group and then drag and drop it below all the hairs you've created.

In the Appearance panel, I've created four strokes with a black stroke and set them to Blending Mode Multiply with Opacity 5%. The strokes have a Rounded Cap and Round Joint. It also has a black fill set to Blending Mode Multiply with Opacity 30%. Then use the arrow keys on your keyboard to just nudge your shape to the right and downwards to create a drop shadow which is 100% vector.

Step 17

I'm going to create a quick vintage effect by adding a light gray background (C=5, M=1, Y=5, K=9) with a vector noise texture on top, then a vignette gradient to discolor the corners.

I've then added some white, 40pt Stroke Weight "Chalk - Scribble" strokes over the top, which are set to Blending Mode Screen with Opacity 10%. From time to time you'll have a dirty monitor and you'll see a slight discoloration or distortion of light on a white surface... this quick effect produces a similar effect you'll find!

Step 18

Finally, I'm going to add a golden brown Rectangle (M) and brown vignette over the top of the entire image to give another subtle aged effect.


I hope you've enjoyed today's tutorial on creating a stylish hair typography illustration. Why not try a variety of colors? You could even try adding braids to the hair to add further detailing perhaps?

Did you find this post useful?
Want a weekly email summary?
Subscribe below and we’ll send you a weekly email summary of all new Design & Illustration tutorials. Never miss out on learning about the next big thing.
One subscription. Unlimited Downloads.
Get unlimited downloads