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Create Big Gravity Defying Anime-Styled Hair in Adobe Photoshop

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Read Time: 17 min
This post is part of a series called Anime and Manga Illustration.
Creating a Vector Anime Character in Adobe Photoshop - Part 2: Coloring
How to Draw and Color Anime-Styled Eyes in Adobe Photoshop

This tutorial builds on the knowledge gained from my previous tutorials, and provides a more in-depth discussion on creating big anime-style hair for your characters, as well as including four individual six step walkthroughs on creating each hairstyle. Although the styles were created in Adobe Photoshop, if you're familiar with Adobe Illustrator or other vectoring programs, you should find it easy to do. So let's begin!

1. Establishing a Hairline

When it comes to drawing hair, the very first thing you will need to establish is your character's hair line. This is where the hair begins, and making sure you have this in place before starting any sketching will ensure the hair you are creating will be placed correctly on the character's head. There are many different hair lines, four examples are shown in the image below. Generally speaking, the hair line will start at the temples, just in front of the ears, and curve up toward the top of the forehead. A male hair line is often squarer and further back than a female hair line, and will decline (become further back) as the character increases in age.


2. Consider the Flow of the Hair

When creating believable hair, even outrageously big gravity-defying anime hair, you will need to consider hair direction. No matter the length or style, hair always has one end connecting to the character's head (as this is, obviously, how hair grows and works!), and will always flow together in blocks. There may be loose strands, or blocks facing in different directions, but the blocks themselves will always flow together. The image below shows a simple example of blocking out your ideas in terms of hair direction, and this particular method is very useful for drawing bangs. Mark a point above your character's head, and stroke downward in curves to match the general head shape, so you will have something similar to the example given. You can then add in additional lines and join them to create bangs, erasing any unnecessary lines further up the head afterwards.


3. Gathered and Bunched Hair

Giving gathered hair volume and shape is a great way to add detail and interest to the hair, as well as making it look more realistic. In the drawing below, one bunch of hair (on the left) is gathered to a more rounded shape, which would be achieved by the character wearing a tight band or bead which pushes the hair above it up a little. The other bunch of hair (to the right) is gathered to a flatter shape, which would be created by the character wearing a clip or something similar, which would flatten the hair out. The flatter shape hair can also be used when the character is wearing looser bands or beads as well, and the hair would appear less gathered.


4. Environment and Gravity

The final point to consider before we begin the walkthroughs is gravity and environment. While anime characters are often known for having wonderfully big hair that defies gravity, there are a few things to take into account. Firstly, hair has weight to it - the longer your character's hair, the less realistic it would be to draw it sticking up in all directions. As for considering environment - wet hair will weigh more, for example, and hair that is braided into a large plait is more rigid and is less likely to be blown around in the wind.


5. Preparing Your Base

On to the walkthroughs for the four hairstyles - the first thing you will need is the base, which you can download from the source files. As previously mentioned, this tutorial assumes the knowledge gained from my previous tutorials on sketches and line art, and color and shade, and builds upon the character already created in the clothing for beginners tutorial. In these walkthroughs, you'll be using techniques from within each of them. Once you have the base opened, you will need to draw a hairline, as discussed in the first part of this tutorial - do this on a separate layer to the base (Control + Shift + N) and call this layer "hairline". Once you have this, you're ready to go.


5. Create a Big Bushy Hairstyle

Step 1

Starting with the big blue hair from the preview image - this type of hairstyle is popular in anime shows aimed at a slightly younger audience, with two examples being Beyblade and Yu Gi Oh!, whose main characters all sport big gravity-defying styles similar to this one. Start with your rough sketch on a New Layer (Control + Shift + N) called "sketch1" and aim to create large curved triangular shapes which, if the lines were to continue, would start roughly from a central point on the head (see the section above on Considering Flow). Use the hairline you drew first as a guide to position the bangs.


Step 2

Once you're happy with your initial sketch, create a New Layer (Control + Shift + N) and call it "sketch2." On this layer, use the Pen Tool (P) set to Paths to draw your second, neater sketch. I prefer to use a red-pink tone for this as I find it easier to see to trace my initial sketch, and to go over with the line art in the next step, but the color you use is entirely up to you. While creating your second sketch, make any changes or additions you need to from your initial sketch so you have something you're able to follow when you create your line art Once you finish this step, hide your "sketch1" layer and your "hairline" layer, and you should have something similar to the example below.


Step 3

Next, we move on to the vector line art stage - remember you can refer back to my previous tutorial on this at any time to refresh your memory, as all the stages are explained in full detail there! First, set your Pen Tool (P) to Shape Layers instead of Paths, which we used in the previous step. Shape Layers are Photoshop's vector layers. Create a New Group Folder above your "sketch2" layer, and name it "lines." Using the Pen Tool (P), and within your new "lines" folder, begin creating your vector line art by following the second sketch you created in the previous step. Remember that varied line-weight adds interest and gives the hair a more voluminous look to it. Once you have finished your line art, hide the "sketch2" layer.


Step 4

Next, you'll need to create a New Group Folder beneath your "lines" Group Folder, and above your hidden "sketch2" layer. Name this new folder "color." Choose a base color for your character's hair - I have chosen a lighter medium blue - and, using the Pen Tool (P), trace round the outside of your line art so all the hair inside is colored.


Step 5

Next, choose a darker and more saturated tone than your base color for the shading. I have chosen a more purple hue for this. We'll be shading the hair using the popular cel shading method. Cel shading is using blocks of color to only add shade to the darkest areas, to add dimension without overdoing the details. Choose an areas to begin your shading and, once you have created your first shading shape above your base color shape, Right-click the shading shape layer and select Create Clipping Mask. This will bind your shading shape layer to the base color shape layer, meaning that if you go out of the lines with your shading, it won't show. This technique is explained further in my previous tutorial, Creating Simple Vector Clothing in Adobe Photoshop. Continue adding your shading shape layers underneath your first shading shape layer, and a clipping mask will automatically be added to them. If you add the shading layers above your first one, you will need to remember to add the clipping mask yourself. Once you have finished your shading, you should have something similar to the example below.


Step 6

Adding a feint gradient and some highlights is the final stage of the walkthrough on this hairstyle, before we move on to the next. This stage is explained in full detail in my previous tutorial on coloring, so you can refer back to that if you need any further guidance. To add your gradient, create a shape layer, in your original base color, above your base color shape layer but below any of your shading shape layers. This shape layer should cover the whole hair area. Using the FX menu, with this new shape layer selected, add a Gradient Overlay which fades from your original base color at the top of the hair, to your shading color toward the bottom of the hair. Set this gradient to about 60% Opacity. Next, create a New Group Folder above your "color" Folder and below your "lines" folder. Name this folder "dodge" and, using the menu at the top of the Layers tab, set this whole group folder to Color Dodge. Using white shape layers at Opacities between 5% and 30% (whatever looks right to you,) add slim highlights around the edges of the hair, and two larger blocks of highlighting at each side, as the example below shows. Make sure the white shape layers themselves are set to Normal, and only the group folder itself is set to Color Dodge, and always keep the folder itself at 100% Opacity, only change the Opacity of the white shape layers. Remember you can refer back to the previous tutorials should you need to. Once the gradient and highlights are done, your character's hair is complete!


5. Create a Twisted Bunches Hairstyle

Step 1

Moving on to the next hairstyle, in which you will create twisted bunches, an effect which mostly relies on your shading techniques, so is great to practice on. The six stages for this hairstyle walkthrough, and the stages for the remaining two walkthroughs, are the same as for the previous hairstyle, so should you need to refer back to those steps, everything from here on will be a repeat of the techniques. First off, place all the layers and group folders from your previous hairstyle into a group folder named "hairstyle 1" and then hide the whole group folder, so you are left only with the character base. You can either use the same hairline you drew for the previous hairstyle, or draw a new one on a separate layer, again named "hairline." You can go back to the first example at the top of this tutorial to see examples of different hairlines. Once you have your hair line, create a New Layer (Control + Shift + N) and call it "sketch1." Sketch out something similar to the example below, with bunches either side of the head which twist round to the back of the head. I have also added separate bangs and some loose hair at the back.


Step 2

Once you've finished your initial sketches, you can create a New Layer (Control + Shift + N) and call it "sketch2." On this layer you can now use the Pen Tool (P) set to Paths to draw out your clean sketch. When you're finished, you can hide the "sketch1" layer.


Step 3

As before, once you're happy with your second sketch, create a New Group Folder above your "sketch2" layer, and name it "lines." You can now switch your Pen Tool (P) to Shape Layers and begin your line art Remember you can check my previous tutorials for further help if you need to! Hide the "sketch2" layer when you're finished with your lines.


Step 4

Next, create your New Group Folder beneath the "lines" group folder, and above the hidden "sketch2" layer. Call the new group folder "color" and, as before, choose a base color for the hair and use the Pen Tool (P) to draw round the outside of the line art to create your hair base. On this particular style, you will need to erase part of the shape, as it is inside the main line art My previous tutorial on line art explains how to do this.


Step 5

Choose a color darker and more saturated than your base color to begin the shading. As you did previously, add your first bit of shading above the base color shape layer, and create a clipping mask. Continue adding your shading below this first shading shape layer. To create the twisted look, you will need to shade the edges of the bunches, particularly where two lines (of your line art) meet. Add in some longer thin strips of shading to represent strands, and to keep your hair looking like hair. Use your line art as a guide for shading this sort of style.


Step 6

For the final step, bright highlights have been added around the edges of the hair, and feint blocks of highlighting have been added on the bangs and the bunches. Again, to create these, you will need to make a New "dodge" Group Folder above the "color" Group Folder, and set it to Color Dodge. Use only white shapes at varied opacities to add your highlights, and always make sure the group folder itself is at 100% Opacity. The group folder only should be set to Color Dodge - always make sure the white shape layers are set to Normal. In this final stage, a gradient has also been added to the bottom of the hair, which was done by creating the new base color layer above the original base layer and adding a Gradient Overlay at 60% Opacity to it, as described in the last walkthrough. The hair beads have also been colored purple, and shaded/highlighted in the same way as the hair, as a finishing touch. We're now done with hairstyle two! You can group the relevant layers together as you did for the last hairstyle, but this time name the group folder "hairstyle 2" and then hide the group.


5. Create a Long and Flowing Hairstyle

Step 1

For the next hairstyle, we'll be working on long flowing hair, which is ever popular in anime art. Create a New Layer (Control + Shift + N) and name it "sketch1." Start with the bangs to frame the character's face, and then draw long, curved lines downward. Give the hair volume, but don't go too wide as it will start to look out of place. Adding in some overlapping shorter strands can make the hair more interesting.


Step 2

Create a New Layer (Control + Shift + N) above your initial sketch layer and name it "sketch2." As before, set your Pen Tool (P) to Paths and begin working on your second sketch. When you're happy with it, you can hide your "sketch1" layer.


Step 3

Create a Group Folder above your "sketch2" layer and name it "lines." Switch your Pen Tool (P) back to Shape Layers, and you can begin working on your vector line art Once you've finished, hide your "sketch2" layer.


Step 4

Create a New Group Folder below your "lines" group folder, and name it "color." As with the other hairstyles, go round your hair so it's all filled in.

Tip: This is easier to do with longer styles when working with full vector; you will notice with the base provided that it's tricky to remove all the unwanted areas from the hair, or not overlap the character base. For the purpose of this tutorial, you can cheat a little, and Duplicate your character base, moving the duplicate up to above the "color" group folder, and using the Pen Tool (P) set to Paths to draw round any areas of the character base you'd need to remove (i.e., where the hair overlaps the base naturally, such as the head/face and in this case, arms). Once you've drawn round the areas to remove, Right-click your mouse and select Fill Path, and then choose 'Clear' from the Mode menu in the Blending section of the options box displayed. You can then delete the path. Please note, this is NOT something you can do with vector in Photoshop, and is mentioned only for the ease of completing this particular step in this tutorial. If you choose to do this, remember to switch your Pen Tool (P) back to Shape Layers to continue with the tutorial.

Step 5

Choose your shading color and begin adding your shading, remembering to create a Clipping Mask for the first layer and then creating all new layers beneath it. Use long flowing blocks of shade for a style like this, and remember to add in the longer thinner blocks to represent strands. Where one strand of hair overlaps another, remember it will create a shadow, so be sure to add those to your shading as well. With styles like this, the emphasis is usually on the main length of hair, so don't make the bangs too shadowed as they may end up looking a little overbearing.


Step 6

For the final step is the gradient and highlights, which are done using the same process as described in the previous two hairstyle walkthroughs earlier in the tutorial. When you're happy with your creation here, you can move on to the fourth and final walkthrough! As with the last two, group all your layers for this hairstyle together, and name the Group Folder "hairstyle 3." You can then hide this group, ready for the last walkthrough.


5. Create a Cute Bunches Hairstyle

Step 1

For the final walkthrough, we'll be creating a traditionally cute anime hairstyle with large bunches and long sweeping bangs which overlap the face. Create your initial sketch on a New Layer (Control + Shift + N) called "sketch1." To my sketch, I've also added two longer strands to each side, which curve as they rest on top the shoulder, and fall forward. Follow the curve of the shoulders to draw these strands, both the line art on the top of the shoulders, and also imagine the shape of the front of the shoulders, and how the hair would hang. Make your bunches larger at the top, thinning to one or two points at the tips.


Step 2

When you've drawn your initial sketch, create a New Layer (Control + Shift + N) and name it "sketch2." Set the Pen Tool (P) to Paths, and create your second sketch. Once you're finished, hide your "sketch1" layer.


Step 3

Create a New Group Folder above your "sketch2" layer, and name it "lines." Set your Pen Tool (P) to Shape Layers and, as you have done in the previous walkthroughs, create your line art, hiding the "sketch2" layer when you're finished.


Step 4

Next, you'll need to make a New Group Folder, called "color," beneath your "lines" Group Folder and above your hidden "sketch2" Layer. Choose a base color for the hair - I have chosen a light, creamy yellow -and use the Pen Tool (P) to create a base color layer for the hair in your new Group Folder.


Step 5

When shading this sort of style, add plenty of shading to the top of the bunches to give them emphasis, and not a lot of shade at the top of the rest of the hair, other than the crown/parting shading in the middle. As before, use Clipping Masks to make sure your shading won't overlap the line art or character base.


Step 6

Finally, using a "dodge" Group Folder as before, add your highlights, and add a subtle gradient to the tips of the bunches, and to the tips of the main hair. When you're done, group all the layers together in a New Group Folder named "hairstyle 4."


Awesome! You're Done!

You've now successfully created four fantastic big anime hairstyles using vector in Adobe Photoshop! You should hopefully have something similar to those shown below. As always, I'd love to see what you've created. See you again for more tutorials.

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