In this tutorial, I'll show you how to create a Photoshop brush for type 4 hair—that is, the tight curly hair, also known as coily or kinky hair. Then I'll show you how to apply the brush to a photo to create a realistic effect of tight curly hair.
Type 4 hair (according to the Andre Walker Hair Typing System), also known as kinky, coily, or afro-textured hair, consists of very small curls and/or kinks. It can vary from tiny o-shaped coils (known as 4a) to tightly coiled z-shaped coils (4b) and even coils so tight that the individual strands can no longer be distinguished from a distance (4c). Type 4 hair that hasn't been straightened or processed in any other way is known as natural hair. Also worth noting: textured hair may not be all of the same texture type.
I'm going to show you the general technique of creating this type of texture with Black hair brushes in Photoshop. You can then use different photos to create different tight curly hair brushes.
What You'll Learn in This Black Hair Brush Photoshop Tutorial
- How to create Black hair texture brushes in Photoshop
- How to create an afro hair Photoshop brush
- How to apply a Black hair Photoshop brush to a photo
- How to create realistic Black hair in Photoshop
- How to create a tight curly hair brush in Photoshop
You're going to need the following materials for this Black hair brush Photoshop tutorial:
- Beauty portrait of African American woman with afro hair
- Portrait of smiling Black woman on yellow background (optional—you can use your own photo instead of this one)
1. How to Create an Afro Hair Photoshop Brush
To create a curly hair brush in Photoshop, open the first photo. Take the Lasso Tool (L) and roughly outline the hair with it, excluding the face and the hand.
Press Control-J to duplicate the layer. Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to rotate the copied section in such a way as to cover the face and the hand.
Add a Layer Mask. Take the Soft Round brush and paint on the mask with black and white to blend both layers together. Try to cover the face as well.
Use the Lasso Tool (L) again to select any part of the hair and copy it with Control-Shift-C. Then put it over the visible part of the face and blend it with the rest of the hair using another Layer Mask. The goal is to create a big ball of hair, with no body parts included!
Now outline the whole ball of hair with the Lasso Tool (L) and copy it with Control-Shift-C. Paste it on a New Layer, and create a New Layer below. Fill it with white using the Paint Bucket Tool (G).
Add a Levels adjustment layer on top. Drag the white (right) marker towards the middle until the whole background turns white, but not any farther than it.
Add another Levels adjustment layer. This time, drag the black (left) marker towards the middle until the whole ball becomes black—no highlights visible.
Now paint on the mask of the second Levels layer to make the edges more feathered. We want the inside to be completely black, but without making the edges too thick.
Crop (C) the canvas to get rid of the empty background. Select any layer other than one of the Levels ones, and go to Edit > Define Brush Preset. Name it Type 4: Shape.
Take the Brush Tool (B). Press D, and set the Opacity and Flow to 100%. Then open the Brush Settings panel and click the plus icon in the lower right corner. Define your brush once again, this time including the tool settings and color. Feel free to remove the first brush.
We need one more brush for the highlights. Hide the second Levels layer and go to the Channels tab. Hold the Control key and click the first thumbnail to create a selection.
Then Invert it with Control-Shift-I, copy the content with Control-Shift-C, and Paste it on top. Hide the other layers, leaving only the white background.
Add an Invert adjustment layer on top. Clip it to the layer below with Control-Alt-G.
Add a Levels adjustment layer, and clip it too. Increase the contrast by dragging the black marker strongly to the right and the white marker slightly to the left.
Add a Layer Mask to the layer these two adjustment layers are clipped to. Paint over the edges with a soft brush to make them brighter.
Define another brush the same way as before. Name it Type 4: Highlights, but this time use white as the default color.
2. How to Create Black Afro Hair in Photoshop
Afro hair is often used as a synonym for kinky hair, but this name actually refers to a specific hairstyle. In this hairstyle, the hair seems to be floating around the head like a soft cloud.
So the brushes are ready! Let's see how to apply them to a photo now. Open the second photo. Press W and click Select Subject in the upper bar. Press Control-J to copy the selection to a New Layer.
Create a New Layer between the Background layer and Layer 1. Take the Type 4: Shape brush. Adjust the size of the brush with the [ and ] keys, and paint the general shape of the hair behind the model's head.
Create a New Layer on top and paint on it to add some hair in front of the head. Use a Layer Mask to remove the parts that you don't need.
The hair has a general shape now, but in order for it to be fully convincing, we need to shade the model's head properly. Select Layer 1. Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, and clip it. Make it darker and slightly more saturated.
Fill its Layer Mask with black, and then paint on it with white to reveal the shadow where needed.
Add another, darker Hue/Saturation layer. Use it to add the darkest shadows.
Let's add the highlights now. Create a New Layer on top and take the Type 4: Highlights brush. Resize it properly and put it over the hair.
Add a Layer Mask and paint on it to limit the highlights to the hair only. You can improve the result by using the Highlights brush here.
Add a Hue/Saturation layer and clip it. Check Colorize and adjust the sliders to create a more realistic shade of highlights.
Take a final look at your image and see if anything breaks the illusion. It's much easier to spot mistakes once everything is in its place, so adjust the layer masks and adjustment layers to create the most convincing effect possible!
3. How to Create Other Natural Hairstyles With the Curly Brush
Although we've used a model with a classic afro hairstyle to create our Black hair texture brushes in Photoshop, the same brush can be used for other hairstyles for natural Black hair.
If you want to create the hairstyle known as an "afro puff", here's how you can use the same technique to achieve it.
First, you can skip the hair in the back and put it in the front at once.
Now, use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) in the Warp mode to modify the shape of the hair. Your goal is to create a smaller puff on top without making the curls smaller.
You can use the same method to add some loose curls on the sides.
Don't forget about the highlights!
The afro hairstyle can also be side-parted to create a fancier look. As you can see, this brush will help you create any style for type 4 hair—all you need is a good photo reference to know what effect you're going for.
Now you know how to create an afro brush in Photoshop, perfect for drawing curly Black hair! if you want to learn how to create other Black hair brushes in Photoshop, stay tuned for more tutorials—I'll show you how to draw curly and wavy textures, too!
Are you into Photoshop brushes? We've got you covered: here are a couple of great tutorials, all about creating and using Photoshop brushes:
- How to Make a Hair Brush in PhotoshopAbbey Esparza29 Oct 2021
- How to Make a Cloud Brush in PhotoshopMonika Zagrobelna08 Dec 2020
- How to Make a Sparkle Brush in PhotoshopMonika Zagrobelna10 May 2021
- How to Make a Flower Brush in PhotoshopMelody Nieves14 Nov 2020
- How to Create a Leaf Brush in PhotoshopAbbey Esparza26 Oct 2020
- How to Create Moon Brushes for PhotoshopMarko Kožokar19 Jun 2022