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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Photoshop Brushes

How to Create Tight Curly Hair Brushes in Photoshop (Type 4 Hair)

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Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

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

Tutorial Assets

You're going to need the following materials for this Black hair brush Photoshop tutorial:

1. How to Create an Afro Hair Photoshop Brush

Step 1

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.

select the hairselect the hairselect the hair

Step 2

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.

rotate the selected hairrotate the selected hairrotate the selected hair

Step 3

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.

add a layer maskadd a layer maskadd a layer mask
blend the hair with layer maskblend the hair with layer maskblend the hair with layer mask

Step 4

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!

select another part of hairselect another part of hairselect another part of hair
place the patch in the middleplace the patch in the middleplace the patch in the middle
blend both partsblend both partsblend both parts

Step 5

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).

select whole hairselect whole hairselect whole hair
add white backgroundadd white backgroundadd white background

Step 6

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.

adjust levels adjustment layeradjust levels adjustment layeradjust levels adjustment layer
make background brightermake background brightermake background brighter

Step 7

Add another Levels adjustment layer. This time, drag the black (left) marker towards the middle until the whole ball becomes black—no highlights visible.

add another adjustment layeradd another adjustment layeradd another adjustment layer
make hair darkermake hair darkermake hair darker

Step 8

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.

adjust levels layer maskadjust levels layer maskadjust levels layer mask

Step 9

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.

crop the canvascrop the canvascrop the canvas
create new brushcreate new brushcreate new brush

Step 10

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.

adjust brush settingsadjust brush settingsadjust brush settings
create new brushcreate new brushcreate new brush
save new brushsave new brushsave new brush

Step 11

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.

select channelselect channelselect channel
copy and pastecopy and pastecopy and paste

Step 12

Add an Invert adjustment layer on top. Clip it to the layer below with Control-Alt-G.

add invert adjustment layeradd invert adjustment layeradd invert adjustment layer
invert the colorsinvert the colorsinvert the colors

Step 13

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 levels adjustment layeradd levels adjustment layeradd levels adjustment layer
increase the contrastincrease the contrastincrease the contrast

Step 14

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.

soften the edgessoften the edgessoften the edges

Step 15

Define another brush the same way as before. Name it Type 4: Highlights, but this time use white as the default color.

save the brushsave the brushsave the brush

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.

Step 1

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.

select modelselect modelselect model
model selectedmodel selectedmodel selected

Step 2

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.

draw hair in the backdraw hair in the backdraw hair in the back

Step 3

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.

add hair in the frontadd hair in the frontadd hair in the front
clean up the hairclean up the hairclean up the hair

Step 4

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.

add hue saturation adjustmentadd hue saturation adjustmentadd hue saturation adjustment
adjust saturation and lightnessadjust saturation and lightnessadjust saturation and lightness
darken the modeldarken the modeldarken the model

Step 5

Fill its Layer Mask with black, and then paint on it with white to reveal the shadow where needed.

clean up the shadowsclean up the shadowsclean up the shadows

Step 6

Add another, darker Hue/Saturation layer. Use it to add the darkest shadows.

add another hue adjustment layeradd another hue adjustment layeradd another hue adjustment layer
darken model even moredarken model even moredarken model even more
clean up the shadows againclean up the shadows againclean up the shadows again

Step 7

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 highlights to hairadd highlights to hairadd highlights to hair

Step 8

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.

clean up the highlightsclean up the highlightsclean up the highlights

Step 9

Add a Hue/Saturation layer and clip it. Check Colorize and adjust the sliders to create a more realistic shade of highlights.

colorize the haircolorize the haircolorize the hair
hair colorizedhair colorizedhair colorized

Step 10

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!

clean up the detailsclean up the detailsclean up the details

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.

Step 1

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.

add more hairadd more hairadd more hair

Step 2

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.

use the warp tooluse the warp tooluse the warp tool
warp the hairwarp the hairwarp the hair

Step 3

You can use the same method to add some loose curls on the sides.

add hair in the frontadd hair in the frontadd hair in the front

Step 3

Don't forget about the highlights!

add the highlightsadd the highlightsadd the highlights

Step 5

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.

parted afro styleparted afro styleparted afro style

Good Job!

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!

afro brush final effectafro brush final effectafro brush final effect

Recommended Tutorials

Are you into Photoshop brushes? We've got you covered: here are a couple of great tutorials, all about creating and using Photoshop brushes:

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