In this tutorial, I'll show you how to create a Photoshop brush for type 2 hair—more commonly known as wavy hair. Then I'll show you how to apply the brush to a photo to create a realistic effect of long wavy hair—or, in other words, how to curl hair in Photoshop! If you wonder how to Photoshop straight hair to wavy, this method will be useful for it, too.
Type 2 hair (according to the Andre Walker Hair Typing System), is something between straight hair and curly hair. The strands have an S-shape that appears below the top of the head (in the 2a type), or right on top (in the 2c type). Although type 2 hair can sometimes be very similar to type 3 (curly hair), it can be distinguished by comparing the pattern of the coils—in curly hair, they're more similar to "C" than "S".
I'm going to show you the general technique of creating this type of texture with a Photoshop brush for long, wavy hair. You can then use different photos to create different type 2 hair brushes. If you want a curly hair brush for Photoshop, though, you should use this tutorial instead. It shows you how to create a Photoshop curl hair brush from a photo, and then how to apply it to a different photo.
And if you're interested in other hair types, remember to check out our other tutorials on hair brushes for Photoshop:
What You'll Learn in This Curly Hair Brush Photoshop Tutorial
- How to paint wavy hair in Photoshop
- How to Photoshop straight hair to wavy
- How to curl hair in Photoshop
- How to create a brush for long wavy hair for Photoshop
- How to create a loose hair curls brush in Photoshop
What You'll Need
- Photo 1: Blonde Woman With Long Wavy Hair
- Photo 2: Black Woman With Long Curly Hair
- Photo 3: A Woman With Fly-Away Hair
- Photo 4: Smiling Lady With Short Hair (optional—you can use your own photo here)
1. How to Create a Wavy Hair Brush in Photoshop
Let's create a loose hair curls brush in Photoshop first. Open Photo 1 and use the Lasso Tool (L) to outline a part of the hair on the side. Copy it to a new layer with Control-J.
This will be the long wavy hair for our Photoshop brush. Put a white-filled layer below. Duplicate the layer once more and go to Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal.
Put one of the parts over the other, and use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to make it narrower (hold the Shift key to transform non-proportionally).
Use the Free Transform Tool in Warp mode to make the other strand more vertical.
Add a Layer Mask to both of the layers, and paint on them with a soft brush to blend both strands. Create a New Layer on top and paint on it with a soft brush to make the tip less sharp.
Add a Black and White adjustment layer. Then add a Levels adjustment layer and move the black marker to the right to make the hair much darker.
Add another Levels adjustment layer. This time move the black marker even farther, to remove all the highlights.
Paint on the layer mask of this adjustment layer with a soft brush, to make the edges more feathered.
Select any layer other than the adjustment layers, and go to Edit > Define Brush Preset. Name it Type 2: Shape.
Take the Brush Tool (B) and set both Opacity and Flow to 100%. Press D to reset the swatches. Open the Brushes panel and click the plus icon on the bottom to redefine the brush—this time with all the settings included. You can remove the previous brush afterwards. And the long wavy hair for Photoshop brush is ready.
2. How to Create a Highlights Brush for Wavy Hair in Photoshop
Let's create the highlights for our hair curls brush in Photoshop. Open Photo 2. Take the Lasso Tool (L) and select a part of the hair where the highlights are clearly visible. Copy it to a new layer with Control-J, and place a white background behind it.
Add a Layer Mask and paint on it with a soft brush to make the edges smoother.
Add a Levels adjustment layer. Drag the white marker strongly to the left to accentuate the highlights. Clip it to the layer below by pressing Control-Alt-G.
Add an Invert adjustment layer, and clip it too. This is necessary because for Photoshop brushes, white = transparent. So if we want to paint white highlights, we need to make them black first!
Add another clipped Levels adjustment layer. Drag both markers slightly to the middle to increase the contrast.
Press Control-Alt-Shift-E to copy everything to a new layer. Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to make the brush more vertical, and also longer/narrower.
Go to Edit > Define Brush Preset and name it Type 2: Highlights. Redefine the brush afterwards, but this time use white as the default color, and set Flow to 50%.
3. How to Create a Wavy Strand Brush in Photoshop
Open Photo 3. Press Control-Shift-U to remove the colors, and then add a Levels adjustment layers to make the background pure white.
Use the Lasso Tool (L) to select the long flying strand. Copy it with Control-Shift-C, and paste it to a new layer.
Create a New Layer below, and fill it with white. Rotate the strand to make it more vertical.
Add a Layer Mask to the strand to make the top softer and the bottom shorter. Then save it as a new brush—Type 2: Small Strand. Redefine it with black as the default color, and 100% Opacity and Flow.
Create a New File with dimensions bigger than Type 2: Shape brush. Then click once with this brush on the canvas to paint a single strand.
Add a Layer Mask and paint over it with the same brush to create one short strand with a naturally feathered top. You can also use a soft round brush to make the bottom less sharp.
Save it as another brush, Type 2: Big Strand. Make it black and 100% opaque.
4. How to Paint Wavy Hair in Photoshop
The brushes are finished, so now let's learn how to paint wavy hair in Photoshop with them! Open Photo 4 (or your own photo). Take the Magic Wand Tool (W) and click Select Subject in the upper bar.
Press Control-J to copy the selection to a new layer—name it Model. Then create a New Layer below and use the Type 2: Shape brush to create some hair behind the head.
Create a New Layer on top and use the same brush to add some hair in the front. Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) in the Warp mode to change the shape of the hair, if necessary.
Add a Layer Mask and paint on it to remove the parts of the hair that cover the face too much.
Add the hair on the other side as well, using the same techniques.
Use the Type 2: Big Strand brush to add smaller strands wherever the hair doesn't look detailed enough. You can use the Small Strand brush for the same purpose, but not too much—otherwise the hair will look fluffy/frizzy.
If we're going to use a part of the models' real hair for our purpose, we need to change its color. Select the Model layer and add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer above it. Lower the Saturation and Brightness.
Fill the layer of the adjustment layer with black to hide the effect. Then paint on it with white to reveal it back in the hair area.
Right-click the adjustment layer and select Blending Options. Then go to the Blend If settings and drag the lower white marker to the left. Split it with the Alt key for a more transitional effect. This way you'll get the highlights back.
Hold the Control key and click the thumbnail of the merged hair on top. Then create a New Layer and add a Layer Mask to it—the selection will be applied to it automatically. On this layer, use the Type 2: Highlights brush to add the highlights.
Adjust the size to the size of the waves—it may be good to make them even longer/narrower with the Free Transform Tool. If the highlights are too small, it may create the effect of curly hair.
Create a New Layer above and clip it with Control-Alt-G. Then paint on it to give the highlights a more natural hue.
If you want more levels of highlights, duplicate the main highlights layer and put it above the coloring layer. Then, in its Blend If setting, move and split the lower black marker to the right, to restrict the lightening effect to the brightest parts of the highlights only.
Lower the Opacity to adjust the intensity of the effect—too much will give you the effect of wet hair.
You can repeat this process one more time to create another level of highlights.
Let's blend the hair better with the head now. Select the Model layer and add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. Clip it with Control-Alt-G, and darken the face with it.
Use the Blend If settings to remove the darkening effect from the brightest areas.
Fill the layer mask with black and then paint on it with white to reveal the darkening effect only in the areas close to the hair.
Repeat the process to add more shadows wherever necessary.
5. How to Make Wavy Hair in Photoshop More Realistic
Add a New Layer on top and use a soft brush to cover the outline of the hair with the color of the background. This will make it fit the environment better.
Change its Blend If settings to make the effect more natural.
You can use the same technique to make the hair look brighter and more detailed. For example, you can paint over the lower parts of the hair to add light reflected from the jacket.
The parts that are turned away from the viewer are usually more reflective, so you can add more highlights there.
If the highlights are too sharp, the hair may look wet. Let's use a special trick to make it softer! Take the Brush Tool (B), and switch to Mixer Brush Tool. In the upper bar, set the combination to Very Wet, Heavy Mix, and check Sample All Layers.
Take the Type 2: Shape brush, and in the Brush Settings panel set its Spacing to 3%. Then, create a New Layer and paint on it to smudge the hair softly.
Lower the Opacity and add a Layer Mask to limit the effect to the hair area only.
To make the hair look more detailed, you can use the Type 2: Small Strand brush to add single strands here and there. Pick the colors of the highlights on the area to create a natural effect.
To finish the effect, you can add a few adjustment layers. Here I've increased the contrast and saturation. Just remember to add a proper mask!
Now you know how to curl hair in Photoshop to create long wavy hair!
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Do you need custom Photoshop brushes for your next project? Try these options from Envato Elements:
Fire Photoshop Brushes [ABR]
This set includes ten realistic brushes based on photos of real fire. Color them with a Gradient Map for the best result!
Make your photos electric with this set of 30 lightning brushes! They're very realistic and easy to use. Combine them with an Outer Glow for a truly electrifying effect.
Are you constructing an underwater scene with photo manipulation techniques? Then you're going to need these water bubble brushes. They can also be used to make underwater photos more interesting.
Did you take a photo of a rainy scene, but you didn't manage to capture the raindrops? With this brush set, you can easily fix it! Choose from 50 high-resolution brushes to find the perspective and density you need.
Make your blue sky more interesting by filling it with clouds of many shapes and sizes! This brush set can also be used for creating mist and fog.
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