1. Design & Illustration
  2. Illustration

How to Draw Hair and Clothes for a Virtual Dress-Up Doll in Illustrator

Scroll to top
Read Time: 21 min

This has always been my favorite part of playing with dolls: dressing them up! If you're playing along with the Community Challenge, this is where the base body comes in handy. Join me in Adobe Illustrator where we'll draw hair and clothes with the Blob Brush Tool, make a Clipping Mask, use the Blend Tool, and apply various Blending Modes to objects within our vector work to create better transitions between elements.

Tutorial Assets

To complete the tutorial you will need the following assets:

1. Prepare the Base Body

Step 1

You can download the base body above. Once you do, open up the file of your choice into a new Illustrator document and enlarge the artboard using the Artboard Tool (Shift-O) so you have more room for clothes, hair, and accessories. Move or delete the underwear, as it was simply a placeholder drawn in the first part of this virtual paper doll tutorial. Make changes to the skin tone, eye color, etc. as you see fit.


Step 2

You'll notice your base body doesn't have ears (if you're using the asset above). I left them out previously because the hairstyles I tend to draw cover them up (so why bother, right?). In the event that your designs show the ears, follow the steps below to draw some simple ones.

  • Using the Ellipse Tool (L), draw a small circle.
  • With the Direct Selection Tool (A), pull the bottom anchor point down and slightly to the left and manipulate the handles so it remains a curve (use the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Shift-C) in the case you don't have two handles for that anchor point).
  • Scale the ear down a bit.
  • Squish the bounding box of the ear object inward so it's narrower.
  • Using the Pen Tool (P), draw an "S"-like shape in the ear. Make sure it's a complete shape (unlike the one shown in Step 5 below)
  • Fill the ear with your base body's skin tone and the inner ear shape with a darker tone..
  • Apply a linear gradient to the inner ear shape with the Gradient Tool (G) going from the base body's shadow color to skin tone.

Group (Control-G) together your ear parts and place them behind the base body. Make two of them and apply a dark brown stroke to the ear shape so it's consistent with the style of the base body.


Step 3

The last step in preparing your document is choosing some color palettes to work with. You can create your own or hunt through the giant default library Illustrator has at the ready. Access it through the Swatches panel.


2. Draw the Hair

Step 1

There's two ways I like to work with hair: building it from simply shapes (which can create some bizarre and fun styles) or drawing it our with the Paintbrush Tool (B) or Blob Brush Tool (Shift-B). In this step, we'll build a hairstyle from circles.

  • Create a new layer and name it "Hair". Make sure it's above the base body in the Layers panel. Using the Ellipse Tool, draw an ellipse that overlaps the doll's forehead. Select the base body's head (use the Direct Selection Tool so you don't have to ungroup) and select the ellipse. Use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) to select the non-overlapping portion of the ellipse. Deselect (Shift-Control-A) and lock the base body layer in the Layers panel.
  • Use the Direct Selection Tool (V) to select the extraneous component of the ellipse and delete it.
  • Draw a large circle around the doll's head that overlaps her chin.
  • Copy (Control-C) and Paste (Control-V) the circle and move it down and to the right.
  • Select both circles and hit Minus Front in the Pathfinder panel.
  • Select the new shape you've made, Copy, Paste, and Reflect it over a vertical axis.
  • Align the right side of the hairstyle with the left and Unite all three pieces in Pathfinder.

If you like this kind of bobbed hairstyle, you can continue to use it and build others with basic shapes using the Shape Builder Tool and the Pathfinder panel. However, if you're like me, you'll want your doll to have hair that looks less molded and more like rooted hair.


Step 2

If you're using a graphics tablet, use either the Paintbrush Tool or the Blob Brush Tool, with pressure variations selected in the tool's options panel. If you're not, I suggest using the Pen Tool since you'll have greater control over your strokes.

  • I like to start with the bangs (fringe) portion of hair. Start at the left side and curve down to the right and back up half way.
  • Curve back up to the middle of the head (on the right). Bring a stroke from the top left of the hair to the right ear, creating a small bit of space between the hair line and the head.
  • Think of hair not as individual strands, but as separate sections. In the case of these bangs, there's four sections of hair.
  • For the rest of the hair, I follow the curve of the head when bringing hair down from the brown of the head.
  • I like to keep hair as free and wispy as possible when drawing long styles. Sketch it out loosely in this stage.
  • Note the arrows for the directions in which each section was drawn.

Step 3

When satisfied with a basic hairdo, Group together strokes in sections. In this case, I Grouped together all of the strokes making up the bangs area. Expand your strokes under Object and Unite them in Pathfinder. Make sure they form a closed shape. Use the Direct Selection Tool to select the inside of the shape and delete it.


Step 4

Before I draw the rest of the doll's hair, I want to have a point of reference for the style. She'll be wearing a ponytail and most of it has to original from somewhere: in this case a bow.

  • The bow is drawn in four simple parts with five strokes. Draw the right side of the bow as seen below.
  • Group together the right side, Copy, Paste, and Reflect it over a vertical axis for the left side. Align the bow sections and Unite them in Pathfinder.
  • Set the bow behind the bangs in the Layers panel.

3. Create a Giant Ponytail

Step 1

I chose a lighter yellow for the base color of the hair. As mentioned previously, most of her hair will be in a giant ponytail. Some parts, however, remain unrestrained on either side of her head.

  • Draw some wavy sections of hair on the sides of her face. Group together the sketches strokes and lock them in the Layers panel.
  • Using the Pen Tool, draw a few thick sections of hair on either side of her face using the sketched lines as a guide (filled black in this case so it's easy to see).
  • Once satisfied with these sections, delete the sketched strokes in the Layers panel and Unite the bangs and forelocks in the Pathfinder panel.

Step 2

Create a new layer and place it behind the base body in the Layers panel. Starting at the bow, draw wavy lines that curve to the left and back to the right (hitting the midpoint of the body). Fill in with closed shapes either with the Pen Tool or by Uniting expanded strokes and deleting the inside paths of the compound object.


Step 3

To create a simple outline, Copy and Paste the ponytail and set the fill and stroke to dark brown. In the Stroke panel, select Round Caps and Round Corners and a weight of 2-3pts. Align with the base ponytail and set it behind in the Layers panel. Repeat for the bangs and forelocks layer.


Step 4

Now we need to draw some strands. You can use the Pen Tool if you want more precision, just vary your stroke weights. If you're using the Paintbrush Tool, like I did, check out the option settings I have for the default round brush. I'm keeping the strokes at either 0.5pt or 0.25pt weights. Follow the curves of the ponytail and draw overlapping strokes that emphasize the sections of hair.


Step 5

When satisfied with the lines you've drawn, Expand your strokes. Copy, Paste, and align the base ponytail shape behind the strokes and hit Intersect in the Pathfinder panel.


Step 6

Repeat for the front section of hair. Note how the lined get thinner in the middle sections of the hair and thicker towards the outer edges. Expand all strokes and either use the Shape Builder Tool or Pathfinder to cut them to the main hair shape's boundaries. Unite or Group them together to keep your Layers panel organized.


4. Render the Hair

Step 1

Check out the linear gradient below. It contains three yellows as follows:

  • R: 255 G: 240 B: 131
  • R: 255 G: 214 B: 132
  • R: 252 G: 171 B: 79

Apply a similar one, or the same one, to


Step 2

For shadows on the hair, draw shapes that accentuate the underside of each section as well as where other sections of hair overlap. use the Shape Builder Tool to conform shapes to the main compound shape of hair. The linear gradient seen below has R: 123 G: 25 B: 22 at 100% Opacity and R: 255 G: 214 B: 132 at 0% Opacity.


Step 3

For highlights, use the bright yellow from the gradient in Step 1 and lighter tones of the base color. I've drawn curves shapes over large sections of hair as well as drawn small, transparent circles denoting hotspots. Group together all shadow and highlight components and place them beneath the line work in the hair in the Layers panel.


Step 4

The steps to rendering the bow are similar to the ones done in the hair.

  • Draw the bow (already done in Section 2, Step 3).
  • Outline the bow with the same method as you did hair from Section 3, Step 3.
  • Using the Pen Tool draw two gradient shapes, going from dark pink to light, on each section of the bow, emphasizing the bottom portions.
  • For simple stripes, either use the Rectangle Tool (M) or the Pen Tool to draw thin strips on each section of the bow. Delete non-overlapping components of these shapes with the Shape Builder Tool as done throughout the hair building sections.
  • Unite the bow stripes in Pathfinder and apply a white to pink linear gradient. Group together and your bow is completed.

Step 5

The final view of this hair, with finished bow and ponytail are seen below. Group together the front portion and the back portion respectively. Let's move on to another hair style.


5. Draw a Cute Bob

Step 1

For a cute short hairdo, how about a bob? This one is made up of thick, fan-like sections of hair.

  • The bangs curve to the right and are sectioned into four components.
  • The sides of the hair include three sections each. You can draw each side or draw the left and Copy and Paste on the right.
  • Once satisfied with the initial sketch, Group it together and lock it in the Layers panel. Using the Pen Tool, draw each hair section.
  • Since this is a short hair style, there is no need for an additional layer for the backside. Unite the hair pieces in Pathfinder and delete the sketch lines.

Step 2

Outline the hair as we did for the ponytail style and hair bow from the previous section. Since the hairstyle is so small this time, I'm using the Pen Tool for the line work within the hair. I've set the fill to null and the stroke to 1pt weight. Draw curved line that accentuate each section (in this case, there's 11 large sections of hair) and thinner lines for small subsections of hair. Expand the strokes when you're satisfied with their appearance and Group them together.


Step 3

The shadows emphasize the sections of hair as well as roots. Like the last hair style, the shadow shapes are linear gradients going from the base hair color to a darker tone. The highlights, linear gradients going from the base hair color to a lighter tint, bow in the center of each section, creating a shiny effect on the hair.


Step 4

For additional shiny details, I've drawn strands of hair with the Blob Brush Tool (this is also possible with the Paintbrush Tool) with a linear gradient applied to the fill. The gradient goes from transparent pink to opaque pink and back to transparent pink again. In the Transparency panel, Color Dodge is set as the Blending Mode and the overall Opacity is set down to 80%. For the circles around her hair, some are radial gradients as seen below and others are transparent, light pink circles set to Screen in the Transparency panel.


Step 5

Additional features added to the hair were layered circles and gradient stroked lines with the shadow gradient used previously.


6. Mermaid Hair

Step 1

The same steps from the other two hair styles are involved in this one. For the overall look, though, concentrate on creating long, wavy sections and strands of hair for mermaid-like hair. Instead of bangs, she has a center part and two shapes that fill in the space for the back of her hair (placed beneath the body layer) have added. Unlike the last style, each side of the hair was drawn individually. The Blob Brush Tool was used throughout this step.


Step 2

This style is heavy on line detail. Start by sectioning off larger chunks of hair and working inwards. Follow the contour of each section and note how each section interacts with the ones beside is to create layers of hair.


Step 3

The outline, lines, and shadows are all dark purples for this bright pink style. For the highlights, check out the bright yellow linear gradient seen below. This was used in conjunction with the Brush Tool, with the gradient set as the stroke color, and Lighten selected in the Transparency panel for its Blending Mode. Use it to add emphasis to curves in the hair so her tresses remain silks, shiny, and wet-looking.


Step 4

Another method of adding some shine to hair is as simple as drawing two overlapping circles, hitting Minus Front in Pathfinder so a crescent moon shape is left, deleting the sides of the shape from the front hair section with the Shape Builder Tool and applying the same gradient from the shiny strokes in the previous step. Reduce its transparency and place beneath the line work in the hair in the Layers panel.


Step 5

Additional gradient strokes were added for shadows. Aside from that, the rest of the detail in the hair is outlined in the steps above to create very detailed hair design.


7. Sketch the Clothing

Step 1

Much like the first section on hair in this tutorial, I wanted to take some out to build a component of clothing with some basic shapes. And much like that space helmet-style bob, the shirt collar seen below is built from circles.

  • Draw a circle with the Ellipse Tool
  • Using the Rectangle Tool, draw a rectangle that bisects the circle.
  • Minus Front in Pathfinder
  • Copy, Paste, Reflect, and Rotate the circle so two corners are overlapping.
  • Manipulate the anchor points with the Direct Selection Tool and the Convert Anchor Point Tool so the half circles have a more rounded collar-like shape.
  • Apply to your doll on a new layer, above the base body and below the hair layers.

Step 2

The rest of this tutorial contains techniques in rendering and detailing clothing. As I enjoy sketching designs and ideas out versus shape building when it comes to dressing characters, I've started, much like each hair design, with the Paintbrush Tool.

  • Create a new layer above the base body and below the hair layer (front part of hair) starting with the left collar and sleeve, I'm focused on frills and curves.
  • Moving down the body I've drawn half of her shirt and the start of a skirt. The bellybutton shows me where the midline of her body is.
  • When designing folds, instead of creating shell-like scalloped edges, think of the way a flag curves and waves in the wind: fabrics folds in on itself. In the case of skirts, it's also gathered in at the waistline. As such, start with lines and curves coming out from the waist and moving toward the midline of the body. If layering skirts, the outer layers will be higher and further out than the underskirts. I've taken care when drawing them, also, to curve the outside edges under, like a bell, rather than kicking them up and out like the points of a pine tree.

Step 3

Group together the left half of your design, Copy, Paste and Reflect it over a vertical axis to create the right side. This wouldn't work if the doll base wasn't mirrored in the center itself. For the legs, I've drawn high stockings and a tall, heeled boots. Since the foot is arched up, it sends itself wonderfully to heeled shoes. Use the curves of the body as your guide for drawing clothes and accessories when possible.


8. The Shirt

Step 1

I used the Pen Tool to trace each component of clothing and applied a bright color for the purpose of seeing each layer, below. The outfit will be broken up into three main sections: shirt, skirt, and stockings/shoes. Let's start with the shirt.


Step 2

I United the sleeves and either half of the bodice in Pathfinder and filled this compound shape with white. The collar pieces remain separate and have the fill color set to white and the stroke color set to a bright blue. There's three shirt objects in all. Group all three together and Copy, Paste, Unite, and Align the new shape behind the main shirt group. Set both the fill and stroke to bright blue and the stroke width to 2pt weight.


Step 3

For the buttons, I drew two identical white circles (stroked with blue). Place each button no either end of the shirt. Draw a line in the center of the shirt with the Line Segment Tool (\). Select the circles and, using the Blend Tool, apply the blend options below. As a result you'll get a nice line of buttons going down the length if the shirt.


Step 4

The gradient used for shadows on white pieces of clothing in this tutorial contains the following blue (R:144 G:199 B:244) and white. I applied it as the fill to each collar piece, place the gradient angle itself on the outer edges of the collars, and to a curved shape drawn on each collar piece that emphasizes the collar's edge.


Step 5

For shadows on the sleeves, I drew teardrop shapes in the puffy sleeve itself and additional shapes accentuating the top edge of the shoulder and left edge of the sleeve, where it intents and turns into scalloped ruffles.


9. The Skirt - Skirt and Underskirt

Step 1

The skirt starts with a high waistline. I've follows the contour of the body with the Pen Tool. The skirt itself is shapes like an umbrella (though not as wide). I found it easiest to draw this with the Blob Brush Tool, Unite, and Delete the center path to create a singular shape.


Step 2

The underskirt is just a collection of ruffles in this design. Using the contour of the top skirt as a guideline, I've sketched out squiggles, completed it into a full shape, and reshapes the edges so it's neater than what I initially drew with the Blob Brush Tool.


Step 3

The top skirt is the same pink as the hair bow from the blonde hair style (which is the one I've chosen for the final image of this tutorial). Draw lines from the bottom line of the skirt upwards to denote folds in the fabric. These lines should follow the movement of the fabric. The underskirt is the same color as the shirt: white with a blue outline. As such, it also has the same shadow color: light blue/grey (as seen in Section 8, Step 4). concentrate the shadows on the dips or troughs of the squiggly ruffles. In some cases, this results in the shadow shapes taking up every other space. Use the Shape Builder Tool to cut the shadow shapes to the boundaries of the underskirt. Group together and place beneath the top skirt.


10. The Skirt - Rendering

Step 1

Apply a linear gradient to the top skirt, going from bright pink to dark pink. The shadow gradients emphasize the sections and folds in the skirt. As the edge as umbrella-like peaks, it's easy to draw curved shapes that go from these bottom peaks back to the waistline, following the curve of the skirt. The gradient is partially transparent so it blends into the main skirt itself. An additional shape has been drawn at the top of the skirt to add some shadow from the waistline to the skirt itself. Cut all extraneous components of shapes away from the skirt base using the Shape Builder Tool.


Step 2

Draw, with the Pen Tool, bright pink to white gradient shapes, creating stripes in the center of the skirt's folds, with Soft Light selected as the Blending Mode in the Transparency panel and 60% set as the overall transparency. Once again, cut away excess portions of objects with the Shape Builder Tool, as done throughout this tutorial.


Step 3

Once satisfied with your overall skirt design, Group all components together. Copy and Paste the skirt, and delete all components except for the main skirt and underskirt shapes. The main skirt in this group will be dark, dark pink (as seen below) and the underskirt ruffles will be dark blue. Both have a stroke weight of 4pts. Align this group behind the other skirt group. Now you have a thick outline whose color changes with the change in clothing components. Group together with the skirt so your Layers panel is organized.


11. The Skirt - Clipping Mask

Step 1

You'll have noticed the skirt covers up the doll's hands. Copy and Paste the hands and arm components from the base body (make sure this new group is aligned with the body correctly). You'll want these arms in your clothing layer of the Layers panel. Copy and Paste the skirt outlines you just made in Section 10, Step 3. Expand the object so the thick strokes become objects and Unite this group in Pathfinder. Make sure this compound shape is Aligned with the main skirt.

  • Place the new skirt object over the extra hands/arm group. Keep both of these selected
  • .

  • Hit Control-7 to make a Clipping Mask.

Step 2

Now your doll has hands that show over her skirt! If there's a small line between the old arm and new arm, use the Direct Selection Tool to manipulate the anchor points of the clipping mask along the line so the arm within it extends beyond the point of the skirt, covering the thin dark line. This is just for vanity's sake


12. Stockings and Shoes

Step 1

I've colored the shoes and stocking as such: white/blue for the stockings and dark pink/bright pink for the shoes. The stockings are rendered in the same fashion as the shirt.


Step 2

The following colors are used in linear gradients to render the shoes: R:36 G:3 B:11 (shadows), R:76 G:3 B:33 (main boot), and R:196 G:0 B:91 (highlights).


Step 3

The process for rendering the shoe is pretty simple: just play with curved shapes and gradients in key areas.

  • Start with the base shoe. The heel, although drawn at this point, is part of the shadow shapes in my layer groups.
  • I focus shadows on the underside of the shoe and the left side of the boot (calf) while paying attention to the curve of the foot, angle, and top edge of the boot.
  • The highlight shapes focus on the very top of the boot, top of the foot, and top of the heel.
  • Draw additional details: buttons, spats, chains, zippers, etc.
  • Add an outline to the whole shoe.

Awesome Work!

I could go on and on, creating little doll clothes. The techniques and tools used above are a great jumping off point for our dress-up community challenge, though, and I cannot wait to see what fantastic clothing and accessories you'll create for your own little virtual dress-up doll.

For additional tutorials on characters, clothing, and accessories, check out these:

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