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How to Vector Hair With Brushes in Adobe Illustrator

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

Vectoring hair in portraits can be a time-consuming process and is sometimes difficult to master in a short space of time. A few years back, I wanted to help solve this issue by creating a set of brushes in Adobe Illustrator. Since then, they have become the third best-selling AI brush on GraphicRiver!

In this tutorial, I'm going to show you how to create one set of brushes (four individual brushes) and then how to create a free-flowing, detailed hairstyle with them. You can easily adapt this process to create further brushes and hairstyles. Alternatively, you can purchase the full set of vector Hair Brushes on GraphicRiver.

Easy Hair Brushes for Adobe IllustratorEasy Hair Brushes for Adobe IllustratorEasy Hair Brushes for Adobe Illustrator

Follow along with us over on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:

1. How to Create a Tapered Art Brush

Let's start by creating a basic tapered brush. This is the base shape for this set of brushes but also a handy brush for drawing individual hairs.

Step 1

Using the Ellipse Tool (L), click once on your canvas, and in the popup, set the Width to 30 px and the Height to 2 px. Click on OK. Make sure your ellipse is filled black.

Create an EllipseCreate an EllipseCreate an Ellipse

Step 2

Using the Direct Selection Tool (A), select the rightmost point on the shape. Then click on the Convert selected anchor points to corner button to turn the curve into a point. This will give you one tapered point. 

Repeat this with the leftmost point. This will complete your tapered shape.

Convert selected anchor points to cornerConvert selected anchor points to cornerConvert selected anchor points to corner

Step 3

With the shape selected, in the Brushes panel click on the button Create New Brush. Select Art Brush from the popup, and you'll be presented with the Art Brush Options window.

The key setting you'll need to change is the Colorization Method to Tints. As your shape is black, it means it will take on the 100% saturation of the colour you select. Therefore, whatever your stroke colour will be, your brush will take on this colour.

I've named this brush Tapered Brush and then I click on OK

Create an Art BrushCreate an Art BrushCreate an Art Brush

2. How to Create a Hairline Brush

The hairline of any portrait is often neglected and often missing in vector portraits. This is mainly because it's time-consuming and difficult to perfect. However, by creating a scatter brush, you can create a near-realistic hairline effect. So instead of drawing one stroke per hair, you're only creating one stroke for the entire hairline! 

Step 1

You should still have your tapered shape. So for now, Copy and Paste it and hide the original. 

Select your duplicate and go to Object > Transform > Rotate. Let's rotate the shape by 90 degrees and click on OK.

Rotate your shapeRotate your shapeRotate your shape

Step 2

With the shape still selected, in the Brushes panel, click on Create New Brush and then select Scatter Brush.

The settings I want you to change are:

  • The Spacing to 5%. This is so the brush will overlap on itself. 
  • The Scatter to Random and then 25%/0%. This is so the brush alters its placement above and below where the line is placed. 
  • The Rotation relative to: Path as I want the brush to stay perpendicular to the direction of the path you're drawing.
  • Finally, good old Colorization Method to Tints

Then click on OK.

Create a Scatter BrushCreate a Scatter BrushCreate a Scatter Brush

3. How to Create a Hair Shine Brush

The hair shine brush can be used for multiple things, depending on how you tailor the brush. This specific version will help you create a textured shine on the hair. When layered at different Opacities, it can give a realistic touch to a silhouette design.

Step 1

You should still have your vertical tapered shape. Copy and Paste this and, using the Selection Tool (V), move it to the side of the first. Repeat this until you've got five to eight shapes as shown below.

Duplicate and place the vertical shapeDuplicate and place the vertical shapeDuplicate and place the vertical shape

Step 2

With the shapes selected, let's create a New Art Brush. The main settings to pay attention to are:

  • Direction is vertical (up/down or down/up doesn't matter with this one).
  • Colorization Method: Tints

Click on OK once you're done.

Create an Art BrushCreate an Art BrushCreate an Art Brush

4. How to Create a Hair Piece Brush

This particular brush is useful for drawing multiple clumps of strands in one stroke. This is a great time-saving brush and can be useful for long or short styles of hair.

Step 1

First, remove your vertical tapered shape, and let's go back to the original horizontal shape.

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), draw over half of the shape. With Smart Guides (Control-U) enabled, you'll be able to find the midpoint of the tapered shape more easily. 

Select both shapes, and with the Pathfinder panel, select Minus Front. You'll be left with half of the tapered shape.

Half tapered shapeHalf tapered shapeHalf tapered shape

Step 2

Let's start by Copying the tapered shape. Using the Direct Selection Tool (A), click on the rightmost point and drag it out. 

Paste in Front (Control-F), and then drag out the rightmost point again but this time pulling it to the side.

Paste in Front, drag out the rightmost point again, and place it in a new location. Continue doing this until you've got a fanned-out collection of tapered shapes, with the two vertical points at the left remaining in place.

Fan out the pointsFan out the pointsFan out the points

Step 3

Select all of the fanned-out, tapered points, and create a New Art Brush. The settings to pay attention to are the Direction to be left to right (so your starting point is the root of the clump of hair) and the Colorization Method to Tints. Then click on OK.

Create an Art BrushCreate an Art BrushCreate an Art Brush

5. How to Use Vector Hair Brushes

Let's look at the four brushes you've created. These are all the same Stroke Weight, apart from the clump of hair, which is 3 pt. They've been applied to a straight horizontal line.

The hair brushesThe hair brushesThe hair brushes

For this exercise, I'm going to be using a blank head shape which is included in the Easy Hair Brushes pack so you can practice. However, you can apply these to any head base you wish!

The practice headThe practice headThe practice head

Step 1

This hairstyle is going to be in silhouette, with some added shine in greyscale. With the Pen Tool (P), draw a line which traces along the hairline. Don't bring this completely to the bottom of the sideburns on a feminine face. You can, however, do this on a more masculine face to create trendy, 70s-style sideburns.

Create the hairlineCreate the hairlineCreate the hairline

Step 2

Using the tapered brush and the Paintbrush Tool (B), add some hairs to merge the sideburns into the hairline.

Finish the hairlineFinish the hairlineFinish the hairline

Step 3

With the Pen Tool (P), draw an arched shape with a black fill for the mass of hair which covers the rest of the head. This completed hairstyle is an overall great base to practice further hairstyles on. So if you're not keen on the free-flowing style that's coming, you can go back to this point and start again.

Create a mass of hairCreate a mass of hairCreate a mass of hair

Step 4

Create a New Layer behind your portrait to add hair with the Hair Piece Brush with the Paintbrush Tool. The smaller the Stroke Weight, the more detailed the hair strokes will be. 

Add clumps of hairAdd clumps of hairAdd clumps of hair

My advice is to start with a larger stroke (such as 8 pt) to create the main structure of the hair, and then come down gradually to a 1 pt to add finer strands for a more realistic look.

Create a realistic lookCreate a realistic lookCreate a realistic look

Step 5

With the original Tapered Brush, you can add smaller individual hairs which flow away from clumps of hair. This helps to break any patterns you may have created with the Hair Piece Brush.

It's also great to have individual hairs overlapping onto the face or shoulder as that adds effortless detail.

Add single strandsAdd single strandsAdd single strands

Step 6

With the Hair Shine Brush, draw long and short strokes within the mass of hair set to Blending Mode Normal, Opacity 10%, and with a white stroke. 

Add hair shinesAdd hair shinesAdd hair shines

Make the strokes overlap to create more intense shine effects in the hair.

Overlap strokesOverlap strokesOverlap strokes

Step 7

Finally, with the tapered brush by adding white strokes to add further realistic shines. Set these to Opacity 20% to stand out.

Add final strands to stand outAdd final strands to stand outAdd final strands to stand out

Awesome Work, You're Done!

You'd be surprised how quickly you can create hairstyles with these brushes and how realistic you can make them. With practice, it will take you minutes rather than hours!

By creating several different brushes to fit different hair length, textures and styles, you can create many different looks.

Final hair resultFinal hair resultFinal hair result

If you're interested in purchasing the whole Easy Hair Brushes for Adobe Illustrator set, they're available only on GraphicRiver.

Easy Hair BrushesEasy Hair BrushesEasy Hair Brushes
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