If You Can Draw This Then You Can Draw Curly Hair 9

I have to think on the new Karate Kid movie with Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith. When Chan orders Smith to put on his jacket, then put if off, hang it up and so on. We see a very nice example of deep practice. Like a mantra Chan let Smith do the right practice over and over again.

A comparable example of deep practice can be the following little exercise. If you like, grab your pen and paper or your pen tablet and take some action.

I’m pretty sure you are able to draw something like this over and over again:

Of course you are able to extend this with some shadowing like this:

Maybe you think what has this to do with drawing curly hair? Right?

Just do this over and over again until you can do it in your sleep and in different angles.

Now I dare say that you are able to draw something like this:

Of course I want you to focus your attention on the somewhat weird curly hair of the girl. You see how easy some seemingly complex things can be if you decide to break it down into chunks and take baby steps to reach the final result?

Have a nice time drawing!

I made 28 page workshop on this. You can get it here.

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9 thoughts on “If You Can Draw This Then You Can Draw Curly Hair

  • ZuzannaM

    Hi, Mario!

    This is quite a nice approach for the curly hair drawing.
    Love the progress in expanding your talents.
    Also to teach others – Great work!

    Thank you for sharing,

  • Cassie

    This is not a very good example of actual curly hair. Real curly hair is rounder, and is frizzy. It goes all over, and does not have a uniform pattern. But this is a good example of a shortcut. If someone wants to learn to draw realistic curly hair, they should find a photo of someone with curly hair and trace it. There are different kinds of curls, and different ways to style it, and people have hair that is thinner, or thicker, or that likes to stick out, or hang down. All these things should be taken into account, and be consistent with your characters.

    • Mario Post author

      Hi Cassie,

      Indeed it is a short cut. I’m glad that you are mentioning tracing for practice as too often this is seen as a taboo. Even John Buscema started out with tracing Superman until he was able to draw him in every way he wanted.
      I’m not sure for the full 100% but I thought that he talked about this in this video series.

      • Piledriver

        For comic-book work, tracing — or even referencing — has limited value unless you can afford to employ models and make your own photo references. It’s not only difficult to get the angles you need, but you need consistency from image to image.

        Here is a pretty good tutorial from ImagineFX magazine on doing wild, curly hairstyles:


        Although this features an airbrushed photographic approach, the notes on thinking of the major locks in three dimensions and using values to create depth would also apply when working in a graphical style.

          • Piledriver

            I don’t know of many tutorials on rendering curly hair in line art styles. Truth is, look in comics and there are very few artists who will do curly hair if they can avoid it, or don’t have actual photo references. Those who do often have a particular trick.

            When Frank Miller decided to give Elektra a late-80s curly hairdo, he sidestepped the complexity by rendering it as a solid black mass.

            George Perez would actually draw almost every curl, but avoid modeling as much as possible. Still, his ability to sort out such complex hairstyles is is a rare thing.

            Wendi Pini had a great set of techniques. For example, she would approach curls in lighter hair by rendering little more than the contour line, but for darker hair she would model the contours of each lock. Of course, she also had the benefit of having her own long wavy hair for a reference in those days.

      • Piledriver

        Something else to bear in mind is the perception fans may take of your work if they recognize your sources (whether you trace or reference doesn’t even matter).

        Greg Land’s name is like a dirty word among many comic-book fans. Just one example article:


        And don’t be surprised how obsessive people on the internet can be about hunting these things down:


        A lot of capable illustrators have had to bear the stigma of having been caught in a reference in their early work.

        I know, it’s bull. If these critics were at all honest they would denounce photography itself — especially with it’s origins in the camera obscura. By their measure, Norman Rockwell had zero talent, as nothing he ever produced was done without photo reference. They wouldn’t so adore Alex Ross if they realized that he has spent a fortune on models and photographic references since those early days drawing Kirstie Alley into Terminator: Burning Earth.

        So, right or wrong, be careful what you reference.

        • Mario Post author

          I would never recommend tracing for creating your own work, not just because it would take a lot of the creative process out of it. But I think it is a good thing for practice and get a feeling for the subjects one wants to draw.
          It will also train the eye-hand-coordination.