While some artists might shy away from shading white hair in drawings, it can be a great opportunity to create depth and interest in your work. Knowing how to shade hair correctly is one of the key aspects of drawing realistic portraits.
How to shade white hair in drawings? Use several shades of colored pencils, ranging from white to gray, titanium, and even dark gray to build up layers. Work in thin, even strokes along the direction of the hair to create a realistic, flowing effect.
In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to shade white hair using these different techniques.
Tips To Create Realistic White Hair In Drawings
Anyone who has ever tried to draw hair knows that it can be a challenge. The strands are often fine and delicate, and they can be difficult to capture with a pencil. In addition, white hair can look different depending on the lighting, making it tricky to get the shade just right.
When it comes to drawing hair with colored pencils, patience is definitely the key. Each strand needs to be carefully drawn, and the colors should be layered slowly and deliberately. With a little practice, however, it is possible to create stunningly realistic hair.
While the tutorial below is using digital mediums, this is a great example for how to use colors to shade white hair from artist Dinahsaor on YouTube.
Let’s take a look at some useful tips to help you create the most realistic white hair in drawings.
Use A Reference Photo
To be able to draw anything well, you will need to have a keen eye for observation. The first step to drawing realistic white hair is to take a look at a photo of white hair and investigate all the highlights and shadows in the hair and observe all of the colors present in the photos.
You’ll see that the hair can cast shadows in different places. White hair that’s closer to the roots will look darker, and white hair that’s wavy and layered will also have shadows along the length.
Using a reference photo will also help you map out where each of the colors will go, which can make your drawing more realistic.
Choose The Right Colors For Shading
Drawing white hair doesn’t just mean using only white colored pencils. You will need several shades ranging from white, light gray, beige, light brown, to dark gray, and possibly some other colors to draw in reflected hues from the environment where your subject is placed.
Our first tip for creating realistic hair is to choose a selection of colors ranging from dark to light, which will help you create highly realistic, three-dimensional white hair. In addition, by using a variety of tones, you’ll be able to create the illusion of movement.
If you are not sure whether the colors will work together, you can also use colors that complement the skin tone that you are drawing.
For cooler skin tones, you can use a cool palette with white, titanium, gray, and dark gray. For warmer skin tones, use white, beige, blonde, and light brown.
Make sure to create a swatch of the colors to make sure that they work well together to create a palette that you like.
Use Sharp Colored Pencils
The simplest way to share white hair is by using colored pencils, but not every kind of colored pencil will do!
For the hair to look realistic, you will need colored pencils with very fine tips, which can help you create fine lines that resemble individual strands of hair.
The only type of colored pencil that can be sharpened, and remain sharp for drawing without breaking off, is a colored pencil with a very hardcore. This type of colored pencil can be perfectly sharpened to draw super fine lines.
Don’t make the mistake of using soft, waxy pencils. Although these types of pencils have a smoother color lay-down, they won’t stay sharp and will often break when sharpened to a fine point, so you will definitely struggle when drawing hair with them.
If the fine tip of the colored pencil becomes dull after a few strokes, you can use fine-grit sandpaper to quickly sharpen the point before moving on.
How To Shade White Hair In Drawings
Once you have created a general outline for the hair, it’s time to start building the different shades to add depth to the drawing. Let’s take a look at how to do this.
To shade white hair, you will need to work in layers, starting with the lightest colors and moving toward the darker colors. The lighter colors will still take up the majority of the space, while the darker colors will add dimensions to the hair.
Create thin, repeated strokes along the length of the hair to create the appearance of individual strands of hair. The texture is what we want when creating realistic hair, so patience is definitely the key to this process.
When working in layers, be mindful of the direction of the hair. Don’t rush the process to create big blobs of colors because it will definitely take away the dimensions of the hair. Instead, follow the direction of the hair, whether it’s flowing freely or in a bun, to create a realistic effect.
Use A Spray Fixative
If you want to layer a white colored pencil over a dark colored pencil, using a spray fixative can help to make the layers stand out.
This is because white colored pencils can blend with the other colors, which will blur the lines created by previous strokes and create a blend of colors.
Using a spray fixative after you apply the dark colors will help create a protective layer over the dark colors on the page, which will help separate the colors and prevent the colors from blurring when you apply white over them.
Add Highlights & Shadows
In real life, the light will hit different areas of your hair depending on the position of the light source. Adding highlights to your hair will create the appearance of light, which can add depth to your drawing.
Anytime there’s a round area in the shape of the head or in the hair (for example, when you draw curls), highlights and shadows are created.
The best way to add highlights to hair is to lay down darker colors first and then lift the colors by removing some of the pigments or going over it with white.
This method will also create contrast, which really makes white hair stand out and showcase the fine strands of hair, especially if you are working with white paper.
Scrape Colors Away Using A Craft Knife
This step may feel a bit counterintuitive, but scraping colors from the page is a great way to add highlights to the hair and make your drawing feel more realistic.
Using a craft knife is the easiest way to do this, but it does take some practice to perfect this technique without damaging the paper.
Hold the craft knife at an angle, similar to how you hold a pencil, and use the side of the blade to gently scrape off the pigments on the page. Don’t apply too much pressure, because you’ll damage the paper. Use light pressure to lift only the pigment from the page.
You can use this craft knife technique after every layer that you add to the hair to create depth, but don’t overdo it because you may hurt the paper.
If this is the first time you have tried this technique, we recommend practicing with a scrap piece of paper first to ensure that you have a hang of the technique before using a knife on your drawing!
Scrape Colors Away Using A Slice Tool
If you are a bit intimidated by a craft knife, you can also invest in a slice tool, which can help achieve the same effect, but without hurting the paper.
The advantage of the slice tool is its sharp edge, which can scrape away pigments to create very fine white lines without the risk of damaging your paper.
The slice tool is the most effective when you have several layers of colors to scrape off because the effect when those layers are scraped away can be quite striking.
After scraping the pigments of the page, you can see some bits of charcoal remaining on the surface. Use a soft brush to remove it from the page so that it doesn’t stain the details of your drawing.
As the effects of removing the pigments can be quite striking, we recommend going over the areas that you have scraped off with white colored pencils to soften the effect and create a more balanced look.
Use An Embossing Tool
If you want to create realistic-looking strands of white hair, you should use an embossing tool to make indentations on the paper before applying dark layers.
When you color, the embossed areas will be left blank, which can help create a three-dimensional quality to the hair while still highlighting the white against the dark background.
If you want to soften the effect, you can always use a white colored pencil over the embossed line.
When you use an embossing tool, make sure to apply more pressure in the middle of the line and gradually use less pressure as you move near the end of the hair. The line will look more organic this way, which adds to the realistic effect.