How to Shade Anime Hair Step by Step

This tutorial will teach you how to create twelve different hairstyles using manga and anime hair coloring techniques.

Anime different hairstyles shading

Below is a preview of some of the hairstyles in this tutorial. Even if you only want to see a few, it is worth reading the whole tutorial. Some hairstyles provide more in-depth explanations about shading specific parts of the hair. This is how it’s laid out to avoid repetition.

Things You Need to Know About Anime hair

These examples will help you understand how to shade hair in anime style and why it is shaded in the way that it is.

1. How to Draw Anime Hair

Anime hair sections breakdown

Anime hair is usually drawn in large clumps, with much of it based upon real hairstyles.

It can be useful to separate hair into the front, sides, and top sections when drawing it. This tutorial will show you how to cut hair.

You can see examples of hairstyles like the one shown above, as well as general instructions for drawing anime hair.

How To Draw Manga Hair – Female

You can also find more tutorials for drawing anime hair here:

  • Step by step Drawing Male Hair for Anime
  • How to Draw an Anime Hair in the Wind

2. Shades for Anime Hair

Manga and anime hair are usually shaded without gradients. It has a hard transition between the light and dark parts. This allows for faster shading, but can also make it difficult to determine where the line between light and darkness should be.

 

The lighting conditions that the artist wants to display will determine where the shading is actually placed.

Two shades are common for anime characters (hair included).

  1. Where characters or objects are well lit from all sides, generalized shading is used.
  2. Shading with a strong, one-directional light source

This tutorial will concentrate on generic shading, which is very common and can be used for most scenes. However, even with a well-lit lighting setup, the strongest light will come from somewhere higher (the sun or indoor lighting). This means that shadows tend to form at the bottom of the hair.

This should not be confused with the one-directional light source above, which would more closely resemble shining a flashlight on someone in dark rooms.

See:

How to Shade An Anime Face Under Different Lighting

Remember that the shading in anime/manga is not required to be exact or too realistic. It is important to have enough reality as a basis for anime/manga style shading so it looks real.

Hair Drawing Tips Before you Start

These notes will help you prepare for the tutorial.

1. Add the Shading

Make sure that the shadows are just as dark as the base hair color when drawing them for “generic lighting”. They will not look natural if they are too dark or too light.

How to darken your shaded areas will depend on what drawing method you use (paints or pencils, etc ). You can mix darker paints with the pencil or press the pencil harder.

 

2. Important: Drawing the Highlights

The main difference between shading digitally or shading on paper is how you add highlights.

To highlight the hair, you can use a white pencil or paint to shade it. You can also leave the area blank and add color to it.

You should add shading digitally last, as described in the step-by-step breakdowns.

See:

Step by step drawing a girl

Step by step, how to style long hair anime

Shading anime long hair step by step

Step 1: Draw a line drawing of your hair

Anime long hair line drawing

First, draw a clean line similar to the one shown above.

Step 2 – Color your hair

Anime long hair coloring

You can fill the entire hair area with one color if you draw digitally, or if you use a white paint pen or correction pen to highlight the highlights. You can leave the highlights area uncolored and add color around them if you don’t have these options. You can outline the highlights lightly with a pencil if you want to make sure they don’t get overdone.

Step 3 – Add Shading

Anime long hair shading

The tutorial will explain how to add hair shadows in a generalized manner. This means that shading this way can be applied to any scene in anime or manga, provided the character is located in an area with good lighting.

Because of the conical shape of hair clumps, and the lighting setup discussed above, shadows will tend to form along the bottoms of the clumps running along both their sides.

To give your hair a hint of curls, you can add some shaded areas by “cutting into” larger clumps.

 

Add the shadows to the following areas:

Anime long hair shading steps
  1. The clumps of hair are located along the forehead
  2. The side sections of your hair should be brushed.
  3. The inner part (around the neck), of the back hair.

Because the area around the hair/head is somewhat darkened from the sun, the last shaded area will appear.

Step 4: Add the Highlights

Anime long hair highlights

Highlights can make your hair shiny. These can be drawn as a series, with some lines joined together to make small zigzags.

Sometimes, anime hair is drawn with one highlight area. In this instance, we will highlight each major part of the hair (also common in manga and anime).

Add highlights to the top of your hair (around the forehead) and another set of highlights lower down to the sides and back of your hair.

Step by step: Shading short anime hair

Shading anime short hair step by step

Step 1: Draw a line drawing of your hair

Anime short hair line drawing

Make a clean, straight-line drawing of your hairstyle.

Step 2 – Color your hair

Anime short hair coloring

If you plan to color the entire hair or just the highlights, you can apply color to the ends. For their placement and shapes, you can see the final step.

You can add highlights to your hair by using a white pen or white paints.

Step 3 – Add Shading

Anime short hair shading

As mentioned at the beginning of the tutorial, shadows will be added to fairly general places where they are most likely to form.

These will be the following:

Anime short hair shading steps
  1. The hair clumps at the forehead are located along the hairline
  2. To the bottom of the sides
  3. The bottom clumps should be positioned between the neckline and the sides.

Step 4: Add the Highlights

Anime short hair highlights drawing

As in the long hair example, add highlights with zigzags and curving lines.

The main highlight should be drawn along the forehead with two other highlights along the sides and back.

Step by step, Shading “Hime Cut” Anime Hair

Shading anime hime cut hair step by step

Step 1: Draw a line drawing of your hair

Anime hime cut hair line drawing

Before you start shading, make sure to draw a straight line.

Step 2 – Color your hair

Anime hime cut hair coloring

You can either color your hair completely or leave the highlight areas white depending on how you want them to look.

You can either add highlights to your hair by drawing digitally or using a white pencil or paint to do so.

You can also leave the highlighted area uncolored and add color around it. For their placement and shape, see step 4.

Step 3 – Add Shading

Anime hime cut hair shading

This particular hairstyle will reduce hair clumps compared to some other styles.

Draw some smaller shadows by randomly “cutting into” the clumps.

Place the shadows in this area:

Anime hair over one eye shading steps
  1. The clumps of hair are located along the forehead
  2. The bottoms of the sides hair sections
  3. The large area around the neck, in the back section.

As mentioned above, the dark shadows around the neck caused by long hair will result from that area being completely blocked from the light.

Step 4: Add the Highlights

Similar to the examples above, add the highlights in a series of lines or small zigzags.

One large highlight should be placed across the forehead. Two smaller highlights should be applied to the sides.

Step by step, shave long messy hair with anime

Shading anime long messy hair step by step

Step 1: Draw a line drawing of your hair

Anime long messy hair line drawing

Draw a “long messy” drawing of your “long hair, similar to the one above.

Step 2 – Color your hair

Anime long messy hair coloring

You can either color your hair completely or leave the highlights white depending on the way you want them to look.

You can add highlights to your hair using a digital drawing program or if you have a white pen or paint. You can also color around the highlights if you don’t want them to be highlighted.

Step four explains how to place and shape the highlights.

Step 3 – Add Shading

Anime long messy hair shading

Draw shadows that run along the sides of the different hair sections.

These can be added to the following:

Anime long messy hair shading steps
  1. The bottom ends of your forehead hairs
  2. The bottom half of the sides of the hair should be visible
  3. The back section of your hair should be around the neck.

As mentioned in other examples, the large shadow around the neck results from that area of hair being very darkened by the light.

Step 4: Add the Highlights

Anime long messy hair highlights drawing

The highlights should be drawn as a series of lines and small zigzags. The largest highlight should be placed along the forehead. Two smaller highlights should be placed along the sides.

You can highlight the messy look of your hair by adding a few highlights to the clumps at the ends.

Step by step: Shading ponytail Anime hair

Anime ponytail hair drawing step by step

Step 1: Draw a line drawing of your hair

Anime ponytail hair line drawing

Make a straight-line drawing of your ponytail hairstyle.

Step 2 – Color your hair

Anime ponytail hair coloring

You can color digitally, or draw highlights on top of your hair using a white correction pen or paints. Fill the entire area with color.

You can also leave the highlights uncolored and colored around them. This option is available in step 4.

Step 3 – Add Shading

Anime ponytail hair shading

This hairstyle will be similar to the “timeout” example, with the exception of the hair being trimmed around the forehead.

These hair clumps can be shaded again by adding darkened areas to their sides. You can also add some random shadows “cutting into”, which will show hair folds.

Place the shadows at the following locations:

Anime ponytail hair shading steps
  1. The hair should clump around the forehead
  2. The sides of your head
  3. The bottom half of your ponytail

The bottom portion of your ponytail should be shaded as much as possible. The part that gets shorter will tend to slant away from the sun and cast shadows on it.

Step 4: Add the Highlights

Anime ponytail hair highlights drawing

The highlights can be drawn as a series of small curves or zigzags. While the main highlight will be on the forehead, the second will be across the ponytail. However, they should look almost like one set in this example.

Step by Step: Shading Anime Hair “Over One” Eye

Shading anime hair over one eye step by step

Step 1: Draw a line drawing of your hair

Anime hair over one eye line drawing

Before you start shading, make sure to draw a line drawing of your hair.

Step 2 – Color your hair

Anime hair over one eye coloring

You can color/fill the entire hair area if you want to add highlights (either digitally or with white correction pen/paints).

You can leave the highlight area blank and color around it if you don’t have these options. You can outline the areas with a pencil to make it easier.

For details on the placement and shape of the highlights, refer to step 4.

Step 3 – Add Shading

Anime hair over one eye shading

This tutorial will show you how to style your hair with the same generic shading as the tutorial. The shadows will again run along the ends and sides of your hair clumps.

Add them together as follows:

Anime hair over one eye shading steps
  1. The forehead and the “eye-covering area” of hair
  2. The bottom half of your side section (opposite the covered eye).
  3. The bottom section of your hair should be shaved, with the rest of the length uncovered.

Step 4: Add the Highlights

Anime hair over one eye highlights drawing

The highlights can be arranged in a series of small, curved lines or zigzags. Place the highlight in the forehead region of the head. Then, add another highlight lower down to the left side of your drawing.

Draw a “broken up”-looking highlight by drawing fewer lines around the area of hair that covers one eye.

Step by step: Shading Anime Hair Pigtails

Shading anime pigtails hair step by step

Step 1: Draw a line drawing of your hair

Anime pigtails hair line drawing

Make a drawing of the hairstyle in pigtails.

Step 2 – Color your hair

Anime pigtails hair coloring

You can either fill your hair completely with a solid color, or you can leave the highlight area white depending upon the drawing options that you have.

You can highlight the color if you draw digitally or use a white pen/paint to correct it.

You can leave them as-is or use color and highlights if you don’t have those options. (See step 4 for their placement and shape).

Step 3 – Add Shading

Anime pigtails hair shading

The pigtails will look similar to the ponytail in the earlier example, with the hair clumps being shaded similarly to all other examples.

Add the shadows to the following locations:

Anime pigtails hair shading steps
  1. The sides and bottom of the clumps on the forehead hair.
  2. The sides of your head
  3. The bottom halves are the pigtails

Similar to the ponytail example, pigtails tend to have shadows cast by their upper parts as they narrowed towards the bottom.

Step 4: Add the Highlights

Anime pigtails hair highlights drawing

The highlights can be drawn as a series of small curves or zigzags. There will be three highlights in this example, one on each side of the forehead and one on each side of the pigtail. However, you can draw them all as one continuous set.

Step by step, Shading Combed Anime hair

Shading anime combed hair step by step

Step 1: Draw a line drawing of your hair

Anime combed line drawing

Begin by drawing a straight line through the hair.

Step 2 – Color your hair

Anime combed hair coloring

You can either color the entire hair or just the highlights, depending on which drawing method you use.

You can highlight the hair by drawing digitally or using a white pen or paints. You can also color around them, or lightly outline them with a pencil.

Step four explains how to place and shape the highlights.

Step 3 – Add Shading

Anime combed hair shading

This particular hairstyle is easy because there are fewer hair clumps. Shade the areas of the forehead hair by placing very thin shadows on the bottoms of the hairs, and a few small shadows along folds. Shades can be used to shade hair that clumps together.

As follows:

Anime combed hair shading steps
  1. As described above, along the forehead area of your hair
  2. The bottom portions of the sides hair sections
  3. Shade the back hair from the neck to the sides.

Step 4: Add the Highlights

Anime combed hair highlights drawing

The highlights should be drawn in a series of zigzag and curving lines. Place the first highlight in the forehead area. Draw the lines that make up the highlight to follow the contour of the hair. To flow under the sides and curving parts of the hair, draw the lines at an angle.

Then, add the second set of highlights to each side.

Step by step: Shading Curly Anime hair

Shading anime curly hair step by step

Step 1: Draw a line drawing of your hair

Anime curly hair line drawing

Begin by drawing a straight line through your curly hair.

Step 2 – Color your hair

Anime curly hair coloring

If you have the option to color your hair, or if you use a white pen/paint, you can add the highlight. If you don’t have the option to color your highlights, leave them white and color them around them.

Step four explains how to place and shape the highlights.

Step 3 – Add Shading

Anime curly hair shading

Curling will require a different approach to styling than regular hair clumps.

To achieve the same generic shading as the previous one, you can shade all the curls but add a few shadows along the outside to give the curls some movement.

You can generally add shading like this:

Anime curly hair shading steps
  1. Apply a little shading to the forehead area of the hair (including any small clumps).
  2. As described above, the curls are located along the sides of your hair.
  3. The back section of hair between the neck & the curls

Step 4: Add the Highlights

Anime curly hair highlights drawing

Assign the highlights (one highlight in this example) to a series of small lines and zigzags.

The main highlight should be drawn in the direction that which the hair flows on each side. This is similar to the combed hair example. This will emphasize the shape of your hair.

You can add small highlights along the hair’s sides after the main highlight. These highlights should be placed close to the edges of the curves, as they will catch the light.

Step by step, how to make Anime hair buns

shading anime hair buns step by step

Step 1: Draw a line drawing of your hair

Anime hair buns line drawing

Start by drawing a clean and neat “hair buns” hairstyle.

Step 2 – Color your hair

Anime hair buns coloring

You can either fully color your hair (if you add highlights later), or you can leave the highlight areas white.

If you’re coloring your hair digitally or using a white pen or paint, you can add highlights to the top.

You can color around them, instead of looking at step 4.

Step 3 – Add Shading

Anime hair buns shading

This example is different from the others because the hair buns are easy to shade. You can also place larger shadows along their bottoms and along their curves that face downwards in the generic lighting.

The shadows are moving in the following order:

Anime hair buns shading steps
  1. The sides and bottom of the forehead hair clumps
  2. The bottom half of the side sections of hair should be at the base.
  3. As described in the previous paragraphs, hair buns

Step 4: Add the Highlights

Anime hair buns highlight drawing

Draw the highlights across the forehead and the smaller highlights across the sides of the hair as a series of liens or zigzags.

The buns can be adorned with a few liens along the folds.

Step by step: Shading short, messy hair for anime

Shading anime short messy hair step by step

Step 1: Draw a line drawing of your hair

Anime short messy hair line drawing

Similar to the previous examples, draw a straight line of the hairstyle.

Step 2 – Color your hair

Anime short messy hair coloring

You can either fill the hair completely or leave the highlights alone, depending on which coloring method you use.

You can add highlights to the color by drawing digitally, or using a white pen/paint.

You can also color the highlights white if you don’t want to use those options. Step four will show you how to place them and their shapes.

Step 3 – Add Shading

Anime short messy hair shading

The shadow will appear at the tip of the large middle clump of forehead hair because it is curving inwardly. Other clumps, on the other hand, will curve upwards and face more towards the sun. They will have smaller shadows along their bottoms.

As follows:

Anime short messy hair shading steps
  1. As described above, the hair clumps at the forehead
  2. The bottom of the side section (running along the sides of the clumps), should be oriented.
  3. The clumps are located along the back section. The part between the neck & the sides is fully shaded.

Step 4: Add the Highlights

Anime short messy hair highlights drawing

Each highlight should be drawn as a series of zigzags and curves.

The first set of highlights should be placed along the forehead. Draw the highlight so that the lines that makeup it flows along with the shape of the hair.

Then, add another set of highlights along the sides.

To emphasize the hair’s messy nature, highlight the tiny clumps at the ends of the hair.

Step by step: Shading short pigtails for anime hair

Shading anime short pigtails hair step by step

Step 1: Draw a line drawing of your hair

Anime short pigtails hair line drawing

Similar to the previous example, but again start with a straight-line drawing of your hairstyle.

Step 2 – Color your hair

Anime short pigtails hair coloring

You can color your hair if you plan to add highlights. If you draw digitally or use a white pen or paints to correct mistakes, this will be applicable.

You can also leave the highlights uncolored and just color around them. It may be helpful to outline the highlights in pencil before you do this.

Step four explains how to place and shape the highlights.

Step 3 – Add Shading

Anime short pigtails hair shading

This example is easy to shade. As shown in the previous example, you can add some shadows to the bottom of the pigtails. Shade the rest of your hair in the same way as what has been shown in other examples.

Place the shadows in the following order:

Anime short pigtails hair shading steps
  1. The forehead area should be covered with hair that runs along the sides and bottom the clumps.
  2. To the bottom of the side sections of hair (again, along the sides and bottom clumps).
  3. As described above, the pigtails should be paired with the shorter ones.

Step 4: Add the Highlights

Anime short pigtails hair highlights drawing

The highlights can be drawn as a series of small lines and zigzags.

Place the main highlight across the forehead. Next, add two additional highlights to the sides.

End with the last two highlights in the upper part of each pigtail.

Conclusion

It is easy to shade anime hair. The hardest part is deciding where to place the highlights and shadows. This tutorial will give you an idea of how to achieve this in standard lighting conditions, and for a variety of hairstyles.

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