View Full Version : Pastels and hair

07-29-2008, 11:48 AM
I'm new to this site, and i'm still pretty young so i'm not very skilled yet in pastels although i have been working with them small time for years because of my dad. I have recently started trying my hand at portraits, which are fun, but there is one minor detail that always gets in the way.
I have no idea how to illustrate a subjects hair in pastel. I preffer chalk pastel but I'm decent with oil pastel too and have been using them both in trying to do this. I've gone online, looked through the library, and asked around for help. Unfortunately the only person i knew who could have had this knowledge in my family was my dad, and he passed away when i was 9, leaving me to inherite all of his art supplies.
Please help me out guys, i have no idea what to do, whether it be written advice or an online video, even a book recommendation, anything would be greatly appreciated.

07-29-2008, 11:54 AM
Hello Nick, I know nothing about using pastels, but want to welcome you to WC! Hang in there, I'm sure someone will pop in soon with just the answer your looking for. Great to have you on the network!

Paula Ford
07-29-2008, 01:45 PM
Hi Nick, WELCOME!! It's nice to meet you. I love the sketch in your profile. It's really wonderful.

I do landscapes so unfortunately I can't help you with your portrait questions. Someone will be along shortly though. There are tons of helping hands here in the Pastel Forum.


07-29-2008, 02:16 PM
I have never done portraits- but welcome! So sorry to hear of the loss of your dad, I am sure he would be quite proud of you though carrying on the tradition.

07-29-2008, 04:30 PM
Hi yespleasepie --- You might want to check out this thread from the Portrait Classroom: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=262172


07-29-2008, 04:33 PM
Most art books recommend (and so do I) blocking in the hair in large, general shapes rather than trying to draw or paint every hair. When you have blocked in the general shapes and have represented which areas are light and dark, then a few thin lines to represent individual hairs can come last. The way highlights travel across the hair is important and here is a link to James Gurney's Blog, which explains it far better than I can.



07-29-2008, 10:55 PM
Hi Nick,

First of all, great question! Next WELCOME!!!

I find this site a wealth of information. Some of the information may be for other types of media, but can be adapted to pastels. I strolled on over to the Portrait forum and selected Portrait classroom sub forum and searched the forum with "hair" and this EXCELLENT thread came up...


I next strolled over to the Drawing and Sketching forum, Classroom subforum and found this post, I just copied the post but the whole thread is very instructional.

Thread first...


Re: Basic 101: Class 18
5. Hair

There is nothing more important for expressing a personality then hair (or in some cases—lack of it). From the first shock on a baby’s head to that inexplicable time of blue hair--hair says it all. A snarl and a forelock and you have Elvis.

Some things to remember about hair:

a. First always note the shape of the hairline. This is crucial. Little points like the hair line go a long way to defining a likeness.

b. Do NOT draw hair one strand at a time—that is akin to weaving baskets in an asylum. Instead, look for planes and shapes and draw those first—keep everything simple—break everything down into shapes.

c. The hair sits on a sphere and so follows the shape of the sphere.

d. Look for striking lights and darks. Be aware that light treats the hair as a sphere. The light is broken up by mass and layers, which create moments for shadows to occur.

e. Hair tends to fall and gather in clusters even after being combed.

f. Hair is also effected by static electric and is also the cause of the clustering of the hair.

g. Bear in mind that because the head is the part of the body that moves the most, it is also effected by air currents. This correct effect causes light textured hair to divide into strands and curls.

h. Artificial devices also effect the look of the hair.

i. The degree of dryness or oiliness of the hair will effect the way that the hair falls.
Relevant Threads:



I hope this is helpful...I would also check into some of the animal portraits to see how hair is layered, there is a great one over in Pastel Studio/gallery as a wip that shares it as a video....

I have probably overwhelmed you...sorry.


07-29-2008, 11:22 PM
wow thanks guys, been working on this for months

Deborah Secor
07-29-2008, 11:24 PM
:clap: I'm giving Carol a standing ovation for that answer!!!! Wow, girl--thanks. Wonderful.

The best I can offer is how I look at hair:


Squint like crazy and don't think strands, just big shapes and values, then colors.

I also appreciate the James Gurney link--he is so good at illustrating things!

Oh, and I'm rating this thread already. Hope more people contribute, but it's already GREAT! Good question Nick. Thanks for asking.

Thanks all...

07-30-2008, 12:59 AM
i cannot add to what carol said, study that! mostly, WELCOME!!!!! young or old, everyone has lots to learn and there is plenty of that going on here! have a good time!