Problems When Painting Human Hair
|How to Paint Human Hair|
- Using the same brown, white, beige or black colour to represent a whole head of hair.
- Trying to illustrate every strand of hair with fine linear brushstrokes.
- Painting the hair in accordance to an idealised root pattern, such as one that converges from one point at the top of the head.
- Treating the hair as a separate entity to the rest of the portrait.
- Using the same tone or colour to represent whole strands of hair from roots to tip.
- Using only white to represent the highlights on hair.
- Trying to illustrate eyebrows and eyelashes in a purely linear fashion or using the same colour throughout.
- Using black dots to represent stubble or shaved hair.
Whether the artist is painting from a photograph or from life, it is important to make sensitive observations when painting hair. This means not making assumptions about how hair should look like and to paint what the eye sees. In order to paint convincing hair in portraits, the artist can make improvement by the following tips.
- Not every strand of hair will be visible from root to tip. Some will tuck under or undulate at various points. Others will stray from the head, due to static.
- Human hair often contains strands of different shades and even colours. Blond hair, for instance often contain darker strands in the lower layers. Dark hair will often appear bleached on the upper layers due to sun exposure. Some heads of hair contain flecks of salt and pepper.
- Hair will often contain the most unlikely colours. Black hair, for instance, may appear blue at the highlights. Brown hair often contains crimsons or even violets. Blond hair often contains honey shades.
- The tonal value of hair will often appear to vary according to the thickness of the hair layer. Areas around the hairline, edges of the eyebrows or at the nape will appear paler than where hair is thicker.
- Good photographic reference will help when painting hair. This means working from a sharp photo in order to maximise realism.
Techniques for Painting Hair
If realism is the goal, picking out selected areas of the hair and illustrating them will help give the impression of overall detail and avoid the hair becoming an unwanted focal point. After glazing, drag neat paint over a selected area with a fine sable. This can be used to illustrate flyaway hair or hairs that stray over the face.
Oil Painting Materials for Painting Hair
I personally use the following oil colours for hair: burnt umber, burnt sienna, ultramarine blue, pthalo blue, permanent rose, cadmium red, cadmium yellow and white. Fine sables sizes 6 for applying glazes and 1 or 3 for detail are ideal. Linseed oil or alkyd medium is ideal for thinning the paint for glazes. Of course, good photographic reference or a patient model is essential.
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