How to Draw Manga! Basics of Hair Introduction
A key part of distinguishing any animanga character is their hair. Sometimes even just a silhouette of their hair is enough to gauge who they are (e.g. Goku). The colours, shape and gravity are all free form and expressions of the character. Often a character keeps the same hairstyle throughout a series so they are easily distinguishable in the black and white manga format; changing their hair may lead to the character losing recognition with the readers. In anime the colour and the way the hair moves is part of the character.
Shape and Form
The shape of hairstyle can vary from super short (shaved or bald) to lengths that make the viewers wonder how that person can stand (let alone walk and fight). Males and females can have any length of hair (though super short is not very common with females), and any combination of flowing or spiky hair. If the character has a fringe this is often a way an artist distinguishes between two similarly coloured characters (e.g. twins often have different fringe parts).
Where to Start
Start by answering a very questions that then lead you on your journey to creating a hair design for your character:
- What length of hair does your character have?
- Do they have a fringe? If so where is the part (e.g. side or no part)?
- If long hair, is it out or in a pony tail? Braids? Twin tails?
- Spiky? Soft?
- Straight cut or V-shaped ends? The example above has straight cut ends whilst Haruka at the top has V-shaped ends.
- Does their hair defy gravity? Is it easy to brush and style?
- Do they have an antenna? Does it form part of their expression (see last example gif)?
Here are some tutorials and references in deciding shape:
Even More Tutorials
Colouring and Shading
One great thing about animanga is that a character can have any colour hair and any variation on it. Whilst rainbow coloured is not common, a two-tones or gradient tipped hair is. Often the colour represents the ethnicity or character personality, or it could just be a random choice. With a large cast of members in a series, the hair colour can be used to distinguish characters from each other if shape and form differences are not sufficient.
For example in Haikyuu! the characters mainly have distinguished hair shapes, with only some characters having brighter hair colours than others (Hinata). In Kuroko no Basuke the colours are used to distinguish the main rivals.
Colour can be used to generate family ties, such as with the Kumo Brothers in Donten ni Warau (Tenka above); they all have different shaped hair, but feature red tips to indicate their kinship.
The base colour can be applied in a single flat colour or in sections depending on the style of hair colouring that is being applied. Different artists have different approaches to colouring hair, experimenting with these techniques will develop a unique style.
Shadows and Highlights
Once the base colour(s) are decided, the next step is to think about shadows and shading. Often with cell shading a darker version of the base colour is used, but that is not a strict rule. Different colours can be used for different effects, e.g. a blonde character can have purple or pink shadows as well as brown ones.
After shading the hair the next step is to move onto highlights, and again typically a lighter almost white version of the base colour is used. If using a different colour, red and purple is a common choice on dark blue/purple coloured hair. Experiment to see what colour suits what is already coloured.
The shape of the highlights also is very variable; if the hair has flat base colour, the highlights can be a circular 'halo' or applied to each strand, or with a jagged effect at a certain position. The number of choices is quite large and allows for a lot of experimentation. There is a video from YouTube below that has three different highlighting techniques demonstrated.
Here are some colouring help guides:
Now you have some ideas on where to start when designing and colouring the hair of your next Original Character!
Next Up: The 3 Basics: Lineart, Lighting, and Shading
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Click on the GIfs to see credits and anime series they are from.