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Create hair in illustrator tutorial

To make the hair, we will use some exclusive custom brushes we made precisely for working with hair.

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Upon downloading the AI file for my brushes, you will find the following brushes there. Only one I will be using for this particular tutorial are the ones I have put an x next to.

You can also feel free to experiment with the other brush. The calligraphic brushes on top are actually just the standard Illustrator brushes, they must have just gotten included when I saved the other ones.

For this tutorial we will be working with a stock image I grabbed off of Stock Xchange.

So once you have the image and the brushes you are ready to let's get started.

First thing we will do is open a new illustrator file, obviously. And paste the reference image in the first layer. After this, I always like to preselect the colors I will be using for this. You can go about this either by using the eye drop {Shortcut: I) tool and select different shades directly from the image, or making your own color choices. One thing to note,this hair can be made in any color you choose, you can follow this tutorial while making the hair blond if you wish. The important thing is you get a set of different shades of one color.

I make these colors into swatches for easy access when I need them. The following colors I used were

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From Left To Right In RGB: 147 ,27, 30 - 130, 26, 34 - 96, 12, 13 - 57, 18, 18 - 44, 15, 16

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After you have your colors set we will lock this layer, and dim the image to 50% which can be done simply by double clicking on the layer, and hitting the check box in the window that pops up.

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After this we will adjust our brush settings, as I believe the Illustrator standard settings have some options turned on that will make the work more annoying since we will be using a lot of brush strokes. To bring up these option just hold the Apple key (Alt for PC's) and click on the Brush tool. Now you can actually experiment with these options, and you will still get more or less the same result for this tutorial in the end. What I would recommend is making sure the "Keep Selected" option is turned off. If you have this on, it will make it very frustrating to make a new strand right next to the one you just finished, and it will really slow you down.

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Next we will create a new layer, select the smallest hair brush, and select your brightest color. Here we are going to start making some strands of hair. Keeps in mind where the highlights are as we start going through this. Using the brush just start flowing from top center to the outside edges of the hair.

It doesn't really matter if in which direction you paint (aside from horizontal). However, the longer you hold the stroke, the thinner it gets, and looks more like a strand of Hair. So longer brush strokes are recommended. Also keep in mind the way that the hair in the image is curving. And try and follow it.

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Once you have a good number of brush stroked in different areas of the hair, we will create a new layer just below the one we were working on. Lock the top Layer, so we don't accidently get different colors into that layer. Now with the same brush you were just using, change the color to the next color in line. Which should be slightly darker than the one you just used. Once you have that, go to work making new brush strokes in the same manner, but below the ones you just made.

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At this point this is what my layers look like. I have renamed them so you know what is what:

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Now we are going to mix it up a bit by making some even better highlights on certain parts of the hair.

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To do this we are going to make a new layer, on top of all the other previous layers. Grab the smallest Hair brush, you can use the same color you used for the brightest strands, only this time we are going to go into our transparency setting and change it to "screen" at 100%.

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Now with our brushes set, we will once again paint some strands, this time though, try going over the same area a few times to really turn it into a bright red/orange color, and making it pop out as more of a highlight.

After you throw in a few highlights. You can repeat all the above processes and add in more strands of hair and more highlights.

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*Quick Tip
To make repeating the process again faster. Make sure all but the layer you are working on are locked. To quickly select your next brush and color you need. Just lock the layer you just finished, unlock the next layer you are going to work on, and with the selection tool select anything on that layer. Then deselect it. Since everything on that layer should be the same brush and color, when you deselect it, and hit your brush tool, it will be ready with what you had just selected.

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Next we are going to ad a base to the hair. This serves as a background color so to speak, but it also makes sure we don't have any empty spaces in between strands of hair. To do this, you want to select a color for the base to be. I like to choose some colors that are darker than the mid tones, but not the darkest. Now, using your pen tool, just go around the base of the hair until you complete one half of it.

Also you will notice I not only did the right side, but I also did a spot on the left, that was extremely dark.

Do the left side next, only be sure you send it to the back of the layer by hitting Apple+Shift+[. This will make sure that dark shadow area is not left in the back where we can't see it.

Now your image should look like the one below.

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Next we are going to add some gradient to the base hair, just to give it a little more depth. I used three of our preselected colors which were RGB 130/26/24 , 96/12/13 and 57/18/18

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I did the gradients from lightest up top to darkest in the bottom. And they were evenly spaced out.

Now for the next steps, we are just going to continue to add more strands of hair in. Using the same methods as before. Keep your layers locked except for the one you are working on to avoid mixing brushes and colors within the layers. Don't forget to add some more highlighted strands with the screen transparency.

Without the reference image your hair should be looking like this. We are just about done except for a few minor details in the bottom left side:

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The minor details I was talking about isn't actually that big of a deal. And the best solution here or anytime you are working on some hair is to use your best judgement. I simply felt the strands in the bottom left were a little to thin. So I want to add some more. However I don't want them to come up over the rest of the hair directly to it's right, so for this part I just made a new layer right above the base later and just mixed in different colors and strands into it. Same concept as always, I just used one same layer for these.

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So there you have. Some really nice looking vector hair. As I mentioned you can do this with any style of hair really. Use more or less strands of hair, it's all up to you. Ultimately, like most things, it all just takes some practice.

Create Hair in Illustrator  Tutorial

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