Drawing Hair with Inktense Pencils – April 2013

Allyson Wright gives us some tips on using Inktense Pencils to draw hair…

I love drawing and painting with Inktense and not just for the wonderfully vibrant colour schemes that Inktense is known for, but to create more subtle colour schemes as well.  You can use Inktense instead of watercolours to produce paintings full of clarity and, unlike watercolour, Inktense is waterproof once it has been wet and then allowed to dry.

Today I am going to show you how I use Inktense pencils to draw hair.  I decided to show you hair for humans, but the same techniques could be used just as easily for animals.  I thought that doing hair for people would be better because people tend to have hair ‘styles’ as well as curly hair, and these would help me explain how you can use Inktense to draw and paint different colours and types of hair.

TIP:  Before you begin, don’t forget that when you are using water-soluble pencils the colour you see when you draw with them isn’t nearly as strong as it will be once the pencil marks have been wetted with a brush. This can make it a little difficult to gauge how much pencil to put down on the paper. It is the opposite of when you paint with watercolours. When you use watercolours (pans or tubes) in the traditional way, the colour you see when the paint is wet is always darker than it appears when the painting is fully dry. Because of this I always try out the colours I am going to use on a spare bit of paper first, so I know what each colour that I’m planning to use will look like wet as well as dry. This helps to avoid making your finished painting far brighter than you intended it to be.

In this first example you can see my quick drawing of a little girl with tousled curly long hair. I decided to do a drawing of this type of hair because long tousled curly hair is the type most people say they find difficult to do.  I’ve briefly shown her dress and face so you get the idea of the picture, but the hair is what we are focusing on today.

In the first image you can see stage one of the hair, where I have used Sicilian Yellow to put in the highlights.



TIP:  Whenever you are drawing or painting hair you need to do two main things. 1. try to think of the whole head of hair in locks, rather than trying to show individual hairs and 2. make every pencil or brush stroke follow the contours of the shape of the locks of hair.

This means that if the hair is straight you would draw straight lines and if it is curly you draw lines to follow the contours of the locks of hair.  So, for curly hair, like in this example, look at the locks of hair and decide where the light should be hitting the curves. This is what I did in the first stage and I picked out the highlights, which is where the light hits the hair, in the lightest colour.

I then used the other colours I had chosen to use for her blonde hair which were – Tan, Amber, Saddle Brown and Willow, to show the low lights and the mid tones.  I also used a little Dusky Purple for shadows in the hair.  This might seem like a lot of different colours to use for hair, but when light falls on hair it has such a lot of colours in it, and the light bouncing off shiny hair also reflects colours from the subject’s surroundings as well.

In stage two the image shows the little girl’s hair with all these colours in it.



In stage three you can see that I have used a small brush and a small amount of water to wet the strands of hair and this gives a smoother look and a painterly effect.



I thought you might like to see which Inktense colours I would suggest for different colours of hair, so in the next three images you can see auburn, brunette and blonde swatches with part of the sketch dry and part of it having been wet carefully with a small brush and a little water.

For the auburn hair swatch I used: Baked Earth, Dark Chocolate, Sepia Ink, Mid Vermillion and Dusky Purple.

For the brunette hair swatch I used: Payne’s Grey, Charcoal Grey, Sepia Ink, Dark Chocolate, Bark and Dusky Purple.

For the blonde hair swatch I used: Sicilian Yellow, Tan, Amber, Saddle Brown, Willow and Dusky Purple.

TIP:  When you use a brush to wet hair it is important to try to avoid using too much water or too large a brush, because if you wet the drawing too much all the colours will run in together and you will lose the shape and the variation in the hair.


The last examples here are from a painting I did of a Japanese Geisha called ‘Lucky Charms’. In the first image you can see my starting drawing which I did in pencil.  Next I used a combination of Sepia Ink, Payne’s Grey, Ink Black, Indian Ink and Deep Indigo for her jet black hair, as you can see in the next image.  Finally I wet the hair with a small brush and a small amount of water, and I finished the face (Geishas wear traditional white face make-up with red touches and red lips), her costume and I painted the lucky charms that she was wearing in her hair.  I think you can see from the finished painting that I have shaped her hair by making the pencil marks follow the shape of her style and I have used lighter colours to show the shine where sunlight hits her head.


I had a lot of fun doing these sketches and drawings to show you how I use Inktense for hair of various types and colours. I hope you will have lots of fun having a go at using Inktense pencils for your own paintings of people and animals.

Allyson Wright