Manga Hair Basics

Hair can be a tricky subject for many artists to get right in any art form, but Manga often interprets it in a very stylish, clean manner… which can also highlight any mistake you make! It’s not all that difficult if you follow three basic rules whenever you start drawing hair.

The number one rule is to make sure that you are drawing enough hair to realistically cover the head and give the impression of the volume of hair. In order to do that, you need to know how your character looks like if he/she was bald. Now, if you’ve been following my tutorials so far, you will know exactly how to do this properly, as the guidelines for drawing the head, regardless of the angle, will give you the boundaries of the head without any hair.

Hair 1 Hair 2

This example shows a three-quarter view of a head, without hair, with and without the guides underneath.

When you add hair, you are effectively drawing a wig on top of this bald head. So it has to cover the scalp and sit a little higher. This is because hair has VOLUME; hair grows out from the scalp and sticks out at least a little bit, even if it’s short or pulled tight. The fluffier the hairstyle, the more it stands out.

Hair 3

The next thing to consider is where the hair coming from, and where it’s going to. Hair has different origin points and ending points. Most short hair comes from the back and the top of the head, a little whorl spot, the crown, the cow lick. Longer hair develops into a parting.

Hair 4

Some hairstyles are gelled upwards, or pulled back tightly from the hair line in a pony tail, in this case. So make sure your strokes match the direction of the hair in all cases.

The final touch for that cool Manga feel is not to get bogged down in too much detail when working on your ink lines. Don’t draw every single individual strand of hair. Concentrate on the outlines and try to draw the overall shape of the hairstyle. Then show some panache by clumping the hair at the ends in sharp spikes of varying thicknesses, with a few strands loose.

Hair 5

This style is very sharp at the ends. Notice that some of the spikes of hair are thick, others are thin.

Don’t worry if this isn’t enough to help you with your specific character, I will talk more about different types of hair in the next tutorial!

About Sonia Leong

Sonia Leong is a professional illustrator specialising in Anime and Manga. She first rose to fame with the 2005 Tokyopop Rising Stars of Manga (UK & Ireland) competition. Since then her popular Manga Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet (SelfMadeHero) has had numerous global editions.Her work appears in DOMO: The Manga (Tokyopop), Comic Book Tattoo (Image) and the I, Hero series (Hachettes). She has worked for Walker, Barrington Stoke, Ilex and Quarto amongst many other publishers on various children's books and instructional art books. She's geekily proud of her art being part of the set of British TV sitcom, The I.T. Crowd (Channel 4). She is the company secretary of Sweatdrop Studios. She loves clothes, singing, food and weaponry! For more about Sonia, visit her website,

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One Response to Manga Hair Basics

  1. SamZeldaJones July 19, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

    Thank you, this really helped me out ^^

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