Coloring Realistic Hair by Brandi York

Copic Tutorial - Coloring Hair by Brandi YorkThis week, illustrator Brandi York shares how to color realistic hair with Copics. Enjoy!

Rendering realistic hair with Copics is not especially difficult with a little practice. Copic Sketch markers, with their brush tips, are ideal for rendering varied line widths to help represent the hair.


My high school art teacher once told me, “Never try to draw every single hair. You’ll go insane. Just draw every direction.” This is just as true in Copics as any medium. Once I have my skin tones in, I keep in mind my light source and go from there. With marker, you have to keep your light areas in mind, since you can’t go back and lighten areas very easily or very much. With that in mind, I start with the color I want the highlights of the hair to be.

Since her hair is a deep auburn, I start with E70 and lay in where the light will be hitting her hair. I keep the strokes loose and light-handed, moving with the direction of the hair, letting the brush trail off. Most of the ends will be covered by the darker color once finished, but I like the effect as I’m playing.

I repeat the process with E71, filling in the rest of the area. At this point, it’s starting to get the effect of hair, but is still pretty rough.

Copic Tutorial - Coloring Hair by Brandi York

Next, I take E74, and flesh things out a little more, adding some more depth and control to the hair, followed by E77, using the same light-handed brush strokes.

Copic Tutorial - Coloring Hair by Brandi YorkTo bring out some of the red in the auburn hair, I switch to RV99, to bring some reddish hue into the hair, fading it out with E74 and E77. I follow that up with BV29 for the deepest darks of the hair. I also decided that the lights were too light (her hair was looking very shiny and that wasn’t exactly the effect I was going for) so I used E71 and E74 to knock down the lights a little bit.

Copic Tutorial - Coloring Hair by Brandi York

As always, there’s a lot of back and forth, fading out the strokes to allow for reasonably smooth transitions, giving the overall illusion of hair. Practice your strokes beforehand to get a feel for the loose movement of hair.

Colors used: 

  • R000
  • R20
  • E01
  • E04
  • E49
  • E57
  • BV20
  • BV23
  • BV31
  • E70
  • E71
  • E74
  • E77
  • RV99
  • BV29

Share your illustrations with us on Facebook and Twitter!

On: 11/05/14 • Tags: Artists, Brandi York, How To, Illustration, Inspire, Edited, Guest tutorial, Hair, Technique