While this is not the best hair that I have ever painted, it will give you a general feel on how I occasionally will approach the subject. On the last page is a link to a movie with all of the steps combined along with some general ideas about painting hair.
Ah, the start. It seems that this is the easiest part of the whole mess. I am using Painter 6.1. I create my own brushes and usually use only two brushes when painting. I find that the majority of my work can be accomplished with just a couple brushes. One of the most important things to remember when painting anything is to get rid of the white background. Here I use a lighting effect to get rid of the white. I like to use background colors that are complementary to my main subject. Other than the above, here I just begin the sketch.
I have decided to quickly paint some blonde hair. Blonde makes it easier to see what I am doing. First of all, blonde hair is not yellow! In fact, most hair is simply variations of the subjects skin colors. Begin by blocking in the major masses of color in the correct values. Always work form the general to the specific.
I am continuing to establish the major light and dark passages. I am getting a little darker in the darks and lighter in the light side. I also begin to sample colors from the Image itself. Some of the background blues begin to influence the hair color. This is all right as it adds a cohesiveness to the color.
I add more color into the major light and dark passages. I am starting to push the values toward their extremes. Notice that I am not painting individual strands of hair. Hair strands can really only be seen from extreme closeup. Paint with loose strokes that indicate the hair without fussing with it. Remember that hair is visually soft. Do not paint hard edges.
Starting to refine the hair slightly and adding more skin color. Make sure that you are using enough color in the hair. Still no individual hair strands.
I have added some stronger highlights and now begin to paint some detail. Still, I am not concerned with individual bits of hair. It is the generally look that I am after.
Here I am adding more detail but maintaining my light and dark passages. I start to clean up the edges of the hair slightly.
I am adding some color into the shadow side of the hair while trying to keep the value relationships compatible. In other words, I try not to get any lights into the darks or any darks into the lights.
Adding more detail. I am beginning to add reflected light into the darks of the hair. Still, trying to not paint individual hairs. I forgot to mention that for the majority of my work, I have my opacity brush setting between 15% and 35%.
Still adding more detail. I'm reestablishing some of the darks and lightening the highlights. I have also added more reflected light into the left side of the hair. It is nothing more than some of the background color mixed with the hair colors.
More color and refining some of the secondary shapes within the hair.
I am really pretty much finished at this point. I am not really happy with the results and feel that I have worried a little to much about detail. This took about half an hour to complete. I do usually try to clean things up a little more.