How I Shade Hair - A Pictorial

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Retired Moderator
Level 64 : High Grandmaster Ghast Rider
Hello everyone. After the release of my last skin, I got asked how I shaded the hair on that skin. I haven't really seen many hair shading tutorials, so I figured I should make one. I'll show you a simplified example of the hair on that skin with only 5 shades, while the original skin had 7 shades for the hair. In reality, you could do even more than that if you wanted.

Generally, each side of the head is made up of 3 different components, so I'll be showing you each three components and what they look like combined.

The back of the head is shaded like this. To understand why I put the shading and highlights where I did, think of the actual shape of the skull. It's not strictly round--instead it bulges out in the back slightly above center. That's why the highlight is higher than center.

The shading on the side of the head is pretty similar. Keep in mind that the 'front' of the head is where the arrow is pointing. I put the highlight slightly towards the front of the head. Also keep in mind that, like I said in the picture, the front first column of pixels is generally covered up by 3D hair put in the hat layer. When I put hair in the hat layer I like to have it wrap around the sides slightly--I feel this looks more natural than putting it only on the front.

The top of the head is probably the most complex part of the head to shade. The reason of this is because this is where the strands of hair from the sides meet, and this is where the part is. For skins with long hair, you should always include a part at the top of the head for realism. To get an idea why I shade my parts with one dark line and one light line, take a look at this lovely lady. Look at how the light creates a highlight on one side of her part while it leaves the other side in shadow. That's basically what I'm trying to replicate.

If this example seem too complex for you, try simplifying the colors a bit. Try only using one shade of highlighting as opposed to two, so the highlights are less complex to draw.

Before I finish this blog, I'd like to address some of the common problems I see when people shade hair:

-Many people shade hair vary lightly. While light shading might make sense for clothing (since clothing isn't shiny or reflective), hair looks better when it's shiny. Don't be afraid to make some bright highlights on your hair.

-Sometimes people will shade hair by only drawing stripes (or 'strands') and leave out any other shading. Remember, the head is rounded, so your shading should indicate that.

-Finally, most people don't hue shift their colors. I can't overstate how important hue shifting is! Out of everything, it's probably the simplest way to make your skins look eye-catching and professional. As an example, think of shiny dark brown hair. When the light hits it, it doesn't just look light taupey-brown, it shines a bright golden shade. Similarly, red hair will shine a coppery-orange shade and not just a pale red pink shade. For more information about hue shifting, check out my blog on the subject.

I hope this blog is helpful and informative. If you like it, please leave a diamond or comment! Thanks.
Tags:Shading, Hair, Girl, Skins, Skinning, Hue Shifting, Head, Long, Tutorial

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Posted 2012-10-14 01:51:53
by the_soup

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Level 8
Apprentice Cake
January 22, 2014, 3:39 am

I dont get it LEL XD

Level 1
New Miner
July 30, 2013, 5:12 am

Are we allowed to use the shading? C:
I'd be proud to ^-^

Level 20
Expert Unicorn
July 8, 2013, 8:33 pm

What skin editor do you use

Level 30
Artisan Pixel Painter
June 14, 2013, 2:56 am

Amazing tutorial! :D I used this tutorial + tried my own version of roobus's shading :3

Here's the link:

Level 2
Apprentice Architect
June 5, 2013, 3:37 pm

This tutorial is exactly what I've been looking for!

Level 12
Journeyman Skinner
June 2, 2013, 11:02 pm

100th diamond! ^w^

Level 18
Journeyman Dolphin
May 18, 2013, 4:51 pm

Thank you, very good tutorial :)

Level 7
Apprentice Warrior
April 15, 2013, 5:48 pm

You just blew my mind

Level 12
Journeyman Cowboy
March 16, 2013, 8:11 am

I don't think you've ever done a tutorial on this, but could you show how to combine two different hair colours (or more)? I'm not sure how to make a smooth transition between, say, pink and blue. It would probably look very unnatural (thought pink and blue hair is unnatural to start with e - e).

Retired Moderator
Level 64
High Grandmaster Ghast Rider
June 23, 2013, 12:30 pm

Sorry about my late reply, but I've never really done anything like that. What I'd probably would do would be to look at examples of other skins with two-colored hair and see if there were any techniques they used that I like. Probably, in that situation, I'd attempt to have a bit of purple in the middle where they met.

Level 14
Journeyman Dragonborn
March 13, 2013, 4:21 pm


Level 44
Master Pixel Painter
March 9, 2013, 8:31 pm

I created my own skin using this tutorial! Thanks :D

Level 21
Expert Pony
March 9, 2013, 3:47 am

the_soup how do you shade the bang part (front part) of the head?

Level 16
Journeyman Nerd
March 8, 2013, 7:34 pm

le_soup -Fox- here found 2 pieces of stolen content, on this guys page.

Level 31
Artisan Grump
March 7, 2013, 4:05 pm

Umm... I'm trying to think of a good pun to comment here.

Level 35
Artisan Pixel Painter
March 6, 2013, 9:53 am

Thank you :]

Level 46
Master Technomancer
March 6, 2013, 8:26 am

Pretty cool!

Level 24
Expert Princess
March 5, 2013, 10:19 pm

About time I found something like this -_-
You're awesome :3

Level 40
Master Geek
March 5, 2013, 9:10 pm

this is kinda confusing, I dont understand? could u please dumb it down a bit?
sorry. It's a great blog ^.^ I just dont understand D=

Level 1
New Miner
March 4, 2013, 11:38 pm

Helpful :) thanks. I'll keep this in mind for whenever I create a skin again.

Chat Moderator
Level 43
Master Fox
March 4, 2013, 9:42 pm

Eh. I think I'll just stick with my style, But thanks for the tips I guess..

Level 31
Artisan Pixel Painter
March 4, 2013, 5:26 pm

Thanks for the tips! I never thought of shading parts of my skins by "overlapping" in this technique. Nice to see some open mindsets :)

Level 1
New Miner
March 4, 2013, 4:53 pm

ermagerd awsum rainboo hare

Level 21
Expert Blockhead
March 4, 2013, 1:36 pm

Colors Hurt Meh eyes Nice Tutorial!

Site Moderator
Level 58
Grandmaster Pixel Puncher
March 4, 2013, 12:43 pm

Very nice, you should make a tutorial on none-linear hair too, for a more advanced tutorial.

Level 23
Expert Zombie
March 4, 2013, 6:53 am

So ,I create a few layers,and combine them?

Retired Moderator
Level 64
High Grandmaster Ghast Rider
March 4, 2013, 9:31 am

Well, I don't do it with layers (obviously can't with MCSkin3D), I just keep those three things in mind when drawing the hair. Usually I start out by drawing the strands, then the darker bits along the edges, and finally I add the highlights.

Level 48
Master Skinner
March 4, 2013, 10:16 am

I did it with layers and it actually turned out quite like yours

Retired Moderator
Level 52
Grandmaster Dwarf
March 4, 2013, 6:24 am

I hate hair.

Level 40
Master Grump
May 2, 2013, 5:14 pm

Ok, Francis.

Site Moderator
Level 45
Master Batman
March 4, 2013, 4:05 am

how to draw llama? kntxbai

Level 33
Artisan Vampire
March 4, 2013, 3:25 am

its loveleh

Level 44
Master Blob
March 4, 2013, 1:53 am

thanks i have trouble for the head top and back :)

Level 33
Artisan Pixel Puncher
March 4, 2013, 1:37 am

thx this will really help in my upcoming skins( i will credit you )

Retired Moderator
Level 53
Grandmaster Pixel Painter
March 4, 2013, 12:46 am

i like

Level 49
Master Lad
March 4, 2013, 12:24 am

nice tutorial, made things easier! :3

Ragnur Le Barbare
Site Moderator
Level 56
Grandmaster Caveman
March 3, 2013, 11:50 pm

How2shade body hair pls?

Site Moderator
Level 61
High Grandmaster Grump
March 4, 2013, 3:31 am

make frizzy not striped ok

Ragnur Le Barbare
Site Moderator
Level 56
Grandmaster Caveman
March 4, 2013, 3:34 am


Site Moderator
Level 61
High Grandmaster Grump
March 4, 2013, 3:34 am


Level 48
Master Skinner
March 4, 2013, 10:17 am


Level 43
Master Dragon
March 4, 2013, 1:14 am

That was almost homicide. I could have died from laughing so hard.

Level 24
Expert Spider Rider
March 3, 2013, 11:46 pm

Yes, how to shade the top of the head!

Level 48
Master Skinner
March 4, 2013, 10:16 am


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