In this tutorial I’m going to explain how to this short blonde hairdo. The techniques used for this artwork can be applied to any hair style with the same basic texture. Quite truthfully the method I used on this hairstyle was the same technique I used to create a tail on a horse. So this technique can be used in other applications.
Now, let’s get to work.
SKILL LEVEL: 2
- Shading tip
- 4 x 4 inch (10.2 x 10.2 cm) piece of wood
- Pattern – see section on pattern below
Amazon link: Legion Paper
General I find that art supplies are cheaper on Jerry’s Artarama website, so I’m providing links to that site too.
Jerry’s Artarama: Legion Paper
I like the Winsor & Newton hot pressed paper better, but it costs a lot more unless you can get it on sale. When purchasing paper I do recommend making sure to get hot pressed as it has a smooth texture.
Amazon link: Winsor & Newton paper
Jerry’s: Winsor & Newton paper
1) Since I’m burning on paper, I have the paper taped to a backing board (green arrow in the upper left of image). This keeps the paper from warping and protects the underlying surface from heat damage.
2) The reference photo is kept close by and preferably in a spot where you can easily see it at all times. If you are right handed the photo should probably be placed to the left of where you will be burning.
3) Always keep a piece of scrap material nearby. Ideally it should be the same material that you will be burning on. Use the material to test out how hot the pen tip is. Or more accurately what burn results are you getting.
Since we are working on blonde hair, adjust the heat on your burner to get a medium tan burn result. What setting that is depends on what type of pen tip you are using. How much burn time that pen tip has, and the material you are burning on. Test out the burn results on the scrap material and adjust the heat setting on your burner until the desired result is reached.
STEP 1 – PREP THE BURNING SURFACE
If using paper
If you are burning on paper there isn’t any pre-burn prep work that needs to be done.
If using wood
This piece of plywood board is broken up into three sections. The far left section is how the board looks without any prep work. The board has a rough texture. The middle section of the board shows how it looks after it was sanded, and the surface is a lot smoother. The right section of the board shows it after it was lightly misted with water and allowed to dry. Notice how rough the board looks, but a quick sanding will remove that and leave an ultra-smooth board.
Doing the 4-step process (sand, mist, dry, sand) produces a super smooth surface, and the smoother the surface is the better the burn results will be.
STEP 2 – TRANSFER PATTERN TO WOOD
I use the tracing method to transfer all my patterns to my projects. It’s cheap, easy, and gives me control on what I want to include. Print off your pattern or photo on lightweight paper (standard copier paper is perfect).
Coat the back of the paper with graphite. I like to use a B-4B pencil.
Position the paper on the wood, graphite side down, and trace over the pattern/photo.
STEP 3 – ANALYZE THE HAIR
First off I will be using the word clump a lot in this tutorial. A clump is the term I’m using to describe group of hairs clustered together. The clump forms a shape that reminds me of a spaghetti noodle. A green arrow is pointing to one clump.
The right side of the hair is very short. There is a highlight along the top of the short hairs. Keep in mind that this highlight needs to be darker than the highlight on the top of the head. The green arrow is pointing to the highlight.
Making the hair or head look 3D requires two things: 1) highlight, and 2) shadows. The highlight needs to be the palest spot on the hair. The shadows need to get gradually darker the further from the highlight. With the head this means the sides of the hair should be the darkest areas.
Apply the tip to the reference photo. Arrow 1, the top arrow, is pointing to the area that contains the highlight. This area has the lightest overall color on the hair. Arrow 2 is pointing to the hair that is a few shades darker than the highlight. Arrow 3 is pointing to the sides of the hair where the hair is several shades darker than the highlight.
STEP 4 – BURN THE HAIR
On the really short hair I’m using a combination of single lines and zigzags to create the texture found there. Really short hair is very similar to short animal fur, so I use the same techniques that I use on animal fur.
Make sure your burn stroke length matches the hair length. Use really short strokes along the right side of the head. The transition zone has some really short areas, but most of the area has longer hair than the right side. The top and left side of the head has much longer hair.
Let me mention that I do not burn the long clumps of hair in one stroke. It takes me several to extend the color the entire length of the clump, but it looks like a single burn stroke when done.
With the longer hair, I burn over an small area to fill it will color. I have to re-burn over the small area a number of times to build up the color. As I do so I make sure to leave tonal variation in the area.
Also create the ends of pale or lighter clumps by burn around an area. The green arrow is pointing to a section that is unburned and it comes to a tapered point. Later on this will become a highlight in the area. Technically it’s a highlight now.
Creating texture means I’m forming new hair clumps or placing greater emphasis on existing clumps. Placing greater emphasis is done by making the area around the clump several shade darker. The contrast really makes the clump stand out.
Closer to the front of the hair the texture gets finer. Or maybe I should say that the clumps got a lot smaller, so I worked out my approach or method on the area with larger clumps. Once I was feeling a lot more confident with the clump making process then I was ready to work on the front.
Let’s recap that the clump making process. First an area is filled with color that varies a bit in tonal variety. I use the flat of the shader for this, but the angle is changed to alter the width of the burn strokes.
Then individual clumps of hair are created or emphasized. This is done by using the edge of the shader was used to burn darker thinner lines. Those lines help define individual clumps of hair by creating shadows around clumps.
The area inside the oblong needs to be the lightest area on the hair. Be aware that the hair adjacent to the oblong doesn’t need to be a lot darker. Instead it should be a shade or two darker. The further from the oblong you are working, the darker the overall color should be.
A quick reminder to always test your pen tip on scrap material before you resume burning. Pen tips build up heat when they are not in contact with the material. Burning on scrap material will remove any excess heat so you are less likely to get a dark blob or blotch at the start of your burn stroke.
Below is a composite photo showing my artwork compared to the reference photo.
There are enough similarities that my artwork looks like a good replica of the photo. But if you really start comparing the clump structure, you can tell that I did not try to replicate each and every clump of hair. Again I will remind you that you do not need to! As long as the general shape of the hair is there, it will look good!
We’re done. Hopefully I was able to explain things well enough so you could follow along. Also I do hope you’ll watch the corresponding tutorial video as I think it really helps visually show what I try to explain through pictures.
Now to answer the usual questions I get. This was burned on watercolor paper and I already stated the brand at the beginning of this blog. It took me a bit over 1 hour to complete the artwork.
Until the next blog,
Sep 22, 2020
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