How to give your figures colourful hair

Hey Y’all, Katie here today to share a tutorial with you! As you know I love drawing and painting, and with it being the Season of Color, I wanted to share with you how I paint colorful hair on my portraits. I’ll be showing you how to use color tones, shadows, highlights, etc, to achieve a fun look!

You can watch my video to see my process and then I’ll touch briefly on some tips below that.

Painting Colorful Hair


  • You want to have 3 shades of whatever color you’re using. Midtone, Highlight and Shadows.
  • You can also use a black and a white to further deepen/brighten the shadows and highlights.
  • The highlights show where the “light” would hitting the hair. I usually make sure to have highlights at the top of the head and bangs.
  • The shadows are where the light does not hit. I usually put those around the neck, or under a large strand of hair. Don’t be afraid to add shadows, they will add depth to your hair.
  • Hair is extremely flowy, so keep that in mind when drawing it. Even curly hair, while it can be crazy, it still flows.
  • When using markers, start with the lightest color, then the midtone, and then add in the shadows, but be sure not to cover the highlights up completely.
  • For watercolors, also start with the lightest color (the highlight color) and then make your way to dark. I do like to let the watercolors dry somewhat in between the layers, or they will completely pool together and you won’t have you individual shades. You can use a heat gun if you’re impatient at letting them dry.
  • Watercolors always dry lighter, so if your paint looks too dark, know that it will lighten a little bit as it dries.
  • When using acrylic paints, I prefer to start with the darkest color, and then go lighter with the midtones and highlights. I also like to work while the layers of paint is wet so I can blend it a tiny bit.

Action Steps


Try painting or drawing colorful hair in your journal this week! Even if you don’t want to draw, maybe try coloring over top of a magazine image?


Katie is an Artist located in Washington, USA. She loves anything and everything crafty- from scrapbooking and art journaling, to drawing, to quilting. Katie is constantly inspired by nature, outer space, and colors.


  1. Kelli CRESWELL

    Love watching your talent in action! Thanks for sharing your skills with us!

    • Katie Smith

      Thank you for watching!! 😉

  2. Tanyalee Kahler

    Oh Katie, you make it look so easy! I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again – I love watching you paint, it is so calming and beautiful. Now, let’s see if I can paint faces and hair like you do.

    • Katie Smith

      Awww, thank you Tlee! <3 You're so encouraging!

  3. Laura Rahuba

    It’s like magic!

    • Katie Smith

      THANKS!!! I hope you try it!!

  4. Clare Davis Etheridge

    You are such a talented lady, this looks like one of those painting shows where you think ‘oh yes, I can do that, looks easy’ and it is so hard!!! You make it look effortless. I am inspired to get my sumi brush out and paint some coloured hair. Thanks for a great tutorial and video.

    • Katie Smith

      Oh thank you, Clare!! I wish I could just make it super easy for all of you as well! 🙂
      I do hope you try it!

  5. Sasha Zinevych

    I had to stop the video and just share my excitement – you made a voice over!!! It’s so good to hear your voice. You did it like a pro! <3 😉 Can't wait to try some colorful hair drawings. I hope one day I am half as good as you are!

    • Katie Smith

      I did!! It felt SOOOO awkward, and listening to it is awkward, but I did it! 😉
      I’m glad you guys like it!!

      • Sasha Zinevych

        Like a boss! There’s no way you can make videos without it now! 😉
        P.S. I totally feel you on feeling awkward listening back to your own voice over. I never watch my videos past the editing stage. 😀

  6. Holly Janssen

    Oh Katie! This is amazing! I am so inspired to create and have an image in my head. I am anxious to see if it translates to the page. Thank you so much. You make this look SO EASY!

  7. Lia Muscarella

    I always kinda avoid drawing people because I’ve got this thing in my head where I’m like oh I can’t draw and that’s just two hard. But you really broke this down and made it seem so easy that even I could come up with something good, so thank you!

  8. Rachel Phillips

    Ahhh…this is so helpful! Thank you for sharing. I love your style!

  9. Vanessa Oliver-lloyd

    Katie, you rock! I just love watching the flow emerging from your brush

  10. Misty Granade


  11. Rebecca

    I could watch you paint for hours – mesmerizing! Will definitely give it a try.

  12. Elizabeth D.

    I am absolutely swooning over the purple haired angel at the beginning of your video. You just amaze me!

  13. Talia carbis

    Katie, so much for this tutorial! I love it! Can’t wait to get going on some colourful hair!