Hair Painting for Beginners: Illustrating Straight Hair | KD Ritchie | Skillshare

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Hair Painting for Beginners: Illustrating Straight Hair

teacher avatar KD Ritchie, Book Designer at Story Wrappers

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

9 Lessons (34m)
    • 1. Introduction to Class

    • 2. Finding Ideal References

    • 3. Warming Up the Brush Strokes

    • 4. Making Your Base Layer

    • 5. Adding Depth to Hair

    • 6. Adding Strands and Flow

    • 7. Creating Richness and Thickness

    • 8. Highlights and Finishing Touches

    • 9. Final Thoughts

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About This Class

If you want to illustrate hair that is straight and flows naturally, but don’t know how to start, then this painting class is for you! 

What you’ll learn in this class: 

  • Selecting your ideal photograph for hair
  • Making fewer strokes count for more
  • Creating straight locks on a character
  • Adding shape and flow for movement

You’ll make illustrated hair that is perfect for photomanipulation or original character design!


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My Brushes: Free Hair Brushes

Meet Your Teacher

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KD Ritchie

Book Designer at Story Wrappers


I am K.D. Ritchie, a book cover designer at Story Wrappers. Within two years, I created a bestselling book cover design business catering to indie authors and publishers. My focus is character design, with an emphasis in fantasy.

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1. Introduction to Class: Not being able to really shape straight hair leads to things looking really stiff. And when I am able to put down a few strokes and refine things, I get a read on a character in seconds that motivates me to keep pushing my pair gain a, I'm Katie, a book cover designer on story rappers, where I create artwork for clients and now teach students to this class is for anyone from beginners to people who want to maybe approach where in a faster, easier way. That's still Reeves. And it's important because being able to design straight hair, my foundational skill for then creating any kind of hair I want. It can lead to any hair shape if you know the basics. So if you want to illustrate hair that's straight, but it flows naturally with the character that you've created, but you don't quite know where to start. This painting class is for you. You're going to learn how to select your ideal photograph for hair with references, making fewer strokes, count for more, creating the straight locks on any character and adding that shape and flow. I can't wait to teach you this class and see what you're going to make. Let's get started. 2. Finding Ideal References: Alright, let's kick it off with finding references. My favorite place to get that going with, be generous. So I've typed in straight hair model. Now there's lot of different kinds of straight hair, since this is a fantasy character with a sword, I don't think I'm gonna go for the flat iron. Look like we can see here where there's not hardly a flyaway visible. I wanted something a little in-between. So one great way to use this is, let's say you find something like this, not quite right, that namely the blonde is close, maybe the tones are correct. You might find some good things listed below. And sure enough, there are some kinda cool options here. This one, for instance, some good movement, little movement, but it's still straight. So I'm actually going to be opening that up as one option. I'm going to look at some other things and maybe be sticking to kinda this brunette blonde range since that's first tile, because that can be easily lightened up and darken and I'll be showing on a different class. Let's keep looking at some other choices. We don't wanna go to wavy since that's a whole other situation, rather than keeping it straight, straight years gonna be most simple version for kicking off your hair, illustrating that we see any other ones that might work well, we kinda need something for a root reference. So since this hairstyle is a little bit pulled back and the front, maybe something run sizes a little too straight, but it's kind of close. Let's see what else might find. Sometimes it can just take a couple minutes, but usually in not too long of a time. This one's nice. It's kind of part off the head. I'd like something a little bit closer such as Take your time in finding just the right kind of references and you'll, you'll kind of get there. This is a little bit strange, but it's got a little something to it. So I think combined, these are going to be a good example. So let's go ahead and bring these into Photoshop and move on to the next part. 3. Warming Up the Brush Strokes: Alright, next we're going to be getting our brushstrokes down. Now you've got your original character perhaps that you put together through your illustrations for your three or photo manipulations. That's what I've done here. And now it's time to move on and give her some hair. So I'm gonna go ahead and do a little color picking. And as far as the brush goes, I'm using the F30 brush that you can find on my website at story slash free resources. That's also in the link below. If you want to check out any of my brushes, they're free for my students and anybody else who wants to get going with that. But if not, find your favorite kind of hair brush, and let's just start making that shape. Find what that might look like. And I'm not gonna go too wild with what this is, but I'm going to kind of warm up my brush mess with the pen pressure. Especially if you're a little newer to painting here and you want to kind of get an idea of, you know, am I going to Harvard? Are my stuff looking like that? If I'm if I'm going, you know, a little bit to light, what could that appearing like could then end up being something where it's just so, so faint and feathery, that stuff isn't gonna show up very well. So make sure that when you are working on the flow for your brush, that you're kind of getting an idea. And for me I already know my flows to high, so I'm gonna set it down a little bit and kind of go hmm, okay, where am I putting this? And it's good to just practice arrays and get an idea of the general shape because before you do all this work, you want to know where you're shaping is going to be. And I like a little bit of flow and shape pair. So I'm just going to get a rough idea of what might end up happening. And I'm kind of getting the brush warmed up. I'm kinda going okay. Okay. I'm I'm controlling the way you want. It's kinda working for me. Kind of comfortable with it. And when you're at a point where you feel like, yeah, this is this is feeling comfortable and kinda feeling like I have a grip on what this might look like. That's when you start moving on to the next section, which is to be making your base layer. 4. Making Your Base Layer: All right, next up we're going to be starting our base layer. Now we've kinda practice, we've kind of Warren Buffet does, but I'm going to start over fresh just so that we can make sure we're getting just what we want, thinking it out without worrying so much about what that pen feels like. So I'm looking at this and something to look at is that sheep. So when we're looking at a character, let's look at this shape. And what I mean by that is we're looking at where this line goes and what interrupts it. So we've got this little bit of armor here. Go Jan, I think it's called a Paul during I need to learn all my armor terms, but this goes down here and then the curve and shape is going to go down like this. Like so, right? So those are the things that we have to follow me aware because if we were trying to make here that goes straight, exactly something like this, even though it's called straight here, it won't look natural at all. It's going to look a little bit goofy, silly. So let's go ahead and clean up this layer. And let's start making that base layer again. Think about those light strokes. I'm just gonna go through and begin from here. And from the top we can see the hair is parted in the middle. So we want to have two sections, left side and a right side. So on this right side, we're going to be filling things out and giving her a little bit more for scroll back. And the photo is cropped off a little bit. So make sure to pay attention to how high this is. So we're gonna be going through. And when I'm thinking about this hair, I'm thinking about again, what's interrupting where their hair would be, what's going to get in the way a little bit. And we want to have those objects sometimes because it can look really cool that way. This is gonna get in the way, in a good way. So maybe your little hairs gonna follow through and flow among that shape. The rest of it right here, I'm going to have just fall here, but look, see this curve here that would happen on the body. A little bit of a curve here. So when you're creating your base layer, I want you to think about where's the body curving? What are the shapes that are interrupted? Now let's go ahead and go to the left side. We're going to again, think about that part that's going to come in later when we make an actual little part in the scalp. And we're continuing to fill this in. And don't worry too much about making this part perfect. We're going to be refining it and going over it as we paint through. But in here there's some choices. I could kinda tuck it behind your ear if I want a little bit. That could be cute. Kinda fun. Like she's like Get out of my way. Because again, we want to think about this character. She's a warrior, right? So she might not want all that hair interface all the time. But it's going to come out from behind the ear and spill out a little bit on your chest and shoulders here. Now array here I've made a little too much of the curve and there's nothing wrong with going back and just erasing that base layer when we're not quite happy with it, get it, and that feels a little more natural and that second fats. So I'm going to keep working on this base layer. And you're, you're really just trying to get the general shape down. You're not worried at all about mixing colors, just one base colour. And this can be changed lighter or darker after you finish things and can show you how to do that. But I've picked neutral color. We were practicing with something that is going to be not my darkest, not my highest. So that's going to be more of a mid tone of the hair. So I am going to keep fleshing out a little bit here. And so far, I think this is going to be a really nice little base for us to work from. It's not too complicated, not too wild. We're going to add in a little more movement later on and adding a little bit of piecing here for our base layer. But I don't wanna go too much because that's going to cover in the next part. So now that we have our base layer are done, let's move on to the next section and start filling this arrow. 5. Adding Depth to Hair: Next we're going to be creating some depths inside this hair base. Let's create a brand new layer here. And what we're going to do is start thinking about, well, how do we create depth that's going to be bringing in light and dark. So different values other than this midtone that we have right now. So what we can do is simply go ahead and we can always color pick, or we can work from our base. We can color pick our base. Go to our colour wheel, which you can find in your Windows section. But for people who know and have the setup, just raise up your coloring a little bit from where it was, or bring it back down. Now first what we're going to be doing is bringing it back down. We're going to create some depth. And again, go ahead and feel free to color pick if you're not comfortable with this yet. So on that new layer, we're going to think about, well, where's the light getting me hiding? And if you look here, you can see that the light is hiding inside of this cavity because light's not getting into there as easy. Same thing with on this side, the light is going to be hidden away around the base of the neck. That's where you're gonna find it, where the shadows are going to happen. So what we're gonna do is start creating that. And I just have this still on my base layer brush or at me switching to some of my other brushes later on if we want or honestly, you can even make the entire head of hair with just this one brush if you get comfortable enough and using it. So right now and you can see I'm kind of creating a little bit more of that darkness back here in the hair. And I'm not going to stop because I could. But I am starting off with something that isn't too dark because that blending is can be a lot more natural if we don't go immediately to the darkness of the dark, right? We're going to work our way up into it. So right now I've created some darkness in this cavity. And this is where it gets a little bit tricky. It's going to be a little bit more practice because at this point you could go, Okay, I can put on some light here and do this, but we want to make a little more shape and depth and our hair. Alright, so this is where you go and you think about where is that going to be overlapping and what's gonna be happening. Now I've created a little gap here, so I'm gonna create a little bit of darkness here because we're going to be implying that there's going to be hair going over this section creating some of that depth. And if you look, that's already getting a little bit of a read. We can see there's some separation there. When you're thinking about hair, you wanna think about that separation, that flow. And I'll be covering separation of flow because that's a big topic in a whole different class. I think we're going to for now, just focus on working through this dot all the way through. And if you can look, our roots are certainly more deep, so let's create our roots. We're going to bring that hair line down a bit. And just take your time through this. Don't have to rush, I'm going a little bit quit distinct you that idea, but feel free to always come back and kind of see what's going on in relation to these references in relation to what I'm doing and why a little bit. And the more you practice, the more this will make sense. Always clean up a little bit of your edges and you notice I worked zoomed out a little bit. That's because that's important for a little while. As you get comfortable with seeing the big picture, if you work to zoom, then you're going to lose that big picture. So now what we're gonna do, we're gonna darken it up a little bit more. And I'm gonna have you go through this and just darkening as you go step-by-step, keep it comfortable. You can always go back and make new layers on doing this on this one layer because I'm pretty cozy with it. But you can always make new layers for each step if needed. And don't worry about the shadowing and the face too much. And we'll get to the shadowing later on. We'll probably need a little bit. You can see that xik is shadow. That implies that there's some, some hair that was definitely there on the model of her previous version of hair, which was light blond and kinda cover the sides of her face. So you can already see we're getting more of that depth back there. And so it sees that. And then what do we do? We dark it up a little more. And you shrink your brush as you go back. You don't want to cover too much, but it's gonna blend pretty smoothly. The darkest parts, of course, are going to be back here by the neck, where light is not escaping it because we're not doing any kind of subsurface scattering anything. We're not we're not going to have any light peeking through this back section where you're like a little bit at the roots, this comes down with some preference. And the document those routes just a little bit. I like that little on-brand actually have on insides happening. And right there we've got our depth Cree. And the next section we're gonna move on to kind of blend together a little bit and adding a little bit more movement. 6. Adding Strands and Flow: Next, let's go ahead and start adding a little flow and movement with our strands. I'm gonna go ahead and make sure I am selected on my brush tool here. And we're going to keep on blocking and shaping for now because our sections are going to be not too big, but not too small yet. And for creating a little more of flow and overlapping shape, we want to actually start adding in some of those lighter pieces. So I'm gonna go ahead and color pick and go to something a little less saturated and a little lighter. And you can see on some of these pieces, some of them are dark, somewhere lighter. But in general, if you want to create some light here, you want to try to get something not too saturated. If that makes a little bit of set C, This is, this is a little lighter, so it's not going to be too bright orange and starts looking a little cartoonish. And you'll just test that by eye or a course. Just stick to color, picking the different photographs that are going to work best for you. So what I'm gonna do is just start looking in, thinking about where might this flow and look at now this is going to come down to a little bit of scale there for beginner, I would say these sections where the lights can be hitting. So if we think about this looks like it's going to be in front a bit, right? Let's go ahead and add a little bit of that light on that section. And already you can see against that darkness. Hamlet to check, we've got now I'm gonna zoom in a little bit so you can see this a little bit easier as I paint. Again, I'd like to make sure we're backed out a bit for that initial hair painting. But now we can zoom in a little bit and get a little more comfortable because we've got most of our base layer. And here again, this is going to become a little bit. So I'm going to be adding on some of that light. And you want to think of the hair and sections and in pieces and chunks. You also wanna make sure you're blending really well and kind of doing a balance in your style. Like for me, I don't want it to be too photorealistic, so I do a little bit of work on individual, individual strands. But I don't want it to fantasy based for my own style personally because that can kind of kill the Book of some photo realism that I'm going for. So we're just going to be working through different strands and sections and I'm bringing out that light. And we're using a really light hand here. And this one in particular I'm thinking about, well, this is going to come out and this would look cool if I overlap it. And I bring it up towards those roots. And that was a little too much for me. So I'm going to actually go and delete a little bit and work it through and up. And over here, it just feels like it needs a flyaway. So what did we do? We just simply create one. We use are lighter colour and create a fly away. Same thing here, and you want to add women automatically on straight hair. Create a little bit of a flyaway by intersecting the light and the dark. And already we've got something a little more interesting than just that blank area. And I'm taking away and on my radio sometimes I want a perfect my little section and make it just the way I want. No problem with that. But don't spend too much time on these things because I don't want to you don't want to agonize over it being just this way or that way. It's okay if it looks a little less than perfect sometimes because that's what natural hair can look like, right? So we're just gonna keep going through. We're adding on our sections of lighter hair specially around here or we can see there's a lot of light on the body. There's highlight. This is going to be getting a lot brighter. And to avoid that kind of stringy and pieces, we can just lightly fill in and make sure ends aren't to scratch a little bit just because I think, you know, we're not getting perfect perfect haircuts always maybe in this time period. So I don't like things to be too polished but still presentable and kind of fashionable. And now what you can see, I'm actually color picking in, lending through a little bit on some of those other pieces. If something gets a little bit too bright, your problem. Again, calorific net lighter color and I'm moving through the top of the air, flying little pieces out. And this is what we do to create strands, to create lightened, blend it in. And so it saves you time because you're not having to focus too much on oh, I need this sections just for the lighter, the sections just for flow. You can hit both by doing a process, something like this. And of course you'll create your own process. But already in just a few minutes, we've gotta read on the hair. Go ahead and go around the crown of the skull here in the back, if you want to add that light back there, kinda optional again depends on if you're gonna have a backward light source, but I kinda think it just can look nice to smooth it out a little bit and then go over the back a little and add a little bit more depth again, again, some of this is going to come down to your own taste and knowing the rules and breaking the rules. But already we have something that is reading as fairly natural and believable. So at this point, we've done kind of the bigger sections and blocking and we're going to move into really refining things out. 7. Creating Richness and Thickness: And before we add more strands and really perfect the hair, we're going to add a little bit of richness. Let's kick it off with a new layer here. And we're going to take, let's just color, pick our color. And how do we make a little more riches? We're gonna turn up our saturation a little bit and change the Blending moons. So far we've just been non-normal, but I'm gonna go ahead and touch us to overlay. Now with your standard soft brush that comes with every Photoshop pack, which is going to be located at the top here, I'm going to turn down my flow a bit, increase my brush size. And I'm going to start adding that saturation into areas like this, dark spots just to see little more richness. And you can see just right there already what is happening to our hair. I'm gonna turn down the flow even a little bit more. It's just on 6% had a little more richness and those darker places along the hair roots. And it just has this nice kind of saturation on the here. It's a simple little trick, but it really, really helps out, I think, with the look of things. And then you don't have your hair become to saturation and cartoonists. So if I toggle that on and off, that's the before and the after. We zoom out before and after, you're adding depth and adding richness and it, let's take it a little too warm and hot. Unused sentence, easy, I just go ahead and take it back. Take it back. Take a little back on the roots. No problem. Very, very simple. Now let's say I want to add a little a glimmer to that lighter hair, I can do the same thing. So go ahead and color pick later hair. Turn it up a little bit. Yeah. And I had a little bit. So it's just it's just getting a little more shine and depth. And we'll cover those fun highlights soon. But this is something a little bit more subtle. Little more warm. You can even go back and add a little and some random spot and make you think, looks, it looks pretty good against some of this comes down to your taste. There's no exact rule on it, but I think that looks really good. And I think I'll turn it down just a bit because it didn't push it a little more in the red section. And I really like the way that looks. And another way I'd written inch that richness as, let's say, you've got your base and things are looking a little dole to you. Things aren't looking great. We're going to go ahead and select it. And I'm gonna Control U to bring up our hue saturation. Let's just increase the saturation a little bit on that base. And automatically is going to give you more saturation. You could turn it down a little bit if you want to create it to be a little more subtle and keep it still Bridge to match your character. So this really does come down to some personal taste. Personally, kind of like the way I had it. I just want to let you know about those options. You could also do same thing with some of your shadows in your depth. You can rarely increased the saturation on those if you want and go ham. Now we're bringing her up a lot. We can turn those down and it's going to give you a different look now actually like this, a little bit better. So sometimes it is worth to play with it, mess around a little bit and see what kind of effects that you can end up having. So I really like the way this was looking as far as the depth goes. Next, we're going to be going back into some fine strand work. 8. Highlights and Finishing Touches: Alright, we're going to be adding highlights and guess what? Wrapping it up at some final touches. So on a brand new layer then this one's going to be right on top. We are going to be doing a little bit of highlighting. So this is very, very simple to just take a soft brush and we're going to color, pick a lighter color. And once again, we can go to something. You could, you could test different things, but we can even try and like a nice soft line at first, let's bring up the coloring a little bit less such ran a little more towards the white spectrum for our hues going into our brush. And we're going to start looking at where are the highlights going. So on the face we can see it kinda goes up through this section. I'm going to bring it up and it's a little too saturated right now. That's okay. I'm not too worried about it. I can turn that down. Same thing here. Bringing it up right here. There's a curve here. So it's going to be getting a little more light there. Same thing with over here. A little more like they're right here. How about a little bit here? A little too much flow on that. Turned down my brush and go in here. And I'll zoom back in and add a little more up on the top here. And if I talk about that on off, you can see that adding a little bit more dimension. Now it's a little too hot for me so to speak. So I'm actually going to turn down that saturation just a bit. And now I have some nice highlights. Now if you want something more dramatic, you can of course, scroll through your different options. You can go to Linear Dodge ads should you want, and turn that down and get something? I'm like this. There's always know Color Dodge, Of course, if you want something more in the shiny realm, there's screen's going to add a little bit on this one anyway, a little bit of dullness. So you can kinda just dabble a brown switching linear light for this. That might be really pretty since I do have this kind of glossy oiled skin, I think that might end up being quite a nice fit for what I like. Now I think over here it's just sending out a little bit to me. So it's as simple as just taking some of that away, no problem there. And then for some very, very final touches, what I like to do is create a new layer. We're going to put this back on our brush mode and go ahead, head to our brushes. And now you'll see, I do have this last little brush. We did skip the harder fill-in strands. Feel free to use that one too if you want. But I'm just gonna go right to my thin strain brush. This just gets down to like your mood and preferences and what you're vibing with. So on this one, I'm going to actually make this our lightest color possible. And this is where I'm gonna zoom in really close. And I'm going to start on those highlight parks. Craning r little, r, little flyways. Make the brush a little bit thin. Again, some of this comes down to personal preference and just start making a few little special flyways. Hair to create a little bit of that beauty. Loan the naturalness to it. This is going to be your preference. I want you to find and be able to explore your preferences. In here. It might cut out a little bit like mine at first, because as we learn, that's just how it works when you're learning from any kind of teacher or less than that in time, you're going to find and adapt your style and go, oh, yeah, now I can combine a little bit of what I've learned here with a little bit over here. And you're gonna make your own little version of what suits you perfectly and becomes your signature hair, your signature base, kind of straight hair that works for you. And then if we see that, you can see this is kind of going over part of her face. So we're going to we're going to actually clean that up. We're gonna find our layer. I think that's going to be on our depth layer. Yes, it is. And I go ahead and I could mask or I can just delete. But for the sake of being a little less destructive, I'm actually going to mass just in case I needed to go back. And I'm going to remove this area from the face. Oh, mixture here on the right. Brush. Erasers not gonna do anything on that. So let's go ahead and give that a try. And there we go. That's working just perfectly. Same thing on this side. Just clean it up a little bit. And also as a final touch right above the layer where that character is going to be. So this is gonna be under all of the hair. We're going to make a new layer and I'm going to go ahead, go to soft brush, turned down my flow. I'm going to color Select a darker shade from here. And we're gonna create a little bit shadow because you can see there's a little bit of shadowing here. So I'm going to create a little shadow. And this is how it starts to look really natural. And the hair, we don't want to forget about those shadows. They're gonna be on the hair, on the skin. And I can see that there's something a little bit funny happening here. I think a little bit of the hair is touching that, so we're gonna go fix that. But for now, we're going to look at this. There's different modes. Multiply. It can be really nice. Sometimes an overlay can be really lovely. Sometimes normal mode. I'm gonna go to multiply. And I might try warming this up a little bit by increasing saturation and lightness. I don't know if that did a whole lot, but that's okay. She's got some cool toned shadows. I'm gonna remove a little bit of it off of her forehead, broken, typically a natural highlight. And that's not looking too bad. You can see there's a little bit of something going on right here. We're just going to find that layer. And oh, it's that same layer you can see it's kind of going on her face. So let's go ahead and select that. Make sure we're in our brush tool, which is going to actually this soft promotion. It's actually this layer. Mask it out. And this is something you could always do, right? When you're making that here too. I just tend to wait until the very end because I don't really mind too much other things we can look at and go home and there's a little gap here. This looks a little funny. So all we have to do is create a base layer under everything. Go ahead and color, pick one of these darker ones. Let's get our brush. One could do a strand Brush. The thicker precious no matter where it's going to fill in a little bit. So you're gonna go through and you're just perfect in those little things as little spots where maybe their hairs going over the face too much. Maybe there's little gaps that you've missed, just small things. But I want to do that to the end because if you do that as you go, you might really be wasting your time in things are never going to see, wait until you've got everything kind of figured out and then go back and started zooming in and really perfecting through those little details. Because sometimes the things we focus on, they might just get eaten up and lost in the final image. And then there's nothing there. There's just nothing to gain by that. You might get a little practice, but as you go and you wanna make sure you're being efficient with your time and having things flow quickly. Now I really, really like this. Something interesting that I see happening though, are those shadows kind of bothering me? So this isn't exactly part of your hair lesson, but for me, I'm gonna go ahead and warm those up and that can sometimes happen a little bit with hair. So what we're gonna do is we're gonna go ahead and warm up the shadows. Just gonna do a little bit of this pink. Turn that onto a color mode. Bring it way, way down. Bring it below the hair. And now I've warmed it up and now I feel like it's blending just a little bit better with the actual hair itself. I feel like now she's she's flushed and it's not too cool to my toggle that off. I think she's looking a little greyed out, but now when it's on, I think I like that kind of warned. You can even play with this and adjust what that might look like and you might find that that happens on your own work. So we've pretty much wrapped up this hair. It's looking really good, really natural. I like it a lot. You can do some final little things with your strands like we did last time where you go in, you kinda remove a little end caps if he wanted just to make sure things aren't too thick it any spots you saw how we've done that before, kinda play with it, see what you think. But now you've been able to create some natural straight looking hair. 9. Final Thoughts: We've just covered how to illustrate straight hair. That's going to be the foundational base for all the hair that you create. You've learned how to pick your references, you know how to make fewer strokes count for more. You can create the straight locks on any character and get that shape and flow for hair movement. I really want to see what you're going to be posting in the project section of class. I am excited to answer any questions. See what you've made. So please try this out with your character. Come back and do a few books, try different things. I am just so excited to see how this is going to help you out. So get to painting and I'll see you soon.