Individual Hairs Made Easy

One of the hardest parts about drawing in coloured pencil is how difficult it is to use a lighter pencil on top of a dark one. Though you can to a certain extent, I’ve found I don’t get the nice crisp, clean lines I’m looking for. I thought today I’d share some of the techniques I use to get those detailed fine hairs in my coloured pencil drawings.

Draw on top

This can work for softer lines or out of focus fur, and depends a lot on the texture of your paper. I tend to really fill in the tooth of my paper, so often time lighter pencils don’t have a lot of paper for the pigment to grip onto when I’m at the last stages of a drawing. But I do use this to lighten areas of a drawing, like an eye or a nose. If you are using this for finer hairs, you want to make sure your pencils are really really sharp.

Draw around them

This is the hardest method, and is very time consuming. Basically, you just don’t colour in the area that has the lighter, fine hairs. This requires a ton of patience and time, and in my experience, doesn’t look all that good. This is primarily because if you’re doing your best to avoid drawing on top of a little wispy hair, it’s very hard to keep your dark strokes going in the direction of the fur – it’s easier to outline the little hairs, but that makes the fur beneath not look as good. I’m sure there are artist out there who can do this really well, I’m just not one of them. I use this technique for bigger clumps of fur, or if the lighter hairs are going in the same direction as the darker ones.


This is a good one, though I’ve been using it less and less lately. Using a small tool, press down onto your paper, and make whatever mark you’re looking for. I usually use this for whiskers or fine hairs in a coat. Once you’ve applied the stroke, you can colour over the line and the indents will show through. Best of all, you don’t need anything fancy for this technique — I actually use the metal point of a mechanical pencil. You do want to make sure you’re not using a tool that could get caught and rip your paper. For different coloured lines, you can put a base layer on the paper and then indent, preserving the colours you’ve put down. 

Slice Tool

This has become my new favourite technique. Slice tools are ceramic knives which you can order online from a bunch of different places. The blades, when used gently, scrape pigment off the paper without damaging the paper itself. This is great when you’ve added lots of layers, as you can take off just the top layers to reveal the colour underneath. It’s a great tool, I highly recommend it!

A very quick and rough demonstration of the four techniques from this post – overlay, drawing around, indenting and slice tool.

What techniques do you use to draw fine hairs in coloured pencil? Share in the comments!

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