Blog, Painting Tutorials

Painting red hair in oil paint

This week I set up my new studio in the spare room of our new house!! All very exciting, the most exciting thing is that my studio looks out to my backyard- and our beautiful orange tree! So. Happy.

I havent painted anything in months, so am here starting a newbie and thought I’d do a demo on painting red hair in oil paint. It’s actually a simple process to get to this stage. In my next post I will go about finishing the hair in more detail with tips on getting the hair to look shiny and much more realistic.

Photo above: Firstly as with all of my oil paintings I start with an acrylic wash, just to add a bit of colour to a stark white canvas, and also to place my darks in. These darks will act as an underpainting for when I paint the darks in oils. Dark oil paint is usually transparent so this method saves me repeating layers in oil paint to get colour opacity.

redhair_demo!Above photo: Now with my oil paint I mark in the dark areas of the hair using a burnt umber. I then mark in the highlights of the hair in a yellow ochre light.

redhaor_demo2Above photo: I then mark in the medium colour of the hair, this will be a red head so thats why the burnt orange is the chosen colour. I used cadmium red and yellow ochre to get this shade. Now that all of the colours are blocked in I am ready to blend.

redhair_demo3Above photo: With a stiff bristly brush about 10mm wide (the painting is 14′ x 18′) I paint from the crown of the hair all the way to the ends of the hair following the flow of the hair strands. Make sure to clean your brush with each brush stroke as the paint build up by brushing through the hair strands, will dirty up your new brushstrokes. This is a super easy way to paint hair and get realistic hair flow marks and colour differentiation using colour and tone. I’ve stopped here and will now let this layer of oil paint dry.

liquin glazeOnce the paint is dry I then go over the whole hair with a cadmium glaze. A glaze is a mixture of medium (I use Windsor and Newton Liquin medium and paint). By mixing the paint with Liquin you create a semi transparent layer, and in this case this semi transparent layer of cadmium red played over the entire hair area enhances the red hair.

art by Rose Miller of Wolfgang and Rose Art

Have a great week!

Painted with love,

Wolfgang and Rose xox


6 thoughts on “Painting red hair in oil paint”

  1. Thanks so much for your tutorial on hair! You wouldn’t happen to be up for doing a tutorial on beard hair?


    1. Thanks Julie, hope it helps. With painting beards its a similar process, firstly paint the skin area the colour it would be without a beard. Keep it thin (as in not too thick) Then the same as you would do hair, put the beard colours down but instead with a spikey sparse brush. And old round brush with stiff bristles would be great. Kind of like a toothbrush texture. Rather than paint the colour on in long strokes, keep the strokes more like dabbing on but in small bursts in the direction of hair growth. So what you end up with is skin colour but with bristly strokes of a beard. Now carefully blend both beard and skin together in short strokes in direction of beard. What you should have is the effect of stuble when dry. Once dry you can repeat this process but only painting the beard on. The layers of beard should eventually cover up skin that was painted underneath, but still looks realistic as you should see some graduation of skin to beard area in places, Look carefully at a beard, not al areas are full with beard, on some you can still see skin so this is why beards can be painted in this method. Hope this helps. 🙂

  2. Thanks for the red hair advise. I was painting a Renoir , Jeanne portrait with red hair. Looks much better now. And congratulations on moving to a new home , nothing like new digs. Thanks again.

  3. Today I was struggling to paint red hair and decided to Google it. What a happy event to stumble upon your blog and website! Thanks for the great tips. Your paintings are positively eye candy, and have made my day.

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