MFT Academy – Coloring Hair with Copic Markers

Welcome back to the MFT Academy.  Michele is returning as our Guest Professor and today she’ll be showing you how to color hair with Copic Markers. She’s working with a series of images, so she’ll have lots of tips and tricks to share with you.


Before we begin, there are a few things to keep in mind when coloring hair.  Hair is not one flat color. For example, brunette hair has a basic brown color, and also contains both highlight and shadow.  The amount and location of each will depend on the light source. To simplify this tutorial, we’ll assume all light sources are subtle and coming from the front. Another important “rule” to remember is that your marker strokes should always go in the same direction as the hair.  You’ll see more about that in just a bit.
Remember that when “blending” one hair color into another, it is not necessary to smoothly blend the colors.  It is also okay to leave white areas uncolored. We’ll color hair three ways in this tutorial, simple hair using Pure Innocence, and then two more detailed examples of hair-coloring using the new Doodle Garden line.  Let’s get started!

Coloring Simple Hair – Pure Innocence Freckles
In the photo below, you can see the difference made by adding just a few areas of shadow.  Begin by adding short strokes of Y21 on both sides of the part in the hair, moving down toward the center of the head. Then start down by the corners by the ears, adding strokes up towards the center of the head.  Leave a small bit of white in the center to create a highlight.
As illustrated below, add additional strokes with each of the deeper colors, each time using slightly shorter strokes.  Each time, you will begin at the part and move down, then start again near the ear, and move up.  Lastly, blend the edges of the darker colors using the lighter Y21 marker.  If you look closely you can see that a bit of white was left just behind the barrette to create a brighter highlight.

You can see a quick video of these techniques in action HERE, or simply click play below:

Here are some other recommended color combinations for simple hair.

Coloring More Detailed Hair – Doodle Garden Hunny Bunny

Let’s move onto a more detailed image.  The principles here are the same, however you have more space to work with.  In the following photo, I’ve drawn arrows to indicate the direction of the marker strokes.  Since this hair is straight, all the strokes will be straight up or straight down.

Step 1:  Begin by adding strokes of Y21, lifting the marker lightly off the paper at the end of each stroke as demonstrated above.
Step 2:  Using E31, begin to build shadow.  The strokes will be shorter than those used in Step 1.
Step 3:  Using E35, and even shorter strokes, continue to deepen the shadow.
Step 4:  Using very small strokes with the E39 marker, create the deepest shadow just along the edges of the hair and around the hairband.
Step 5:  Use E35 to blend the edges of E39 using straight strokes and lifting the marker lightly off the paper at the end of each stroke.  

Coloring Hair with More Detail and Curl – Doodle Garden Far Out
With this next image, we’ll take a look at how to color more complex hair. Notice that this image has different directions within each of the strands.  Some pieces of hair seem to go behind others, and there are places where the hair curls forward.
For example, look at the longest strand of hair in the ponytail on the right.  The pointed tip (A) appears to curl just a bit, creating a shadow.  Moving up, the strand of hair widens and curls forward (B), toward our eye, which would create a highlight. The hair then curls back (C), creating a shadow, then forward again (D), creating a highlight.  As we move up, the hair strand becomes tighter (E) so the hair will be darker. Light will hit the top bend of the hair (F), and as we move into the area of the hairband (G), the hair is very tight so this area will appear darker.
Of course, light source plays a major role in the location of highlight and shadow which turns into an entire area of study on its own. To simplify things here, I have assumed the light is coming from the upper left.
Step 1:  Using E13, lay the base color for the hair, leaving the areas of highlight white.
Step 2: Using E15, begin to add a deeper shadow.  The strokes should be shorter than those used in Step 1.
Step 3:  Blend the E15 edges using E13.  The blending strokes should continue to be in the same direction as the flow of the hair.
Step 4:  Use the E18 marker to add the deepest shadow.

Step 5:  Use the E15 marker to blend the edges of E18.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial and that you will be inspired to try your hand at the technique. Use the keyword MFTED3 in your gallery upload on Splitcoaststampers so we can admire your creations!
If you have any questions, please email, and we’ll be happy to help you!
You’ll find links to the products used in today’s tutorial just below:

57 Responses to MFT Academy – Coloring Hair with Copic Markers

  1. 1
    KathyC says:

    Thanks for all the instruction. I like the highlights so I know I can practice that! Thanks!

  2. 2
    Michele L. says:

    This is absolutely FANTASTIC!
    Thanks so much for this tutorial! :-)

  3. 3

    Thank you SO MUCH for this tutorial! Coloring hair is my biggest problem. This will definitely help!

  4. 4
    conil says:

    This was a truly useful post. Thanks for sharing.

  5. 5
    Tricia Barber says:

    Thank you so much!! This has really been helpful!

  6. 6
    Jennifer Watkins says:

    Thanks for the very detailed instructions. I would love more of these tutorials!!!!!


  7. 7
    Amy Rohl says:

    This tutorial rocks, Michele! So easy to follow with just the right visuals!!

  8. 8
    TammyT says:

    Thank you for a wonderful coloring lesson. Would you consider doing one to teach us how you color and add the grass to ground your person and/or object.

  9. 9

    WOW!! Such an AWESOME Tutorial!! LOVED the video!! THANKS for sharing and I can’t wait to give this a try I am very NEW to copics, but would LOVE to learn how to color this GREAT!! Have a Fabulous Weekend!! =)

  10. 10
    Leslie says:

    This is a fantastic tutorial – thank you SO much! I loved that you drew arrows for us and gave us three different hair types. I know I will be referring to this again and again!

  11. 11
    Karen Harris says:

    Thanks so much, Michelle, for such a detailed tutorial. Your instructions and video are clear and precise. I’ve put this tutorial in my favorites so I can refer to it when I want to color one of MFT’s little cuties.

  12. 12
    Cindy Hammel says:

    Your instructions are perfect! Thanks so much!

  13. 13
    Sabrina R says:

    Perfect timing! I really needed this right now. Thank you for the tutorial and tips.

  14. 14
    Janeen says:

    thank you so much. i am very open to learning more about shading and coloring with copics. really really appreciate this.

  15. 15
    Debbie Olson says:

    Fabulous job, Michelle!

  16. 16
    mikki says:

    Great tutorial!

  17. 17

    Another GREAT tutorial…MFT Academy ROCKS!

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    Linda Carson says:

    Extremely helpful!! Thank you so much!

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