Digital art

How to paint an individual and convincing beard

ArtRage beard tutorial

Even hardened heroes need a spot of male grooming from time to time, and Nick Harris is on hand to explain how to keep those beards in check.


Nick Harris
Nick Harris
Gloucestershire-based Nick went digital in 2000 after 18 years’ working with traditional methods. He works mainly on children’s illustrations, and is a regular ImagineFX art mentor.

It’s important not only to match the way you render facial hair to the overall look of the image, but also to echo the personality of the character in the beard.

There’s an array of beards to choose from: long or short, curly or straight, tidy or unkempt, thin or bushy. And we haven’t even mentioned colours and tones.

Take into account volume and lighting when adding a beard to your character. It will have form, just like the hair on top of the head. Check out real examples. Facial hair doesn’t always match head hair type and colour. It is, of course, affected by the contours of the face, the mouth and jaw movement.

Unless it’s a really skimpy affair, as with the ancient and infirm perhaps, I first imagine it boxed in with cardboard or something similar. Make it thinner where it ‘blends’ into the facial features, otherwise it may actually look like cardboard.

We don’t want that. Hair isn’t naturally rigid and will move if the character is in motion. Use this to add interest to a scene.

For this tutorial, I'll be using ArtRage 3.

Step-by-step: Use ArtRage to paint a beard with character


I usually draw the beardless face first, to better understand how the contours may affect it. It also makes me think more about how it merges with the face.

How far up the cheek does it come, and does it cover the chin completely?

ArtRage beard tutorial


Once I’ve decided on a suitable beard style, I’ll address volume and how the length and hair type affects how it looks.

Different types of beard will call for different approaches to rendering them.

ArtRage bead tutorial


I just used basic brushes in my image, but you could also try using ready-made brushes as in ArtRage3’s Sticker sets.

I would also work some variation into the beard too, using other brush types to avoid it seeming too perfect.

ArtRage beard tutorial


Understanding how the shape, size and colour of a beard affects a character will add depth to your images.

Nick's tutorial was featured in ImagineFX issue 59 as part of our Artist Q&A.

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