Black hair, comics, and you.


If you have been sent here, the likelihood is that someone asked you to draw a black woman at one point and you completely screwed it up. I kid! I kid! Seriously though, I’m here to help. Together, you and I will go through some of the most popular hairstyles for black women. Never again will you have leagues of black women giving you the side-eye and bitching you out in blogs. Ready? Let’s go!

Naturally Straight. This is the easiest style to draw, so let’s get it out of the way first. Some black women do have naturally straight hair. You already know how to draw this. Damn near every female character in comics has hair like this. Just do what you’ve always done and you’re good to go. Characters: Storm (Black Panther), Empress (Young Justice).

Example 1

Press & Curl / Dominican Blow Out. This is hair that has been temporarily straightened with the help of a hot metal comb or hairdryer. It frizzes up easily. Humidity is its enemy. It differs from naturally straight hair in that it usually has a simple sheen instead of the shiny appearance of naturally straight locks. It’s thicker and slightly poofy. Character: Thomasina Lindo (Welcome to Tranquility).

Example 1

Relaxed. This is hair that has been permanently straightened with the aid of chemicals such as sodium hydroxide, guanidine hydroxide, and ammonium thioglycolate. These chemicals penetrate the hair shaft and permanently break down the protein chains in the hair in order to remove the curl pattern. They can also burn the hell out of your scalp if you aren’t careful. Short styles usually work better with relaxed hair because relaxed hair is delicate and prone to breakage. Relaxed hair has a pretty sheen that is similar to hair that has been pressed and curled but is usually not as thick. Characters: Vixen (JLA), Amanda Waller (Checkmate).

Example 1

Afro. This hairstyle is extremely tightly coiled all over. Occasionally, the front of the hair may be pulled back tight enough for it to appear straight. Alternatively, the front section of the hair might be tightly woven into cornrows. This is not your mother’s Afro. Wait, this is not my mother’s Afro. Your mother didn’t have an Afro. If she did, you wouldn’t need to be reading this.

Modern Afros have a less structured shape than older styles. All Afros do have a visible texture and all Afros do reflect light. Do not use a solid black color or perfectly round circle to depict this hairstyle if you are not an artist with a “cartoony” style. The contrast will be jarring and the hairstyle will appear dated. Character: Misty Knight (Heroes for Hire).

Example 1, Example 2

Texturized. This hairstyle is very similar in style to the Afro, but the curl pattern is not as tight. I can’t think of one character with this hairstyle! This is funny to me, because so many people I know are wearing it. I even wear it once in a while.

Example 1, Example 2

Cornrows. Hair is tightly braided close to the scalp in neat rows. This is a popular hairstyle for several black characters in comics. Unfortunately, many artists who choose to portray characters with this hairstyle get the hair-to-scalp ratio wrong. It makes the characters they draw appear to be suffering from extreme hair loss. There should generally be more hair than scalp visible. Character: Starlight (52).

Example 1, Example 2, Example 3

Box braids. Hair is divided into small sections and braided. The number of individual braids can range from a few dozen to several hundred. This is a very simple hairstyle to have—if you have telekinetic powers. Character: Lightbright (Silver Sable).

Example 1, Example 2

Twists. Hair is divided into sections. Each individual section is then divided into two sections. The two sections should then be twisted around each other in a clockwise direction. When completed, each two-strand twist should resemble a rope. Two strand twists do have a texture and do reflect light. Do not use flat black lines to depict this hairstyle. Character: Monica Rambeau (Nextwave).

Example 1, Example 2, Example 3

Locks (dreadlocks, sisterlocks). Explaining how to create this style would take entirely too long and would not be as useful as providing a visual reference, so I have simply included pictures! Character: Cecilia Reyes (Uncanny X-Men).

Example 1, Example 2

Okay, folks. We’re done. And yet there are so many more hairstyles that I haven’t even mentioned yet! Bantu knots are pretty neat. And weaves are a whole post in itself. However, that will have to wait for another day!