How to Sculpt Hair in 3D Modeling

Learn how to sculpt hair like a pro!
by Andrew Krivulya (source:

Ask any 3D artist about creating hair and fur, and they will likely share horror stories of never-ending projects and nearly unsolvable challenges. Whether aiming for photorealistic humans, cartoonish animals, hairy fantasy creatures, or fur-covered inanimate objects, prepare for a genuine challenge. Learn how to sculpt hair like a pro with our step-by-step tutorial.

Why are hair textures so challenging to create in 3D modeling?

Without any doubt, hair textures rank among the most challenging 3D design tasks. Even seasoned 3D artists can spend countless hours perfecting hair and fur textures. To illustrate the 3D art community’s sentiments on the subject, let’s quote a question from a 3D forum:

"How do you sculpt hair without going insane?"

Among the hilarious answers, you can find the following ones:

"That's the neat part: you don't."

"Who said anything about retaining sanity?"

"As someone who’s been modeling the same 3D model’s hair for at least a few weeks by now, I gotta tell ya', the only way to do it without going insane is to be experienced. If you’ve done it a lot of times, it’ll be quick and easy. If you haven’t, strap yourself in and be ready for a bumpy ride."

"I’ve been making 3D hair for years, basically how I learned 3D modeling, and now my whole job is primarily making hair, and it’s still a tedious process. If you get really good at it though and you like it you can get a job easier cus everyone hates making hair."

It is clear to see that creating hair and fur is widely considered to be a difficult 3D modeling task, but why exactly? The answer lies in the fine details of the hair texture, which consists of hundreds or even thousands of individual hairs. It can take a lot of time to create a stunning-looking 3D object with so many tiny details.

Three main ways of creating hair in 3D modeling

Hair sculpting (polygonal hair modeling)

Hair sculpting, also known as polygonal hair modeling, is a straightforward and effective method for creating hair in 3D modeling. By mimicking Michelangelo’s techniques, you can craft stunning 3D portraits with detailed hair or fur.

Shapelab is an excellent option for manually sculpting hair on your 3D characters. Explore the fantastic features it has to offer!

NURBS (Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines)

NURBS (Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines) is a mathematical representation used for 3D objects. Among other things, NURBS can be utilized to create hair for 3D models. Once the hair strands are shaped, you can apply textures to them—stylized textures are simpler, but realistic textures are also an option.

Learn how to crate hair with curves in 3D modeling! (source: Artstation, Ethan Snell)
by Ethan Snell (source:

Procedural hair with hair systems

A particle system can quickly populate a landscape with trees, mimicking randomness much better than placing each tree manually. Hair systems use the same concept but apply it to countless tiny hair strands, making it easier to achieve a realistic look. Maya’s XGen and Blender’s hair particle system are among the most popular options.

3D grooming (Andrew Krivulya, Artstation)
by Andrew Krivulya (source:

How to choose the best method for creating hair for your 3D model

Feeling stuck trying to decide which method to use for creating hair on your 3D model? Here are some useful  tips to help you choose the perfect method:

  • If you want a stylized look, NURBS is the ideal choice.
  • If you are aiming for a more realistic appearance, the procedural hair method is a better fit.
  • Remember to experiment with different methods to find out what works best for your design.

Elevate your design skills with Shapelab!

Shapelab is a VR design application offering a variety of powerful polygon mesh-based sculpting tools, for both aspiring creatives and experienced 3D artists. Step into our virtual lab and release your creativity, make your models, and perfect your ideas through digital sculpting!