Wednesday, January 17, 2018

How to Draw a Cowboy Hat

Whether you’re a fan of country clothes and music or not, you most likely know what a cowboy hat looks like. And yet drawing a cowboy hat may prove to be unexpectedly challenging.

Now I’m nowhere near being a real cowboy, but I grew up on country music and I’m still a fan to this day. Needless to say, people find something aesthetic about the country lifestyle, and I intend to draw a small piece of that lifestyle today. There’s no reason why you can’t learn to draw along with me.

There isn’t a lot you need to learn how to draw a cowboy hat.

First, you should know that cowboy hats are made up of three main parts: the crown, hat band, and brim. Second, you need to gather the few items that I’ve listed for you below:

  • Three graphite pencils: HB, 2B, and 4B. These three pencils use leads of varying softness and produce different shades on the paper. For most graphite pencils, “H” stands for hard and “B” stands for soft. So, an HB pencil sits in the middle of the scale and is the equivalent of a #2 pencil. Meanwhile, a 2B and 4B pencil use soft leads and leave darker marks on the paper. Also, just in case you didn’t figure it out already, a 4B pencil is softer, and thus darker, than a 2B pencil.
  • Paper (I used a small sketchbook to draw my cowboy hat, but you can use any size paper you want)
  • Reference photograph seen below
© Gstockstudio1 |

Once you’ve got all your materials, grab your pencil and follow along to learn how to draw a cowboy hat.

Draw the Crown and Hat Band

Step 1 – To start our cowboy hat, we’ll draw the outline of the crown and hat band. Using your HB pencil, draw a rectangle that it rounded at its top two corners. On the reference picture, the top front of the hat curves in a bit as it reaches its peak. You want to make sure to include this slight curve, otherwise the crown of your cowboy hat may look too flat and fake.

Once you have the crown outlined, draw the hat band. This is just a small rectangle that runs along the hat crown near the bottom. You want to make sure you leave some space between the bottom of the crown and the bottom of the hat band.


Step 2 – After you’ve got the outline, you can start adding in some more details. On the hat crown, add in a quick line to indicate where the crown crease is. This line is shaped like a half circle and the bottom of your crown crease should curve just past half-way down the entire hat crown outline. Next, focus on the hat band. Make sure you indicate where the highlights and shadows are along the hat brim and take the time to mark in the stitches or other details of the hat band.

Draw the Brim

Okay, now that we’ve got that crown and hat band out of the way, we want to focus on the brim.

Step 3 – When you’re drawing the brim, it’s best to start with the front part of the brim. In my picture, the front part of the brim is almost rhombus-shaped. To get this drawn, you want to start at the bottom front corner of the hat crown. Then, draw a line at an angle away from the crown. To make sure you get the right length for the line, compare the height of the crown with the height of the brim. The brim height should be about half the height of the crown.

Starting around the middle of the crown, draw another line that runs parallel to the front line that you just drew. Then, draw a line to connect the two lines to complete the rhombus shape.


Step 4 – After this part is done, you can work on the brim’s right side. Draw a half circle that connects the front left corner of the rhombus you drew to the top of the hat band. You can then draw a narrow seam along the front of this entire section.


Step 5 – Now for the brim’s left side.

This side goes up and follows along the right side of the rhombus you drew earlier. The rhombus side should be the top part of the seam and the seam’s curve peaks just above the top of the hat band. After the curve peak, draw the brim so that it dips slightly as it moves to the back. Extend the top seam line to the back outline of your hat crown.

You then want to finish drawing the bottom part of the seam by extending the line from the front part of the brim. The width of this line should stay the same through the entire left side of the hat and the peak of this bottom line’s curve touches right at the top of the hat band.


Step 6 – You now want to complete the rest of the brim. Continue drawing the seam line past the back of the hat crown. This line will go down at a very slight angle. You want there to be a clear downward slope off the back of the brim peak, but you don’t want it to be extreme. By the time you reach the very back of the brim, the top line of the seam should be roughly in line the bottom line of the hat band. When checking this, make sure you continue along the angle of the hat band as opposed to measuring in a straight line parallel to the bottom edge of your paper.

You then want to curve the brim downward so that it is level with the lowest point of the front of the brim. To prepare for the next part, also draw a slightly curved line about a third of the way down from the top of the hat brim.

Draw the Head

If you want to just draw a cowboy hat and skip the head, that’s fine. But a hat needs something to sit on, so I’m going to draw at least the top part of the head.

Step 7 – Starting the head is pretty simple: just begin with the ear. Draw a small line down from the bottom of the brim to represent the top of the head. This line should be placed just slightly inside the line of the crown.

The curve of the ear meets at this line, so you want to start the ear a bit lower and slightly in front of the line you just drew. Curve the ear upwards and, after reaching the line, continue this curve downwards until you complete the earlobe. A little more than one-third of the bottom of the ear should be below the bottom line of the hat brim.

Finally, fill in the inner and outer characteristics of the ear – including a line that is placed next to the outer line of the ear and continued about two-thirds of the way down and the detail of the inner ear and the opening into the ear canal – and draw the back of the neck.


Step 8 – This part’s pretty easy because you just need to draw the hair. The top of the back hair line connects to the start of the ear. It then curves down to create the small sideburn. You want to finish the sideburn when it’s slightly above the bottom of the ear. Then, go back to the brim and draw a line just behind the point where the brim turns downward in front. Curve this line down and have it run parallel to the back line of the sideburn until the two are of equal length. Finish off the hair by drawing a straight line and closing off the sideburn.


Step 9 – Now onto the eyes. We’ll start with just the almond-shaped eye outlines to make sure the placement is correct before adding in the details.

The eyes should line up roughly with the top of the ear. But you have to remember that the head is tilted. The farthest eye sits slightly below the lowest part of the front brim. Draw the other side of the head just in front on the corner turn on the brim and start the eye a little bit in front of this. At the inner part of this eye, draw a small line down to represent the nose.

For the second eye, start the corner at the same level as the first eye. The outer corner of the eye should then be angled a bit higher towards the top of the ear. To make sure you get the distance between the two eyes right, compare it to the length of the first eye. You should be able to roughly fit the length of the first eye in the space between the two eyes.


Step 10 – You can now fill in the details of the eyes. Draw the irises, pupil, and eye highlight based on the reference picture. The iris should be in the back half of both eyes as if the cowboy is looking at you. The pupil should then be in the middle of the iris.

After the details of the eye are all filled in, add the eyebrows. These should follow the same angle as the eyes and should be just longer than the eyes. The bottom of the eyebrow is just above the top of the eye.

Shade the Hat Band and Crown

You’ve now finished the outline of your cowboy hat. Feel free to leave your drawing as an outline if you want. But if you don’t, I’ll discuss how to go about shading your picture in the next couple sections.


Step 11 – As you begin shading in your picture, switch your pencil to your 2B pencil. This will provide you with a darker line that will make shading a bit easier. As you can see in the picture, I have another piece of paper under my hand. I use this to keep my hand from smudging the picture. Plus, it keeps the side of my hand from getting covered in pencil. It isn’t necessary, but it does help.

I’ll begin with shading the hat band since it’s smaller. Using your 2B pencil, shade in the edges of the hat band darkly. As you move toward the middle, lighten the value to mimic the highlight of the band. You will want to check your shading against the reference picture to make sure you get the values just right.

This process will end up hiding the hat band details that you drew in earlier as part of the outline. Using a sharp pencil, go back over these lines after you’ve shaded the band to make the fine details and stitching darker and more easily visible at the different levels.

You should also shade in the small part of the cowboy hat between the hatband and brim. This section should be shaded in a similar manner as the band, but the value in the middle will remain dark since it is shadowed by the hatband.


Step 12 – Once you’ve got the hatband done, move on to the front of the crown and the hat crease. Draw along the front line of the crown to make it darker and more visible. Then, gradually shade that line to a lighter gradient as you move towards the crown crease. You still want the crown to be a darker value than the highlight on the hat band since light is not reflecting off its surface. There should be a small crease at the top of the crown. You should make this crease darker, as well, so that it stands out.

For the large hat crease, trace along the front half of the line to make it darker. As I mentioned earlier, this line should curve from just below the top of the crown to around the middle of the crown. Once you’ve darkened the line, continue the dark value on the inside of the hat crease.


Step 13 – As you move more towards the back of the hat, gradually lighten the value to match the shading you put on the front of the crown. After the halfway point on the crease, switch the dark value to the outside of the crease line. Shade away from the line to cover the rest of the hat crown.

Make sure you leave the back half of the crown slightly darker than the front half. The reason you do this is because the light source is coming from the front. As a result, the front of the hat will get more light, thus making it appear brighter in color, than the back of the hat. Further, the area of the crown that is covered by the brim should be shaded in more darkly. This creates a 3D appearance and demonstrates that the brim is creating a shadow on the crown of the cowboy hat.

Shade the Brim

The only part of the hat that you have left to shade is the brim. For this part, I am still using my 2B pencil and I still have my protective piece of paper to prevent smudging.

Step 14 – You should start shading the brim on the right side so you don’t track your hand back through your drawing. The area where the brim curves back should be the darkest. This area connects right in front of the hat crown and band that you’ve already completed. Make sure you also make it darker on the seam of the brim since this part is also covered by the rest of the hat. To make sure it’s clear where the hat crown begins, you can leave a small strip section of paper unshaded. You can see that I’ve done this in my picture.

As you continue around the right side of brim, you want to change the value in accordance with the light source. It should be slightly darker underneath the brim seam and should get lighter as you reach the beginning of the front of the brim. You also want to make the underside of the seam a bit darker to show that it is 3D.


Step 15 – As you continue onto the front of the brim, continue matching the values created by the creases in the hat. The line that originally served as the marker for the front of the brim should be made dark to indicate that the hat is curving. Then, the rhombus that made up the rest of the front brim should get lighter as it moves toward the middle.

Keep making it a bit darker underneath the seam of the brim as your work on the front. And don’t forget to add shadow to the very bottom of the seam.

Once you reach the side of the brim, the brim seam should be lightest right down the middle. Make both the bottom and top of this seam dark to show where the hat is turning up and where it is covering the rest of the brim. You’ll need to shade in part of the underside of the brim, as well. This section should be slightly darker than the seam.


Step 16 – You can now work on the second half of the brim. Extend the shading from the seam all the way to the end and try to keep this section somewhat light. Underneath the seam, focus on using darker values.

The darkest section of the brim is right behind the ear. This section covers a triangle-shaped area that extends from just above the ear to about half-way back the remainder of the brim. There will be some brim left underneath this section. When shading this area, you can make it a bit lighter, but make sure there is a dark line wherever the brim meets the ear.


Step 17 – To finish off the brim, you just continue shading in the direction of the brim shape. That means that your shading should curve in the same places that the brim curves.

Right above the head and the section behind the ear, make the hat slightly lighter to show where the hat turns underneath. Then, the back curve of the brim should also be darker, but not as dark as the section behind the ear.

Make sure you blend everything together on the brim and then you’re ready for the next part.

Shade the Rest of the Drawing

Step 18 – This is the final part of shading the cowboy hat. For this, you need to switch to your 4B pencil to make sure you get the darkest values possible.

With your 4B pencil, go over the darkest parts of the shading you completed in the last two parts. This includes the section behind the ear, the area along the top and far right of the brim, and the back of the crown where the brim overlaps it. Doing this makes these areas darker and improves the overall depth of your picture.


Step 19 – This is where you begin shading the head.

Switch back to your HB pencil and shade the entire head very lightly. Make sure you move the pencil in the same direction so that all the lines are horizontal. After you’ve created a good base, you can add a bit more shadow.

The darker areas of the head are below the hat, in the cavities of the ear, and around the bridge of the nose. You should also add shadow around the top and bottom of the ear lobe and on the sides of the hair and eyebrows, along with the irises of the eye.

Further, don’t forget to make it darker on the left side of the face.


Step 20 – After all that, you can focus on shading the eyes in more detail. Switch to your 2B pencil and make the irises darker. Add small lines along the eyebrows to make them textured and shaded and make the lines around the eyes a bit darker.

The top eyelid, which is just a line above the top of the eye, should be traced over using your 2B pencil. There should also be a crease below the eye for the bottom eyelid. As you shade around the eye, be careful to keep the eye whites clear of pencil. The highlights on the eye should also be left white.

Finally, add in some eyelashes. They shouldn’t be too long, though, so check the reference picture to make sure you’re drawing the right length.


Step 21 – At this point, you want to add an additional layer of shading on the hat, specifically on the brim. The hat has to be darker than the similar values beneath it.

Similar to before, focus on shading over the darkest areas of the hat. You want to really make sure the values on the hat are near black in the most shaded areas. Plus, you want to make sure there is a clear separation between where the hat starts and the head ends.


Step 22 – These next few steps are going to be pretty quick.

First, you should add the detail on the ear. You should still be using your 2B pencil at this point.

At the top of the ear, add shadow around the upper ear lobe where it overlaps the head. Then, make the value darker along the area of the ear that curves down on itself. The cavity of the ear also needs to be shaded darkly. The darkest parts should be at the innermost parts of the ear since that is where the ear canal starts.

During this process, check the reference picture regularly to ensure you get the values right.


Step 23 – Next, you shade the hair and beard. You want to shade this area in a similar manner as the eyebrows. Instead of shading the entire area a solid color, use small lines. Place these lines closer together just under the brim and above the ear. This creates the appearance that the hair is darker in these areas.

Part of the beard should be lighter because it is not fully grown in. You should still be using lines to create the appearance of hair. As you move toward the back of the beard, make the hair darker.

After you’ve completed the hair and beard, and the finishing touches. This includes making the shadow created by the brim more pronounced and added darker values around the eyes, nose, and hairline.


Step 24 – And now you’re done! You’ve drawn and shaded an entire cowboy hat by hand and, if I may say so, you should be proud.


Well, that’s all I have to teach you in this lesson. You’ve learned how to draw a cowboy hat and even learned a little bit about how to draw people. The techniques you used for this tutorial can be applied to many other drawings and you can even share your knowledge of how to draw a cowboy hat with friends and family.

Try drawing cowboy hats in the future from different angles or in different lights to experiment with new shadows and shapes. Or try drawing different types of hats or focusing more on detail work.

Either way, always stay confident and keep practicing!

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