How to Render Hair with Cycles

Discover how to use Cycles to render luscious, realistic looking hair for your characters.

29 minutes
Blender 2.66
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 4.8/5 (134 votes cast)

In this tutorial you will discover:

  • How to quickly and easily render hair with Cycles
  • The difference between the old and the new way of rendering hair
  • A breakdown of the hair settings

If you’ve been to the blender forums recently, you’ll know that quite a few people are a buzz with new hair rendering feature of Cycles.

On December 9 2012, the first hair renders started appearing online, and since then it’s grown from an experimental feature, into something stable. In fact, hair rendering will be included in the next official Blender release: 2.66, which is due out in the next week ;)

So what better time to get into it?

Finished Result

"oo la la" said Sintel. Staring suggestively into the camera.

This tutorial covers the rendering of Hair only.


Download the Starter File

Text Version

Not a fan of videos? Here’s the full text version:


This tutorial is all about taking a previously made model with hair, and making it work with Cycles.


Learning how to render hair has more uses than you may think. Whether you’re an architect or a character animator, you’ll probably be called upon to use strand rendering at some point.


This phenomenal hair render was made with 3ds max. Can you top it?

Perfect example of stunning hair, made with 3ds Max. Image Courtesy of Max Malyy.

Image Courtesy of Max Malyy.


Comparison of Old vs New

The old way of rendering strands entailed a lot of button pushing, certain lamps, fiddly textures and aligning of the planets to make it work.


The new method is simpler, faster to set up and produces more realistic results.


Hands On

Particle settings

Kick open the starter file and you should see Sintel, posed and ready to render with only the hair needing materials:


With the hair selected, go to the particle panel and scroll down till you see the Cycles Hair Rendering settings:

If you don’t see those options then:

  1. Download the latest build
  2. Go to the render settings and set the mode to CPU and Experimental.


The first thing we’ll look at is the hair rendering modes:

Don't be confused by the terminology, it's actually pretty easy to grasp.

Don’t be confused by the terminology, it’s actually pretty easy to grasp…


The modes on the left side are faster to render but lower quality, and the modes on right side are slower to render but higher quality:


If you aren’t sure what to pick, stay with the default mode: True Normal. It offers the best results for most scenes. Change modes depending on how close the camera is to your subject.


Now lets move onto the next setting: Shape.

The shape setting defines how quickly or slowly the width of the hair strand will taper off:

For human hair, you should use something in the negative value.

We’ll use -0.8:


Next are the Root and Tip values. These are quite simply the width of the hair at it’s Root and Tip (duh).

For some bizarre reason the default value for Root is 1, which will give you strands almost as big as Sintel’s head. A more reasonable value for hair is 0.002:

Leave Tip as 0, since we want the hair to taper down to 0 width.



Add a new Material and name it Hair. You may also wish to set the preview to Strand mode (and also let out a mighty hoorah for the introduction of preview capabilities).


Thankfully, you don’t need to relearn materials for the sake of strands, since the strand’s materials work the same as any other object in Cycles.

Switch to the Node editor. To get hair shiny we’ll add a Glossy shader node and connect it to the default Diffuse shader, using a Mix node. Set the values as shown:


Now let’s give the hair some color. We’ll be using the hair texture that comes bundled with Sintel:

Hair Texture. Click to Download.

Hair Texture (Click to Download)


Add an Image texture node and load in the hair texture, then connect it to the Diffuse Shader node:

You should now get this noisy mess:

…but at least you can see that it’s working :)


Now to make her a red head.

Add an RGB Curve (which is another new feature!) between the Image texture and Diffuse Node. Click the R (red) channel and give it a slight hump:


Finally, we’ll give the hair some translucency so that light can pass through it.

Add a Translucency node and connect it to the RGB node:


Next add an Add Shader node and connect it between the Translucent Node and the final Material node.

Final Node Setup

Final Node Setup




You should now have hair that would make a balding man weep.


Bonus Tip: Fading out the hair

In certain circumstances, it may be necessary to have the hair fade out. Generally this isn’t good for human hair, but it’s great for fur.


1. Using the node setup from above, add a Transparent node and connect it with the output from the Add shader, using a Mix node:


2. Next add in a Hair Info node and connect the Intercept output to the Fac input of the Mix shader:

The Intercept acts to alter the material along the length of the strand (like this).

Here’s a before and after from a different scene:

And if that’s a bit extreme, you can add a ColorRamp between the intercept and mix node for added customization.

Hope this tutorial was useful!

Create something cool from this tutorial? Post it in the comments below.

How to Render Hair with Cycles, 4.8 out of 5 based on 134 ratings

About Andrew Price

User of Blender for 9+ years. I've written tutorials for 3d World Magazine and spoken at three Blender conferences. My goal is to help artists get employed in the industry by making training accessible and easy to understand. I'm an Aussie and I live in South Korea ;)
  • Paulo

    cara ensina a fazer um quick time events no blender

  • navid

    thank you andrew for your tutorials but i can’t watch this tutorial
    because the video is filter please uplode this video on vimeo and put
    the link on comment thank you

  • navid

    thank you andrew for your tutorials but i can’t watch this tuterial because the video is filter please uplode this video on vimeo and put the link on comment thank you

  • Frank Anes

    Great Tut as usual, Andrew.
    Question: Are vertex groups working with Cycles Hair? Its kind of ignoring my vertex groups. :(

  • Gary Thomas

    Whenever I render your blend file (straight out of the box), I only get white/gray hair strands. It seems the hair texture is not being applied. I’ve tried unpacking the texture from the image with no improvement. I’m using the latest version (2.66-RC) on x86_64.

    Any ideas what I’m doing wrong?

    • Lightning

      You might have applied the material to the false object.

      Make sure you apply the it to Geo-sintel_hair_emit object. Further make sure that you’re using CPU-Rendering

      Hopefully this works

  • hudouriezh

    Ensuite avec les données que vous fournissez voici la retouche.

    Je n’ai pas trop peaufiné l’image, j’ai une machine un peu dépassé par l’avancé de Blender 12 heures de rendue.

    Encore merci et continuez de nous enseigner sur Blender.

  • hudouriezh

    Excellent vos tutos, bien expliqués et de qualité.
    J’attendais avec impatience la mise en route de la fonction haire Blender cycles, Quand le premier Build est sorti, j’ai fait des essais.

    voici une première idée.
    image méthode guru. image(1)

  • guest

    @ 17:45 you mention a girlfriend – I thought you were married???

  • Alaric Damien

    did you make some changes to the light source in front of sintels face cause in my render the hair looks blown out a bit and also the reflection of the emmiter plane is different in your final render (frm her eyes)

  • alaric

    Is it just me or this thing takes forever to render … its irritating me lik hell

  • alex

    nice job Andrew
    one more thing about sintel…. the arm that goes tru’ the hair…. take a look

  • belezariusz

    hi, how to render only hair ?

  • car

    dear mr andrew carr, i went through your honeymoon photos on flikr.
    i am sure you modeled those scenes in blender and you want us to believe they are photographs;)

  • Arno, from Bordeaux

    It took me 11 hours for compilation (1300 cycles) !

    I had to change Width multiplier to 0.008. Using Gimp, I had problems to put the top right volumetric spot… Thank-you for your wonderful tuts !

  • Felix Fischer

    You do your job one times more very well. I`m from germany and I love your Tutorials. Go one! (Can`t wait for the next tutorial)
    Quick tipp for You:
    If you put of the the glossy hock in the objekt panel of the light, then you get a lot less of the white points in the render. Than the lamp is not reflacted at the objekt, but the objekt refects furthermore the enviroment.

  • Gzoni

    Hi, i get the version of mac and the option “Cycles Hair Rendering” does not appears but the Texture option still there. What happen!? =)

    and great tutorial

  • Elijah

    I finished the tutorial (using a ico sphere instead of sintel) and when it came to rendering i just had a sphere with the sintel hair texture on it…..the hair particles were gone completely….anyone know why that is?…thanks in advanced!

    • Nivos

      Did you have a hair system on it?

      • Elijah

        Yes, i did…it shows hair in the view port window but it doesn’t show in the render…

        • vetaal

          Check if you are out of particle mode

  • ohsnapitsjoel

    why not use an anisotropic shader instead of glossy? i think that typically, shiny hair has a more anisotropic sheen than a simple glossy one

  • tnifong


    • Guest


  • Ciano1000

    You are able to render with gpu now with the 2.66 release canidate

    • Ciano1000

      Sorry I was mistaken you still arent:)

  • EZeta

    Wellcome back Andrew. Fantastic tutorial.

  • damarco

    Hello Andrew,

    great tutorial as always. How many renderingmachines do you have for animations?

  • narayan

    Wow! She can model for a shampoo: Even the pose is perfect!
    Pity about all that dandruff! :D

  • Alvin Nashif Magarang

    cool! that’s a great tutorial for hair renders it would be a great help because I had a problem exploring the hair renders and I’m doing it wrong haha

  • Yeobe1

    I played with this a couple of times, setting the base to .002 never really occurred to me. I’m glad someone can do this full time and help me out with the stuff I could never figure out being a casual user.

    PS I’m trying to find a way to support your site without breaking the bank. Between you and cgcookie you provide all the education I need to just play around. I’m a citizen over there, wish you had something other than the nature academy that I was really interested in… any thoughts?

    PSS I hate compositing, I know I have to learn it, I know the value. I think I need to be able to render the base image to a level I’m comfortable with before the “wow factor” really attracts me.

    • Guest

      Maybe the upcoming architecture academy will be more interesting for you?^^

    • William Barber

      Yeah the architecture academy is gonna be great I think. As for what you said about compositing, I was tempted to ignore it when I first started out, but I’m glad I didnt, even from an early stage you can really improve your results with some basic compositing. Its just as important as any of the other parts imho.

  • aridtree

    Sorry, can anyone explain me what “add shader” doing with the light? It doesnt “mix shader” 50/50, as I think before. I have tested this now…

  • Nichloas V.

    Hi Andrew,
    Another great tutorial thanks for all of the great work you share. Is the link to the start blend broken? Doesn’t seem to be working for me.

  • Archer

    Damn, i’m bald, so couldn’t pull my hair to look at it…

    • dave

      everywhere? :>

    • Frank Anes

      HAHAHA! That makes 2 of us! I had to use my dogs!!

  • andrew williams

    “skin texturing tutorial” (sorry, bad english)

  • andrew williams

    Awesome. Now can you pleaase do a skin texturing so that we can render a full human like a pro (ie-makehuman model)?

  • Michał

    Blender is getting more powerfull. But i still wait for smoke rendering in cycles :)

  • Joe

    You just made every blenderhead one hair hair poorer…

  • Badreddine Moon

    Thank you

  • Guillaume Loulier

    Hi Andrew, very waited tutorial finally explained, i’ve you an idea of when come the Grass tutorial using Cycle in The Nature Academy ? Thanks a lot for your very hopeful tutorial.

  • captnced

    maybe a useful hint for those who would like to test another method for denoising Cycles renderings:

    This guy is providing a great set of tools running with ImageMagick;

    I’ve tried with the following command line
    ./denoise -f 2 -s “50×50+1800+620″ -m median /Users/cedric/Downloads/sintel200.jpg /Users/cedric/Downloads/test-denoised.jpg

    (the coordinates 50×50+1800+620 are for a 200% sized render of Sintel, you might divide all numbers by 2 if you rendered at 100%)

    The result is somehow nicer; give it a try!

  • Sydney Smit

    Thanks Andrew for an other great tutorial!! I got a question though. How do you render a part of the image like you did in the video?

    • steve

      Shift + B

      • Sydney Smit

        Thanks ;)

  • Joaquín Alviz

    Awesome result, Andrew.
    And also you can already see how material looks, in the preview on the right side panel. That’s greatttt :D

  • CaptnCed

    hi Andrew, that’s awesome, thank you.

    I’ve got two questions regarding your final render :

    1) how did you denoise from the first render ?

    2) the final render has a nice volumetric light which I believe was not rendered with a Cycles Scene, right ?

  • Nios Andrew

    WOW. Sintel looks more sexy now.

  • Revil

    great tutorial, but how can i update to the latest version without losing my preferences?

    • Yeobe1

      the newest version supports both a default blend file and a user preferences blend file as per the release notes.

      Split User Preferences and Startup File
      User preferences (themes, keymaps, user settings) now can be saved as a separate file. It’s called userpref.blend, and goes to same location as startup.blend.
      Old option now is now called “Save Startup File”, the new one “Save User Settings”.
      To visualise this difference, the ‘save startup file’ button has been removed from user preferences window. That option is available as CTRL+U and in File menu still.
      The startup.blend still stores user preferences, if you save it.
      Only if a userpref.blend exists, it uses the preferences from that file.

  • King_Moving


  • Diego de Oliveira

    Awesome! I’ve been waiting for this feature for a while… I have a couple of projects that use fur for characters, but I never get trully satisfied with the results (despite the dificult to create a good render with the lighting setup). Now with this feature with Cycles, my worries comes to an end!

    And thank you Andrew, I follow some websites to keep learning from blender tutorials, but yours are the best!

  • Thiago Kolb

    Thanks Andrew

  • Charles S

    Great tutorial, I didn’t realize this feature was in trunk yet… Thanks Andrew!

  • FZ

    How did you renderd the smoke in the background?

    • Andrew Price

      Nah it’s not rendered, it’s just a stock image that I added in photoshop:

      • FZ

        Ahh, thanks! And Thank you for giving me the link, it was a pain to try to create something like this! (But mainly because I’m so worse with the Smoke simulater, and I’m always happy when I can render the smoke properly ;) ) And Your Tutorials are helping a lot, keep blending ;)

  • jeff_lamarche

    I’ve been playing with the cycles hair stuff since it was added to Trunk, but this was really helpful, thanks!

  • деня


  • Kevin

    Andrew is realy greate tanx for your job

  • ghansham

    now that was the thing i was waiting for….

  • Enis Voca


    • Enis Voca

      You stupid troll go find a different website and annoy other people :)

      • Eka Kurniawan


      • baku

        wow a troll that knows it´s stupid.

        • Trundle

          :( Stop hating on trolls.