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Drawing Plaits by keaalu Drawing Plaits by keaalu
A revision to an old tutorial I used to have on my website.

As I always seem to end up saying, if you don’t need realism, then don’t feel obliged to have to draw realistically – if a cartoon suits your purposes, then draw a cartoon! Some days it’d seem drawing realistically is the holy grail of hobby art, and it doesn’t need to be – stylised cartoony artwork is just as good and valid and just as much a form of art as photo-realism.

Plus, the thing about plaits is that they very readily lend themselves to being stylised; watch an animated film (even such highly esteemed ones as older Disney films and certain Japanese anime) and you will quickly notice that most plaits are highly convincing as plaits, but not especially accurate. Which does save an awful lot of bother in the long run – if you don’t need a 100% accurate rendition, then why bother trying to draw one?

Having said all that, I personally didn’t want to draw my plaits in a stylised way, so go figure. *bangs head on desk* And having a character whose “trademark” was two plaited pigtails didn’t really help, as I just got stressed over it – references didn’t help, books didn’t help, I couldn’t see the basic structure underlying the thing and couldn’t then work out a principle to structure from.

It took me a long time to work out an easy way to draw plaits, and when I finally worked it out I was surprised by how easy it actually was – and was annoyed at how long it’d taken me to work out something so simple!

Plaits are actually rather easy to draw once you have the groundwork done – these days I rarely do much more in the way of structuring than a central zigzag and then add the loops on other side. But anyway.

Step 1
First of all, plan out where you want the plait to go. These days I use a “sausage” shape rather than a zigzag line, as that way it’s easier to get an idea how much space it’ll ultimately take up – if you simply use a zigzag the final piece will be roughly three times as wide. A central line will make it easier to place the next step.

Step 2
Over the central line, draw a zigzag – how “loose” you make it is up to you, but I like to go for something close to right-angles.

Step 3
Next, add in lines out from each end of the individual lines of the zigzag, like so, to form a grid. (At least, I find it’s usually easier to get the shape I want if I do this, rather than try and put the grid in from the get go, but whichever floats your boat.)

Step 4
The curves of the individual strands of the plait then follow these boxes – each outside “loop” taking up the two adjacent diamonds on the “top” side of each line in the initial zigzag. (See the coloured inset.)

Step 5
…And once it’s inked and the structuring erased, you should have a reasonably aesthetically pleasing and structurally correct plait. :)

A final couple of dos and don’ts:

One: Don’t make the top of the loop too steep – you should follow the outline of the diamonds fairly closely, simply rounding off the corner. If you make it too curved, you lose the “woven” quality of the drawing – after all, a plait is three “strings” woven together, and it won’t have too many lumps and bumps in it. Look at the diagram for an explanation – if you look at the red diagram, you’ll notice that the black outlines don’t match up from one side to the other.

Two: I find it’s best not to make the initial zigzag too “tight” (C). Although it’s not incorrect, per se, it looks “off” to me – as though incorrectly stretched or resized.
Conversely, if you make the zigzag looser (B), you simply get a looser plait, one that looks like it’s coming undone a bit.

And there you have it! I'm working on a "proviso" to go onto this, taking into account the more complex "celtic-knot"-type plaits, but I probably won't bother putting that up on here.
Full tutorial on my site


Incidentally, off-topic, why don't devART have a "traditional art" section in the tutorials section? Do they assume that people will only ever write tutorials for producing CGI? Pff.
Add a Comment:
ImNerdyWhoGivesADamn Featured By Owner May 23, 2015  Student General Artist
This helped me so much,thanks a million! ^w^
Yumeko-Hime Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
thanks for this!
i always hated plats but this makes it seem so easy! ♥
SplashinginHappyness Featured By Owner May 12, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This is pretty helpful! Thanks for posting this- I was trying to draw braids today but failed miserably. XD
stevep12 Featured By Owner May 10, 2013
very nice work !!!
Verdigurl Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
Thank yoooooooou~
Aizinah777 Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013
This is really helpful for me...Thx!
Dream-Reaver-Maven Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2013
Anneeys Featured By Owner Sep 23, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you, this was really helpful! :>
goomar Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2012  Hobbyist Artist
Tiger-Walrus-26 Featured By Owner Apr 6, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for this - I can never draw plaits, but now there's some hope for me! XD
daniellech9 Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
This is great! Want to learn how to do a plait for a new drawing i want to do. Thanks! :D
EricaHK23 Featured By Owner Feb 29, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
THIS. IS. Amazing. Extremely Amazing. Thankyou so much! (:
Fellonie Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Very helpful, thanks.
Mavannie Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2012  Hobbyist
Thank you very much ! This is so helpful ! ! ^^
Thank you to share it !!!
Tartan-Paint Featured By Owner Nov 29, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Ok, this is so ridiculously helpful and easy.
I am going to use this SOOO much, especially since I just created a character with massive plaits.
xrecherche Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2011  Student Digital Artist
The easiest tutorial i've come across. Thankyou LOADS.
hanachanchi Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2011
Keletian-Symphony Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2011  Student General Artist
I have been searching everywhere for a tutorial on how to draw plaits. This has helped me to understand it so much better.
SHOrTwiRED Featured By Owner May 15, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
icytemporalist Featured By Owner May 5, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Very Usefull! Thanks!
JoJoBynxFwee Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2011
Yay. Best tutorial on this I've seen so far.
IBagsyRapunzelsHair Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2010
This is actually really helpful and simple to follow. Plaits are a must when drawing Rapunzel :)
Zada2011 Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2010
This tutorial is wonderful, I've been trying to draw decent braids for ages and failed miserably. Thanks for the guidance :3
Grey-Midnight Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2010  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Ahhh I'm going to use this soooo much ^^ :icontardhugplz:
keaalu Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2010
Ha, I'm glad it's useful. ^_^
Animagpie Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2010
This is a really useful tutorial. It’s a simple technique that can be applied easily. It even helped me finish a drawing that I’d almost given up on because I couldn’t do a plait at the angle I’d chosen [link]
Thank you so much for posting this :)
keaalu Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2010
Welcome :)
Always happy to help. ^_^
Mark-Moreno Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2010  Student Traditional Artist
:D Super helpful!
sailorsuperstar Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2010
Thank you so much! I couldn't figure out how to do a braid and then I found your tutorial And I understand now!
Genisay Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks so much for this tutorial. Even the visual reference was a big help!
keaalu Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2010
Thanks, I'm glad it was useful. ^_^
TypicalWatson Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2010  Student General Artist
Thank you! I have struggled for ever to draw braids :D
D-Pasta Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2010
you save me xD
omgurfaceXD Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2010
Ah! finally, i found a good tutorial for drawing plaits! thanks so much :3
ICraveReality Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2009
Thank you so much for this tutorial ToT I was in so much trouble cause I couldn't figure out how to make em, but now I can do it without even looking at anything ^_^
okumurakuns Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
This is a great tutorial! I used to not be able to draw braids but know I can! Now I can finish my Panda chick!
artisjustfrozenmusic Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2009
This made life so much easier for a few minutes! Thanks!

Used here [link]
Neko-CosmicKitty Featured By Owner Sep 25, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
nice ^^
Rozalynd Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2009
I found this really useful! x3 I bookmarked it a while ago and remembered it today when I needed to draw a plait! Thanks for making and uploading! x3
keaalu Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2009
Welcome. :D Always pleased to be useful. ;)
Kayos-Avian Featured By Owner Jul 16, 2009  Student Digital Artist
Life saver!
DeathInTheReaper Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
This is so helpful, thank you!
CrAZy-OvER-AnImE Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
YAY! :clap: Thankyou very much, I find this so helpful!!! OwO
VixenKitty Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2009
You just saved me soooo much hassle! This is brilliant! Thanks so much for uploading this for everyone to use, it's really helped x
keaalu Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2009
Welcome. :D Glad it helped. :)
wolvenlied Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2009
this is sooo useful :D thanks for sharing
keaalu Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2009
Welcome. :) Glad to be useful. ;)
bear48 Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2008  Professional
very nicely done
LeMongello Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2008
Haha! Step one looks like a banana!
Groovy-Waffle Featured By Owner Sep 1, 2008
You're my GOD! I've had so much trouble drawing plaits, and now I can draw them well thanks to you! Thank you so much for this tutorial! :+favlove:
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Submitted on
August 13, 2006
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