Help With Styling Cycles Particle Hair?

I’ve been having a lot of trouble with styling particle-based hair in Cycles. Over the dozens of hours I’ve spent trying to get something that looks right, I feel like I actually have to have trained as a hair stylist in real life to be able to be able to get something that looks and behaves even close to what I want. Seriously: I even went on YouTube and watched some real hair styling tutorials for guidance and inspiration.

I’ve scoured YouTube and Vimeo for tutorials on styling particle-based hair, but none of them seem to give me the results I’m trying to achieve. The Blender Cookie tutorial on styling and rendering long hair looks promising, but I don’t feel that any of my personal projects are important enough to warrant spending money on information I may or may not find helpful, and could possibly find something similar elsewhere on the web for free.

Does anyone have a workflow that consistently produces good-looking particle-based hair? I’m about ready to tear my own hair out, at this point. I’m aware of vertex grouping and strand deflection and all that, but I still manage to screw it up, even with those techniques.

Share a sample file with what you have so far, it’ll be easier to point you in the right direction.

The CgCookie tutorial is the best one you can find, and there’s nothing like it for free out there (when it comes to hair styling and shading). Basically, you have to use several particle systems instead of one, and use as few particle hairs or guides as possible; that will allow you to have more control over the final look of the hair with the use of children.

I think the basic idea (as julperado mentioned) is that to get good hair you need to have multiple particle systems for each part of the head (fringe, sides, back, crown, etc), and maybe one overall frizz style if you need it.
To get good hair, as with good modelling, you have to understand your subject.