Pony Tail (Braided Hair) Using Particles - Part1

Blender Braided Hair Tutorial (Part 1)

This tutorial is to create braided hair in Blender 2.46+. In part one of this tutorial we will create just the braided portion of the hair. The confluence of hair to get to the braid will be in the second part of tutorial but if you work at it yourself you maybe able to achieve that effect on your own.

We will be using the Particle system to create this hair. First though a few words before we get started.

I use MakeHuman to make my characters. A quick googling will take you there if you haven’t heard of it.

Let’s open blender up and get started.

Phase 1 - Getting your model ready.

  • Import or create your model head as necessary. We will be starting at the back of the head.

  • Figure out where and how many braids you want hanging from the head. You will need to select a vertices to act as your particle emitter. So when selecting the area try to imagine where the hair is coming from. If you want more then one braid you will need two. These should be in the middle of the skull and separated so a nice parting of the hair can happen. We’ll go into how that is going to happen in part 2. You will only need ONE VERT per braid as there is only particle per braid.

  • Once you have the place where you want to emit the Particle (Braid) to begin from then select the verts and separate from the mesh. NOTE: if you plan on animating the model you will need to select all the parts of the head and in this case the verts used for the braid to move it around. If not the hair and head will go separate ways.

Now you have the Verts for the braids separated - rename them under (Link and Materials - OB:*****) to hair-braid or something similar. This will help when you want to find your hair again and will also let you apply color and texture to the braid a little easier. As the emitter is the source for rendering purposes.

Setting up Blender (so you can see how your edits effect the hair)

  • In your 3D view window select View menu and go down to View Properties. Turn off grid by clicking the grid button.
  • As you are probably in Edit Mode - Select Particle Mode NOTE this can only be selected after you have created a new Particle system (See Below)

Phase 2 - Particle System Hair Creation
1 - With the verts selected (Buttons Window - Select Object Mode - or press F7)
2 - Farther to the right of the button is the Particle System button - Select that too.
** Now you’re entering The Particle System controls
3 - Now you have 4 new menus (Physics - Particle System - Visualization - Extras+Children)
** We will go through each of them as they apply to braided hair. First though some setting up to do.

Physics Menu Group
The only thing in here is the Normal setting. This is the length of the strand of hair you are starting with. The particle stream (Hair Braid and Strand) can be lengthened or shortened with this control. I have mine set at 0.607 but you will need to adjust as necessary. If you think of the Braided hair as a group of bungee cords for lack of a better description. Lengthening (increasing) this makes the braid more stretched. So you may want to come back to adjust a few times to get the braid looking it’s best.

Particle System Menu Group
4 - In the (PA:***) area add a the name Hair_Braid or something similar
5 - In the Particle Type (just below the PA) Select Hair
6 - Under Basic set Amount to 1 and Segments 50 (50 is I think that is the highest it can be set to)
** We are going to use one hair (Particle) per braid. Segments are the number or breaks in the Particle emission.
The greater number or Segments the smoother the braid will be.
** We will be using the Free Edit but not till later so don’t push that yet. You can edit the Particle stream location
with Free Edit but you can’t go back and forth between that and Particle settings. Once you enter free edit the
Particle system settings are locked and if you exit free edit. You loose your edited Particle stream location so
Free Edit is the last step. It’s a powerful tool but we’ll get to it in a moment.

Visualization Menu Group

7 - Set Visualization to Path to the right of that Set Steps to 7 and Render to 9.
** These settings are how your hair is going use the materials to be rendered. If you are using a texture for the material of the hair then these settings are important.
8 - Set RLength to 1 (this could be it’s default)
9 - Under Draw Set Draw Size to 5 (number of Pixels per particle) and Disp: to 100 (Percentage of particles drawn)
10 - Under Render Select Col this will draw particles with the material color you select for the hair verts.
11 - Beside that Select Strand Render (you can also select under the material settings Strand)

Extras + Children Menu Groups
** We aren’t going to worry about the Extras side of the group. So select Children
12 - Select Particles (this is the form your children will take). As we are making strands of hair Particles will build more.
13 - Set Amount and Render Amount to 500 (This is the number of strands of hair based on your initial strand)
** I’ve played around with this setting and you do want to have a good amount in there. The larger that is the thicker each section of the braid will be.
14 - Set Rad: to about 0.120 (This is the amount of turn each child strand will take as it’s initial created).
** Where the braid is connected to the head is what this selection is about. The greater the Rad: value the more the braid will be spread out at it’s root.
15 - On the right side of the Menu. Select Kink/Branch this is where the braiding happens.
16 - Select Periodic Offset type to Braid the default offset is around the Z axis so just leave that alone

The following are my basic Braid Settings: (You can adjust to your liking though but these should get you started)
17 - Set Freq: to 8. (This is the number of offsets or loops in the braid).
18 - Set Shape to 0.3 (this is the shape of the braid. It’s Roundness you could say)
19 - Set Amplitude to 0.070 (this is the tightness of the braid. How tight it is woven)
20 - On the left side of the menu again. Set Clump to 0.7
** this is the falloff of the braid sections and the braid over all. As each section of braid moves to conclusion
21 - Set Shape to 0.0 (default). The greater this setting the wider the weave so just leave that alone for now.

Ok we have the braid all set up (to well my default settings anyway). Let’s switch the 3D window over to Object Mode and see what it looks like. You should have a nice braid happening in your 3D window. If you want to you can at this point add materials to your hair and do a render.

Giving your Braid color and Making a render

22 - Buttons Menu => Materials Button.
23 - Set up hair color and texture as you like. Add textures (clouds work well for hair)
24 - 3D window Select Edit Mode Set Camera and lighting to your liking and push (F12 Render) and see what you’ve made.

Ok you have a Braid of hair. But it’s sticking straight out of the head. You would need to a Gel to get it to do that for real. So you probably want to style it a bit farther as I had wanted to. We can do that by going back into Particle System and use the Free Edit tool.

Positioning or Further Styling the Braid

25 - So in your 3D window select Particle Mode You will be able to see what your doing as you edit.
26 - Buttons Menu => Select Object of hit F7. Then Select Particle System again (over to the right of Object)
27 - In the Particle System Menu Group Select Free Edit
** Now remember all the editing you do to the Parent Strand will stay so long as you don’t leave free edit. This is only further styling of the braid as that is now complete. So all the braid setting are applied to this styling (Hair Positioning). If you find the braid is to short then you loose your ‘Positioning’ to adjust your braid. If that is the case you will have to leave Free Edit to make adjustments. It’s not as hard as it seems but you will get used to it the more you work with Hair

Particle System.
28 - With the mouse in the 3D window press the ‘N’ key. This will bring up your Free Edit menu.
** You can do many things to the strand in this menu. Most notably of these is comb. This will let you place the hair where you want it to go.
** Keep in mind as you comb the braid is coming out of the head. Rather is clumped and tied. So you want to have the hair start out there and curve to where you want it to go. Be it dangling down or swept back up and around the head.
29 - Select comb
30 - Set Size to as desired (Larger number = bigger brush if you will) I know it’s only one hair we are working with but you will see what that setting dose believe me.
31 - Set Strength to as desired (This is the force you will use when combing).
** Experiment. Using your cursor you can pull the hair strand to it’s desired location. When you get it where you like
32 - 3D window Select Object Mode this will show you what the braid looks like now you’ve moved.
** Feel free to pull off a render at this point too Press F12.

I hope you enjoyed this Tutorial on Blender Braided Hair. If you have and comments or added suggestions feel free to email me. [email protected]

Thanks very much for writing this. I was looking for a good braids tutorial which used particles instead of claymation style.

Am surprised no one has commented on this, as you explained a useful process so well. Maybe people are scared off at no screen shots? This is an easy technique once you get the idea.

Few screenshots and this would be perfect tutorial! Great work and thank you!

Thanks! I have a feeling that what I learn from this tutorial will help me to do other types of hair styles.

Some occasional screenshots along the way would have been nice and useful, especially for less experienced users. It’s still a good tutorial. I appreciate that you took the time to write and share it. Also, thanks for directing it to those of us still using the more recent 2.4x versions. I hope, I can carry the information over when I upgrade to 2.60 after it’s released.

An old tute but as others have said it could have used a LOT of screen shots. Remember the old saying. " A picture is worth a thousand words.

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