In a world where Black hairstyles in animation are often limited to straight or dollop-shaped ponytails, Brush by Vegalia provides the solution to a decades-old problem. Created in 2021, these brushes allow artists to boundlessly experiment with the versatility of Black hairstyles. Artists who specialize in creating using Procreate, Adobe Photoshop, and more can now test the limits of Black hair in fine detail. Brush by Vegalia not only provides artists with diverse hairstyles for their characters, but unique hair accessories as well, such as beads, bo-bos, and chains. As people are continuing to embrace their Black hair, acknowledging the depths to which we can see ourselves in popular media is of high importance. This Black History Month, Vegalia Jean-Pierre spoke to EnVi about her brushes, its importance among artists, and the multifaceted nature of Black hair!

A Brush with History

Brush by Vegalia was created by Vegalia Jean-Pierre after a long bout of painstakingly drawing braids for her own character. She faced difficulty adding the proper details in a time-effective manner. Feeling that there had to be a better way to go about doing this, Vegalia created a line of her own brushes to aid artists in drawing realistic and unique Black hairstyles. What started as a 12-brush pack on Etsy soon blossomed into a crucial tool in drawing Black hair for digital artists. “I like using my brushes to speed up my process of creating a character. I can be indecisive when it comes to developing a new art piece and the brushes allow me to make quick changes without having to spend too much time on it,” Vegalia says. 

As an artist myself, I can wholeheartedly attest to the difficulty of tackling hair as a whole, as the creation of braids, whether traditionally or digitally, can be an extremely time-consuming labor of love. Prior to familiarizing myself with the Brush by Vegalia company, I was used to drawing out each braid or twist one-by-one and using nature brushes for afros, as is a common practice among many digital artists. The process of creating braids, locs, or twists, in addition to the hair parting and accessories such as beads, was anything but simple for me. Now, not only have these brushes made the process of drawing Black hairstyles much easier, the mere activity of reimagining diversity in Black beauty has become all the more enjoyable.  

The brushes provide a stress-free way to tackle the outline and formation of Black hairstyles. There are individual brush packs for afros, braids, dreadlocks, baby hairs, cornrows, partings, and more. This allows artists to cut down on time devoted to the hairstyles of their characters while also providing them the ability to test out new styles and textures. In reference to the importance of proper Black hair representation, Vegalia notes, “I think it’s important for any artist to broaden their horizons. If you stick to drawing one thing, you are limiting yourself in any area so I believe that expanding your skills is a good thing. Whether that be Black hair, drawing different body types, skin tones, etc.”

Common Creations

These brushes accommodate artists who draw using Procreate, Adobe Photoshop, Clip Studio Paint, and Adobe Fresco. Artists can purchase brushes catered to hair, jewelry, and eyelashes in a diverse set of packs for each art program or app. Conveying the beauty of the brushes across social media sites has had a positive effect on the company’s exposure as well. The brushes have a loyal following on both TikTok and Instagram, with the official tag hosting over 1,000 drawings from artists across the globe and the launch video garnering over a million views. The tag illustrates an abundance of artists finding unique ways to portray Black hair. 

“I love when people make a series with the brushes. Like when someone will draw a bunch of different hairstyles with the brushes for their character design. I love when people get experimental and create hairstyles that aren’t so common as well,” says Vegalia. This highlights the importance of the Brushes by Vegalia brand. From Afros to eyebrows to baby hairs, both new and experienced artists can further their understanding and experimentation of Black hair.

Why It’s Important

Recently, artists and fans alike have begun speaking out about a common yet troubling trend surrounding Black hair in animation. For instance, Lashawna from Total Drama Island, Jodie from Daria, and Monique from Kim Possible all have common Black hairstyles, but little to no variation of color, styling, or versatility. Similar sentiments are echoed in the case of Killmonger’s hairstyle being copied and pasted across a number of Black male characters since the release of Black Panther. Whether the style is big or small, animators express little detail in depicting Black hair, with many male and female characters sporting blob-like masses on their heads.

These cases help emphasize the importance of Brushes by Vegalia giving creators a chance to test and depict Black hair in art. Just as Black people can be multifaceted and unique, Black hair can be as well, with every style and curl deserving of its own chance to shine. On the importance of correctly representing Black hair in art, Vegalia says, “It’s important to me because I want to see people that look like me and I think the brushes get rid of the barrier of any complexities that Black hair may have. I don’t think Black hair is difficult to draw, but some styles can be tedious like braids or super kinky curls, so the brushes help make the process simpler.”

Hair for You

All varieties of Black hair deserve to be seen and experimented with. The many textures, colors, and styling possibilities are all parts of the appeal that makes Black hair so uniquely interesting. Brushes by Vegalia encourages artists to not only imagine new styles for their own characters, but also reimagine what Black hair can be for the characters (and protagonists) of the future. Natural Black hair is natural for all Black people, so we deserve to see ourselves naturally in art.

You can find the many Brush by Vegalia brush packs here. Don’t forget to check out Formation’s latest Artist Spotlight with Miu Haiti!