How to Braid Hair

Mastering the art of braiding your hair opens up countless stylish options from everyday to formal events. At its essence, all braids begin with separating hair into three equal sections and weaving them over-under-over in a pattern down the length. Variations like the classic French braid add dimension by incorporating small pieces of hair into the braid as you go, whereas the Dutch braid adds hair under rather than over each section. 

More intricate styles like fishtail, waterfall and rope braids rely on this basic three-strand technique but add interesting textures through alternation of where hair is pulled from. Taking the time to learn braiding opens your hair world beyond simple ponytails and buns, allowing you to get endless compliments on your versatile, polished hairdos.

First Step: Basic Braid

The basic braid is the foundation for all other braided hairstyles. To start, gather all of your hair to one side or both sides and divide it into three equal sections. Cross the right section over the middle, then the left section over the new middle section. Continue this over-under pattern all the way down to the bottom of your hairline to finish off the basic braid. Pro tip: For smooth, defined sections, run your fingers along the scalp as you braid.

For Beginners: French Braid

The French braid adds dimension by incorporating new pieces of hair into each braid section as you go. Start with the same three section basic braid pattern at the top of the head. As you braid down, lift up small pieces of hair from the side sections near your forehead and braid them into the outer sections before crossing over. Continue braiding down while integrating new strands of hair for an intricate braided look.

Braiding TechniqueDifficulty Level
Basic BraidBeginner
French BraidBeginner

A French braid is one of the best hairstyles for beginners to learn as it builds off the basic braid technique. Start with small sections near the forehead and get comfortable integrating new strands before taking bigger pieces lower down. Be patient – like any new skill, braiding improves with practice.

For Beginners: Dutch Braid

The Dutch braid is similar to the French braid but incorporates hair in the opposite direction. Start with three sections but when lifting new pieces of hair from the side parts, braid them under the middle section rather than over. This creates a braid that lies close to the head rather than sticking out. The Dutch braid creates a chic pulled-back look that’s perfect for every day.

To review, for a French braid incorporate new hair pieces over the middle section, whereas a Dutch braid adds hair by braiding it under the center piece. Both are must-learn styles for hair mastery.

For Compliments: Pull-Through Braid

The pull-through braid has a looser, beachy texture that looks effortless but still polished. Start with a three-strand basic braid at the top of the head. Instead of crossing sections over each other, pull each strand forward through the braid before adding in the next piece. Repeat all the way down, gently tugging out the braid afterward for extra fullness and swing.

A few key tips for the pull-through braid:

  • Use your finger to guide each section forward through the braid as you go instead of crossing over
  • Add in small chunks of hair at a time rather than lifting individual strands
  • Tug and fluff out the finished braid for maximum volume

The undone appearance of a pull-through braid makes it perfect to show off your features. Wear it down or pulled half-back for a fresh daytime look.

For Mermaid Vibes: Fishtail Braid

Created using the same weaving technique as a basic braid, the fishtail variation results in a fuller, rope-like braid with gorgeous texture. Start by dividing hair into two equal sections. Pull a small section of hair from the outer edge of one side and add it to the inner part of the other side. Repeat on the opposite side, alternating which section you add hair to as you work your way down. Secure with an elastic for enchanting mermaid hair

Fishtail BraidCreated by alternating which side you pull hair from to add more definition and volume

A fishtail braid creates thickness like multiple braids woven together. It’s a show stopping style that takes your look from day to night. Practice on a friend first to get the alternating over-under motion down pat before attempting it on your own tresses. Moisturized, detangled hair works best.

For Fancy Occasions: Waterfall Braid

The waterfall braid is sophisticated enough for weddings and grown-up affairs. Start with a French braid on one side of the head, adding hair as usual. Once the braid meets the crown, begin another braid going in the opposite direction, weaving the two braids together as you go down. Alternate braiding directions section by section to create cascading tendrils, like a waterfall, down the length of hair. Pin the ends under for an elegant updo.

Some tips for mastering the waterfall braid:

  • Practice the weaving motion with two separate braids laying side by side first
  • Go slowly, concentrating on alternating the braid direction with each new section
  • Use bobby pins to secure braids that are too short to continue the over-under weaving

With its intricate design, the waterfall braid makes a statement. Partners well with special occasion dresses and sparkling accessories for a look that will dazzle.

For An Updo Upgrade: Twisted Rope Braid

Take basic braids to new heights with the twisted rope braid updo. Start with two Dutch braids on each side of the head meeting in back. Take the ends and twist them tightly together like rope. Pin the rope securely on top of the head and crown for height. Soft tendrils can frame the face for femininity.

Benefits of the twisted rope braid include:

  • Uses braiding skills to create polished half-up half-down style
  • Twist provides textural interest elevated above the head
  • Shows off neck and d├ęcolletage without fuss

Master the Dutch braid to add this chic variation to your hair repertoire. Perfect for both work and fancy occasions demanding sophistication up top.

Hair Accessories for Braided Looks

Braids are easily elevated with the right accessories. Consider additions like:

Hair Fans: Intertwine thin strands of material like leather or ribbon into a section of braids for bohemian edge.

Beads: Work subtle spacer beads individually into one braid strand or several for shimmer.

Flowers: Delicately place a fresh bloom or two behind an ear or woven into a pull-through braid.

Clips: Adorn the end of a fishtail braid with a barrette, clip or tie for a polished finish.

Headbands: Top off braids with a woven band that matches your personal style.

Scrunchies: Use scrunchies in a complementary color instead of elastic for a playful touch.

Ribbons: Weave thin satin ribbons throughout braids or tie in a bow at the base.

Barrettes: Accent a low Dutch braid with a sparkling barrette swept to one side.

Accessories breathe new life into braids allowing you to curate your look. Explore what best matches your outfit and vibe. Layer judiciously for maximum hair happiness.

Extensions for Braided Looks

Braids pair perfectly with hair pieces for extra flair and fullness. Consider braiding in:

Clip-In Pieces: Add fullness and length by braiding 1-2 inches of clipped-in hair extensions into strands.

Weft Hair: Secure a 1-2 inch synthetic weft by braiding it into separate sections for volume.

Ponytail Extensions: Braid your hair and clip on a long synthetic ponytail at the base.

Bohemian Braids: Interlace sections of natural or synthetic braids into a style for romantic texture.

Extensions level up any braid with more movement and body. Make sure to use high-quality synthetic or human hair pieces carefully braided in at the roots to blend seamlessly. Color match is key for a natural finish.


Braiding is an invaluable hairstyling skill that will serve you well for life’s many occasions, from daily wear to special events. Starting with the foundational techniques like basic, French and Dutch braids will allow you to master more intricate styles over time. Don’t be afraid to practice – braiding improves with repetition.

Refer back to tutorials as needed and don’t forget small additions like accessories can transform a braid completely. With braids being a universally flattering option, taking the time to learn different weaves and integrating extensions when desired means you’ll never be without a chic, polished hair solution wherever your day or interests may lead.

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