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The hair color wheel

The hair color wheel is one of the most important tools used in hairdressing. Understanding it allows you to achieve any color result you want, and even allows you to correct any unintended mistakes. Committing it to memory is the one of the first steps to developing your skills and improving your home hair colors to get professional results at home.
Hair color wheel
The hair color wheel

What is the hair color wheel?

The hair color wheel is a wheel of colors that can be used to visualize how different colors interact with each other when you use dye. Colors that are opposite to each other on the wheel are called complementary colors and will neutralize each other, whilst other colors will blend together to form new colors.

Complementary colors

Determining the complementary color for a tone you want to get rid of is one of the most significant benefits of the hair color wheel. After enough use, you will be able to actively use this knowledge by simply looking at your hair and will no longer need the actual color wheel to find matching or neutralizing tones.

The reason this facet of the wheel is so powerful is that when used, it allows you to remove absolutely any unwanted tone from your hair. This is the key to hair color correction and an important skill used by any color correction specialist.

Whenever you want to get rid of a specific tone, look at that tone on the hair color wheel and then shift your gaze towards the color that is directly opposite to the unwanted tone. This is the unwanted tone's complementary color and if you add this color into your hair, it will neutralize the unwanted color.

You can see this principle at work when you look at how yellow tone is neutralized in blonde hair by using violet tone. As violet is added into the hair in the form of toner or blonde shampoo, the golden appearance is reduced until you eventually end up with a neutral result. The more violet tone that is added, the less yellow that will remain afterwards. This is because violet and yellow are complementary colors.

In a similar sense, you can also see that violet itself can be neutralized from your hair by using yellow color. You'd perform this kind of correction when dealing with hair colors like mahogany, burgundy, or violet brown; which all feature strong violet tones and require gold to be added into the hair to neutralize this violet if you want to get rid of it.

Can you see why the hair color wheel is so powerful yet?

Blending tone

Whilst the most common use of the hair color wheel is for toning and color correction, it also helps you see whether two colors can be blended, and helps you visualize what the effect of that might be.

Colors next to each other on the wheel can be blended to produce a tone that is somewhere in between the two colors that have been used. In the case of mahogany dye for example, a blend of red and violet takes place.

Even though red is a warm tone and violet is a cool tone, they don't cancel each other out or create a completely different color because they're not complementary tones and are located directly next to each other. Combining the two different tones produces a color that contains both warm and cool elements as it is a violet-red result, showcasing both tonal families.

Mixing tone

The hair color wheel has one last benefit to offer by showing you whether two tones will mix to form a completely new tone. Any color that isn't opposite or next to another color will mix.

As an example, a blue and yellow tone will mix together to form a green color. Even though it is a combination of cool and warm tone, they don't neutralize each other because they are not complementary.

This use of the hair color wheel has more of an indirect benefit because you can't actively use the wheel to see how two colors will mix, but you can get an idea by looking at the colors that are in-between the ones you are mixing. In this sense, you can see that mixing blue and red could create a color that could look anything from red, to violet, to blue depending on the mix ratio.

Need more help with the hair color wheel? Perhaps you're having trouble deciding which color you need to use for toning or correcting your own hair? Leave a comment for individual advice...

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