I recently asked my artistically inclined, smarty-pants best friend Aurora to write a guest post for me. I had been planning on writing this post about mixing pastel hair color and thought that a post about the color wheel and how it applies to hair would go hand in hand with that. She did a really amazing job on this post and went above and beyond what I was expecting with beautiful hand-drawn illustrations! Here’s Rora!
Related: How To Make Pastel Hair Color
If you’ve ever learned about color in a science class, you know that all the colors of the visible light spectrum combined make white light. A prism with white light shown through will break up into a rainbow. Shine that rainbow back into a second prism and you’ll get white light again. BUT, if you’ve ever tried mixing every color of crayon or paint, you’ll know that the result is about as far from white as possible.
As much as I would love to razzle-dazzle you with the physics behind color, it’s just not useful here. Really, what I’m trying to convey here is: mixing color as pigment– used in art, make-up, hair dye, etc.- is different. It’s not an exact science, but don’t despair, a helpful device called a color wheel can take some of the guesswork out of getting a desired color.
Here is a simple color wheel- red, red-orange, orange, yellow-orange, yellow, and so on and so forth. Hopefully you learned in kindergarten that mixing blue and yellow makes green, red and blue make purple and red and yellow make orange, so we’ll skip over that part.
Probably one of the most famous and practical uses of the color wheel is in determining a complementary color.
On the color wheel, the compliment to a given color is the color opposite (across) on the wheel. Example: red and green are complementary colors.
Complementary colors have some properties that make them different than just any two random colors; when mixed, complementary colors should produce a neutral hue, and when shown side by side, they should make each other pop or appear brighter. Because of this neutral-making property, complementary colors are often used to “cancel out” an undesired color in the beauty world.
You may have noticed (or even used) green concealer advertised to cover red marks. In hair, toner is often used to produce this cancelling-out effect. A lavender or purple toner can make blonde hair appear less yellow. If you are a platinum blonde, you may have been advised to get a special blonde shampoo, which contains very small amounts of purple colorant to keep you fresh between appointments. Now, don’t get any big ideas. If your hair isn’t light enough, purple toner isn’t going to do anything but make your hair look sickly (been there!), but a very pale yellow (cornsilk?) plus a purple, should get you somewhere near white.
My favorite part of the color wheel is… the color wheel. Something about putting colors in an order that completes itself and starts over and where each color is partially present in the preceding and succeeding colors is downright pleasurable to me. Using a color scheme of analogous colors is a way to enjoy the orderliness of the color wheel without using the whole rainbow.
You can work with a palette of analogous colors by taking a continuous selection of colors out of the color wheel. This lends itself well to an ombré-esque effect on hair.
A little practical advice: the best way to choose the placement of the colors is to consider how runny the color is (particularly if it’s a semi-permanent color) and how you will be washing the color out of your hair. If you’re going to go from yellow to blue (stopping on the way at yellow-green, green, and blue-green), realize that yellow is the easiest color to mess up, so keeping it at the top, where rinsing water will cause color to run downward toward the darker colors, might be a little less risky for a novice than putting yellow at the bottom.
An analogous palette does not need to run from one primary to another; you can start on blue-violet and end at orange for all I care, I’m not your boss! While analogous colors may not be the most adventurous color combination choices, any combo is pretty much guaranteed to please the eye.
Hopefully you found this useful to some degree. There’s certainly more to it than this, on both the scientific end and the color theory end. Numerous books and college courses exist on both subjects, if you’re interested.
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