Photoshop tutorial: How to change hair colour in Photoshop: Lighten, Tint and create Ombre hair effects

Photographer Tigz Rice demonstrates how to use Photoshop to change hair colour, lighten hair colour, tint hair colour and create Ombre hair effects in this Photoshop tutorial.

Intro


Just like your hairdresser will tell you when you visit the hair salon, lightening hair colour is a lot trickier than trying to make hair darker.

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If a client needs your model to have lighter hair, you want to change a photo’s hair colour to match his or her character or stand out from their environment - or you’re thinking of trying out a new colour yourself and want to see what it looks like first – this Photoshop tutorial will show you how.

Changing hair from brown to blonde

Fashion and burlesque photographer Tigz Rice talks you through how you can use the red channels - which stores most of the information about our skin and hair colour - to go from a deep brown to a dark golden blonde.

If that wasn’t enough, we’ve also included a couple of extra steps at the end showing you how you can use the same technique to achieve everything from red to purple hair, as well as creating Ombre styles using gradient masks.

Time to complete

5 - 10 mins

Software needed

Photoshop CS6, CC or CC 2014

Step 1

Step 2

STEP 2

In the Adjustments panel, click on the Add Selective Color adjustment layer icon. Choose the Quick Selection Tool from the Toolbar and make a rough selection of the hair.

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At this point, it doesn’t have to be a perfect selection, but try and include as much of the hair as possible.

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Step 3

STEP 3

Once you’ve made your rough selection, click on the Refine Edge button at the top of the screen. Choose overlay in View Mode for and turn on Smart Radius to detect the edges of the hair. With a medium sized brush, go round the edges of the hair to make sure everything has been selected that needs to be.

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Step 4

STEP 4

Once you are happy with your mask, choose Output to Selection and press OK at the bottom of the dialog box.

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Click on the Apply Vector Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to apply your mask to the Selective Color layer.


Step 5

STEP 5

Click on the half-circle icon on the Selective Color layer in the Layers panel and it should bring up the Properties panel.

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Ensure the Colors drop-down menu is set to Reds and slide the Cyan, Magenta and Yellow sliders to the left until you reach a slightly lighter, warmer tone. Amounts will vary on each photo.

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Step 6

STEP 6

Next, switch the drop-down Colors menu to Neutrals.

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Here you can do any fine tweaking to the Cyan slider to bring up the overall warmth of the hair. I also lightened the blacks by 10.


Step 7

STEP 7

Click on the Add Curves adjustment layer icon in the Adjustments panel and hold down the Alt key while clicking on the line between the two adjustment layers to clip them together. This means we only work from one mask.

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Step 8

STEP 8

In the Curves layer’s Properties panel, select RGB from the drop-down menu and click twice on the white line to create two additional curve points as shown.

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Drag these new curve points to create a curve similar to the one shown. This will give more lift to the highlights, whilst making smaller changes to the darker tones in the hair.

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Step 9

STEP 9

Now select the Red channel from the drop-down menu and repeat step 8 to create exactly the same tonal curve. Switch back to the RGB channel as required to see any minor adjustments that need to be applied.

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Step 10

STEP 10

The hair should now look an unrealistic copper colour, which we will fix in the next step.

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Step 11

STEP 11

Click on the Hue/Saturation icon in the Adjustments panel and - once again - hold down the Alt key while clicking on the line between our Hue/Saturation and Curves adjustment layers to clip everything to the bottom layer mask.

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Step 12

STEP 12

With the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer highlighted, go to the Properties panel and change Master to Red and slide the Hue slider right until you reach a warm orangey-yellow tone.

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Move the Saturation slider left to around -35. Removing some of the saturation gives a more realistic hair tone.


Step 13

STEP 13

Once you’re happy with the how the hair looks, click on the original hair mask we made on the Selective Colour layer and use a soft black brush to remove any extra areas of tonal change - particularly where shadows are cast by strands of hair.

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Step 14

STEP 14

Finally, let’s bring back some of the hair’s natural shine.

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Create a new blank layer. With a white brush, draw roughly over the hair. Double click on Layer to bring up the Layer Styles property panel.

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Step 15

STEP 15

Change the Blend Mode to Soft Light and the Opacity to 70%.

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At the bottom of the panel, drag the black slider on the Underlying Layer up to around 100. Hold down Alt to split the marker and drag the second part up to around 200. Once you are happy with the results, press OK.


Step 16

Step 17

STEP 17

Changing hair colour to red or purple in Photoshop

At this point, it’s also possible to go a step further and change the tint of the hair  to a copper red or a less natural tone such as purple.

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Click on your Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, ensure you’re in the Red channel (not Master) and move the Hue slider even further out of the natural colour range.

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Step 18

STEP 18

This is what the hair looks like purple. It’s a bit extreme and doesn’t look natural but looks realistically dyed – and matches the purple flowers in the model’s hair.

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Step 19

STEP 19

Ombre hair effects in Photoshop

Alternatively, experiment with ombre hair – hair with highlights added to the ends, which has recently been very popular with the likes of Beyonce - by adding a second Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, repeating steps 10 and 11.

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Blend the top colour into the bottom colour with an adjustment mask filled with a gradient. For this particular example, I held down the Alt key and dragged the gradient mask onto the curves layer to emphasise the tonal colour fade.