How to change Hair Colour using Adobe Photoshop

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  By Julian
How to change Hair Colour using Adobe Photoshop

Hi all, today we’ll be taking a look at how to change the colour of someones hair.

This will be a more advanced tutorial so I’ll try to be a detailed as possible, this sounds like it will be easy but in reality to do it correct is actually pretty difficult so listen up all you tutorial loving Photoshoppers because I’m about to throw some more knowledge out there for you.

Like I said, I will try to be a detailed as possible so that even a beginner can follow along. And, if you are a beginner and you’re able to follow along and do this the first time then maybe in a year or so I’ll be checking out your tutorial.

It is important to remember that if you don’t do this correctly, the hair will not look real and will be out a colour range or several…

What makes this difficult is that hair has highlights and will have to be changed properly to look real. Be aware before we get started, you are able to go from Light hair to Dark hair easy enough, but to go the opposite way is a nightmare in many cases. If you are trying to change someone’s jet black hair to blonde, then good luck to you, and if you figure it out with out having to replace the hair with new hair completely, then I’m all ears and you can email me at [email protected] 🙂 haha I joke!

But anyway….

So with our image today, we’ll be changing her hair to brown, blonde and black from red, but you will be able to apply any of these lighter colours to get the same result, though as discussed forget about going from black to a lighter color.

We’ll be starting out by creating an adjustment layer. Click on your screen where I have highlighted below and choose selective colour.

We will also be using Hue and Saturation layers later on in this tutorial so try to memorize how to create adjustment layers, as they are extremely useful when working non destructively, which I encourage everyone to do. If you learn how to get good at this then you will not only look more professional, but you are going to save yourself a lot of heartache in the future when you make mistakes.

And trust me, even the best make mistakes. At first I thought I was going to be some whiz kid, doing everything on the one layer and boy did I get a rude awakening when I had ruined hours of work here and there throughout my career.

Please please please learn and use adjustment layers!

So now we’re in the Red Channel as shown.

You can see the four sliders, move them around for a little bit and get used to what they do which is add and reduce the colours. And in the case of the Black Sliders, they somewhat lighten or darken.

You can go through all the different channels and explore.

Do this for a few minutes and try to achieve a light brown colour. If you feel you are a little stuck simply return all the settlings back to zero, you can do this by just simply typing zero in the right hand side boxes.

You should be able to get it to brown pretty easily, I did it by using the following settings below.

That was easy enough.

Next we’ll need to use the Layer mask on the Selective Colour Layer, that’s the White Box to the right attached to it.

Click on that White Box and Press B, and using a soft edge brush to paint black over the face and any area that’s not the hair, the white background will not matter.

Zoom in and take your time at this to make it look as good as you can, also lower the opacity on your Brush to blend in and around the hair better.

Lets move on and create all the other colours in the second part of this tutorial. They will be fairly similar, however there are a few differences, so stay tuned because this is just a little taste of whats to come, which will be a bit more difficult as well.

Color Change Process

To begin, first copy your layer,  then we have to take all of the colour out of our subjects hair. You can do this by opening up a Hue Saturation Adjustment Layer.

Once this is done, you can then move your saturation slider to the left, decreasing the colours. If you don’t get it all

Don’t worry about the skin turning grey, because we’ll be using a layer mask to fix that, just as we have previously done.

Now, you can paint Black using a brush tool on the layer mask as indicated to make the skin reappear.

Make sure to use a soft brush for this, so it blends into the hairline. Also be sure to create a clipping mask so the adjustments belong only to the layer below.

We’re already looking pretty good.

Now grab a New Curves Adjustment Layer and from the middle, click and pull down.

Now doing the same with the layer mask paint out the Face and Background so it reappears again.

Take your time with this and go as detailed as you think is necessary zooming in and out using your + and – on your keyboard.

On your picture there may be areas you can see between the hair that is still saturated, and easy fix for this is to grab your Brush Tool, hold Alt and take a sample of the skin and then change your layer blending mode to colour.

Once you do this you can then paint in the areas with the skin tone and it wont effect the hair.

So cool we have our Brown and our Black colour now lets move on to creating blonde which is the hardest out of them all.

This for sure is the one that will cause the most problems and is the hardest out of them all, you want to change the colour but you also will want to lighten it and its kinda hard to find a realistic balance but here goes.

So to start this off we will have to create a Selective Colour Adjustment Layer just like we did in the first part of this tutorial, so if you have to re-read that then bring it up for a second.

Once you get that Adjustment layer up drag the Black slider to the left and add yellow by dragging the Yellow slider to the right in the red Channel.

Adjust the Magenta down *Left and the Cyan up a little *Right till it looks similar to what I have below.

Now paint black over the layer mask as we did before, So that we are not editing the face colour too.

Next thing we’ll want to do is add in highlights to the hair, we do this by painting a blonde colour over the hair in a new layer like so.

Then change the Blend mode to Screen.

Then we are going to use Blend if, so double click on your layer and a panel like below will appear.

At the bottom as highlighted you hold Alt and click on the slider I have indicated above and drag it across to the right, the slider should have split into two so make sure you click on one half to do so.

Depending on how you painted over the hair at the beginning you may need to tidy up using the eraser tool around the edges of the hair.

There is also Tutorials available on selecting Hair Here to help you get even better results cropping.

Now you’ll have to repeat this process but this time set the blending mode to Linear Burn so that some of the darks appear back again.

You can then use your opacity and masks to erase areas you feel don’t look good and you should end up with something like mine. 🙂

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Graduated from college in 2002 with a degree in Art & Design, I started exploring my way in Graphic Design and Professional Post Production. Full-time freelancer since 2011.

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