changing hair colour

changing hair colour, before and after

changing hair colour, before and after

Problem: Meet Jennifer Horne. Oh no, she’s not the problem; she’s a very stylish girl that I did a business portrait for several months ago. The problem is that she loves to change her look, and has changed her hair colour (from blonde to brown) since the last time I photographed her, which was only 6 months ago, so it doesn’t quite warrant a new portrait.

Solution: Photoshop. After a few emails back and forth and a peek at some photographs of how her hair looks now I had a pretty good idea of what she wanted. Before going any further, I really would like to stress the importance of starting with a good photograph; it makes things a lot easier in the end.

changing hair colour in photoshop - before

Set-up: Using Photoshop CS 2 I opened her 16-bit, original retouched, blonde image and made a new folder in the layers palette and called it “brown hair”, I put all of my new layers in there which made it easy for me to toggle between Jennifer’s two different hair colours. This also helped me to perform non-destructive work on the file and keep me organized.

changing hair colour in photoshop - quick mask

Masking: I created a selection around Jennifer’s hair first by using a large, medium-soft brush at full opacity in Quick Mask mode (enter and exit Quick Mask mode by pressing the letter “Q”). The point here is to paint over all of her hair with the red colour of the quick mask. Zooming in to 100% and adjusting the hardness of my brush really helped me to fine tune my edges. Once I was happy with it I pressed “Q” to exit quick mask mode and was left with a selection around everything except her hair. Select > Inverse changed the selection to just her hair.

changing hair colour in photoshop - saturation

Hue + Saturation: The first thing I needed to do colour-wise was remove some of the colour saturation from her hair. So, with her hair selected, I created a new hue and saturation adjustment layer by clicking on the “Create new fill or adjustment layer” icon at the bottom of the layers palette and then clicked on “Hue/Saturation”, this created an adjustment layer with a layer mask so any changes I made would only effect her hair. Reducing the saturation helped to remove some of the yellow, preparing her hair for a colour change.

changing hair colour in photoshop - final

Colour Change: Here’s where the real work began, it was time to change the actual colour of Jennifer’s hair. I needed to get my hair selection back so I held down the command key and clicked on layer mask thumbnail for the Hue/Saturation layer in the layers palette. Then I made a channel mixer adjustment layer by again clicking on the “Create new fill or adjustment layer” icon at the bottom of the layers palette, this time I clicked on “Channel Mixer”. I probably spent a few hours with this dialog box making adjustments in tiny increments to each of the three output channels, until Jennifer’s hair looked just right.

I find it’s often a good idea to take a break for five minutes or so, stretch, and step away from the computer so I can come back and look at my work with fresh eyes. The beauty of using adjustment layers is that none of the changes I made were permanent so I can easily go back and make modifications any time I please, or any time Jennifer decides to change her hair colour again.

Now, like all things Photoshop, this is only one of many ways to change the colour of an area of an image, and in this instance, this is the method that worked best for me.

And because Jennifer is a fun client I also sent her an image with pink hair too.

3 thoughts on “changing hair colour

    • jennifer says:

      Thanks Mary! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! If you end up trying something like this I’d love to hear about it.

      Do you have any other suggestions for tutorials? I’d like to post more, but they have to be techniques that I actually use.

  1. Mary Vican says:

    I have so much I’d personally love to learn about creating moods with landscapes. You seem to capture a single mood very well- solitude, quiet, vibrance, etc. Working with those “old fashioned” rules that you learned in school or books that don’t have to be followed.. Color and white balance. Etc. You can’t give away all the tricks, but it’s really amazing to learn how you see things, and then your end result as one of your striking photos.

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