Dying Hair in Photoshop

Something I’ve been messing around with for a while, and most recently, this weekend, is trying to figure out how to change hair color. This weekend, I think I finally found a method that works really well. So, first things first, you’ll need a picture that includes hair in some manner, preferably the type that grows out of a human’s head. In this example, I used a screen shot of actress Zooey Deschanel, for reasons that are unimportant.

So, this should actually be pretty simple. Your first step is to create a new layer.

Second step, on the new layer, color over the hair with the color of your choice. You don’t need to cover every last strand, just where it gathers the most. The strands aren’t important yet.
Alright! All done! Doesn’t that look AWESOME?

Ok, bad joke. Time to get out your smudge tool, this is where we decide to fill in those tinier, hard to reach strands. You can use whatever size brush you think would work nicely, but I would recommend using a 0% hardness brush, rather than the ones at 100% hardness. I also have the strength of the smudge tool at 50%. So now your strange blob of color should look slightly more like… cartoon hair.

Now would be a good time to actually check your progress. Set the blending property on the layer to ‘Soft Light.’ It’s not there yet, obviously, but it’s starting to look better. This is a good time to fine tune all that smudging you did to the hair, before we move onto the next step. ALSO. If there is an ear showing it is a good idea to erase or smudge away any color covering it. If you’re using orange like I am, you probably don’t want your person looking like their ear and only their ear came out of the Jersey Shore. Or, maybe you do. I won’t judge.

So once you think you’re happy with how the color covers the hair, it’s time for my favorite tool in Photoshop’s existence; The Gaussian Blur! (If you don’t know how to access this, it’s in the filter menu. Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) Set the Guassian Blur to 5px, and hit that OK. Now it looks like we might be getting somewhere!

So now we have this vibrant, orange headed Zooey. Maybe you want to keep the color bright, and wild, good for you. As for me, I’m going for a more realistic look, and this part is really up to discretion. Hold down ‘Ctrl+U’ (or Command+U on a Mac, I believe.) to open the ‘Hue/Saturation’ window. I wouldn’t bother messing with the Hue slider on this screen, unless you decide you want to change the color. Instead, slide the lightness and saturation down until you find something more realistic and close to the color you want. I wanted something around auburn, and I set the Saturation to ‘-15’ and the Lightness to ‘-30.’ You can slide the lightness up, but it makes the hair look old, so if you’re going for that, be my guest! But if you want realistic hair, saturation will always go down.

So now we have an auburn hair colored Zooey Deschanel! She also has glasses and blemishes, but that was part of the inside joke that actually provoked me to do this. I need to figure out a better way to photo shop glasses on to people yet. Remember, a lot of this tutorial is subjective, and is really up to the photoshopper. Mess around with it, tweak it, until you find what works for your picture.

~Matthew Hartnett

~ by negativenine on January 27, 2010.

One Response to “Dying Hair in Photoshop”

  1. overall a very helpful and interesting DIY. your use of commas may annoy some readers.

    while i found the style in which you present your tutorial entertaining, others may prefer a more streamlined “Step 1: do this, Step 2: do this” approach. your photos could also use some sort of subtitles to explain exactly what part of the step they are an example of.

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