Any student of artistic endeavors has likely encountered the color wheel. The traditional color wheel displays the three Primary Colors: Red, Yellow, Blue, and the three Secondary Colors that made from combining these
Primary Colors: Orange, Green, Violet. Some color wheels expand on this and include the Tertiary Colors (made by combining a Primary and Secondary color). These include Red, Red-Orange, Orange, Yellow-Orange, Yellow,
Yellow-Green, Green, Blue-Green, Blue, Blue-Violet, Violet, and Red-Violet.
The Relationships of Colors
The purpose of the color wheel is to clearly illustrate the way in which the colors relate to one another. When colors are opposite one another on the color wheel they are Complementary Colors. Complementary colors
placed side by side will intensify the appearance of both colors, yet when any two complementary colors are combined in the proper proportion (as when applying haircolor for color correction), they neutralize one another.
Analogous colors are those that are side by side on the color wheel. Depending on the depth of the color wheel in question, you may be looking at comparing a primary color with its neighboring secondary color, or
looking at very subtle shades as you get into fourth and fifth generation color combinations. Analogous colors are generally compatible and can be made different by the lightness or darkness of the shade. Paired in
comparison situations, analogous pairs coordinate well together. In blending analogous colors (such as in haircolor) you can use an analogous color to intensify the hue of the hair’s existing color.
Last color relationship we’ll look at is Monochromatic Colors. This refers to color that are all the same base color but of different hue and value. In comparative situations (such as in fashion and interior décor)
monochromatic colors can add a sense of sophistication to the look. In combinative settings like haircoloring, using light, medium and dark shades of a particular base color can create very flattering dimensional color effects.
The Color Wheel as it Pertains to Hair
When we look at hair color, the values of the traditional color wheel are too limited to explain the scope of the color available. To more-accurately represent the color, we need to add in the dimension of light-level
as part of the color wheel. The lightness level of a haircolor is important in its classification in the three basic groups: Blonde, Brunette, and Redhead.
Our Haircolor Wheel utilizes the standard Primary and Secondary colors, as well as their Tertiary combinations, but these base colors are overlaid on a gradient scale (from one to ten) of lightness levels. One is
absolute darkest (black), and ten is palest blonde. The base colors present overlaying the lightness levels help to demonstrate how to differentiate the myriad haircolors available.
Coolness and Warmth
One of the primary ways in which we divide hair colors is into cool shades and warm shades. Cool shades are those that have base colors which are cool: blues, violets, greens (also called drab) and are often named with
indicative terms like “cool”, “icy”, “platinum”, or “ash”. Warm shades are those whose base colors are from the warm colors: red, orange, yellow and they typically bear names that evoke warmth or reflect their color in
other terms: “cinnamon”, “auburn”, “burnished”, “sunlit”, “copper”, “golden” and sometimes simply “warm”.