Your Guide to Wella’s Hair Color Charts
If you spend more time sitting in the salon chair than you do coiffing hair behind it, you might think your colorist simply glances at a hair color chart before choosing your next ultra-flattering shade. However, there’s a lot of knowledge behind every formula they mix, even if they make each decision, suggestion and technique look utterly effortless.
While we can’t lift the lid on every secret your stylist has up their sleeve, we’re giving you a little more insight into how the Wella hair color charts are used.
So, if you're wondering 'what color should I dye my hair?' or 'how do I know what color suits me?' you can find out with our color chart guide. Consider this your chance to demystify the salon experience, and your opportunity to 'try on' a hair color before you fully commit. Colorists, read on to brush up on the skills you’ve already expertly honed.
And don’t forget to stock up on the ultimate color protection hair care products to keep color looking healthy and vibrant. From cleansing color shampoo to conditioning mousse and color refresh conditioner, browse all our hair color protection and care products.
1. The Color Theory
To predict the finished look of every color transformation, colorists use a simple equation:
Hair’s starting point + color chosen = end result
Now, you know what ‘color chosen’ means – it’s the desired hair hue – while the ‘starting point’ is a combination of the hair history and the underlying pigment. Let’s break each of them down…
Colorists look at the processes your hair has already been through. Has it been colored before? How long ago? What was used? Why? These are all questions they might ask you. Even matters such as your styling routine or whether you’re a swimmer might be discussed, all in a bid to figure out what formulas will work with your locks, and whether your hair is in good enough condition for a lightener.
When hair is colored – especially if a lightener, like Blondor, is used – some of the underlying pigments in your hair may be exposed. You’ll learn more about this below when we take a look at the Lightening Curve, but underlying pigment is an important factor when choosing a color, too. Will your colorist work with it, or work to correct it?
2. The Lightening Curve
So, let’s venture further into underlying pigment. The Lightening Curve, seen below, is essentially a diagram that helps colorists determine the correct shade for their client’s hair.
For example, if you’re naturally a deep brunette 3/ but you want to add a few subtle highlights, lifting ribbons of hair to a 6/ will alter and brighten the underlying pigment, creating the perfect base for a deep caramel toner. Meanwhile, if you’re naturally a golden level 8/ but you’re craving a platinum ‘do, you’d need to be lifted to a very pale yellow 10/, before a toner is applied to counteract the yellow. That brings us to the next step…
3. The Color Circle
While the Lightening Curve is helpful in understanding hair depth and shade, the Color Circle is used to figure out the toner required to complement or correct tones in the hair. It’s all based on color theory; the understanding that colors opposite each other on the color wheel will neutralize one another, while side-by-side colors will create a whole new hue.
For example, if blonde hair is yellow and warm but you want it to be icy and cool, you’d look to see which color is opposite yellow on the Color Circle. In this case, it’s purple. Then, a little bit of violet would be added to the hair formula to counteract the yellow tones. Only a dash is needed to subtly color correct.
4. The Numbering System
You’ve got the full lowdown on the Lightening Curve and the Color Circle. Now, let’s look at how they correlate with a numbering system to create a hair color formula. Wella has its own universal numbering system, which means it’s the same across all color products, whether hair is being treated to the pure permanent pigment of Koleston Perfect, or our kind-to-hair demi-permanent, Color Touch.
Every number in the numbering system is divided by a stroke. The figure before the stroke denotes the depth (how light or dark the hair is), and the figure after indicates what color you’ll see. When you get your hair colored, you might hear your colorist reeling off all manner of random numbers. The tables below show what each one means, and how they combine to make the most flawless hue.
The images above showing the depth numbering system on the left, and on the right, you’ll see the tone numbering system, as well as how depth and tone translate into a shade number.
Case in point? Say you’re going for a deep mahogany hair hue like in the photos below. To achieve it, you’ll want to reach the depth of a 4/, 5/ or a 6/ then add the tone of a red-violet /5 to achieve that rich, radiant finish, depending on the undertones.
5. The Best Color Curating Tools
There are various tools colorists might use to find the perfect blend for every client, with the most common being a color chart or a book of hair swatches. These are helpful in the consultation stage, (combined with knowledge of the hair’s starting point) but now there’s also a digital tool that can help colorists match you to your ideal shade.
It’s called the Koleston Perfect Digital Shade Chart, and it’s available via the Wella Education app for Android devices, iPhones and iPads. Not only does it pull up every shade available; it also allows you to see what each color would look like in different lighting, creating a realistic hair simulation. Teamed with expert knowledge of the Lightening Curve and the Color Circle, it unlocks a new way to identify the most beautiful color blends.
It’s not simple, but the pros have got you covered…