Tutorial Details

Difficulty: Advanced
Estimated Time: 15 – 20 minutes

In this tutorial we’ll show you how to change the color of hair in Adobe Photoshop CS6 or Creative Cloud (CC). There are many different ways to change hair color and we explore just one of the techniques that gives the most reliable and consistent color changes. The technique can also be applied to various other objects and used for a multitude of purposes. If you’re looking to change eye color then have a look at our eye color tutorial.

This tutorial can also be used for:

  • Changing the color of buttons
  • Changing the color of web designs
  • Changing the color of illustrations

What you’ll need:

  • A ready to go image file
  • Photoshop CS5+

Optional

TIP: Click on the images in the following tutorial to see a larger version.

#1 The Quick Selection Tool

How to access the Quick Selection Tool

Hold down the magic wand tool and a pop up will appear with alternatives, select the quick selection tool from here.

Quick Selection Tool

Using the Quick Selection Tool, click and drag across the hair – don’t worry about being too precise at this moment, cleaning up comes later. Just make sure that the majority of it is selected.

Change Hair Colour - Quick Selection Tool

 TIP: Hold down alt whilst dragging to unselect any areas you don’t want to include.

#2 The Refine Edge Tool

How to access the Refine Edge Tool

When you have any of the selection tools selected (including the quick selection tool) then along the top menu you will see the Refine Edge button. Click this.

Refine Edge Tool

A new dialogue box will open and a variety of options are now available that will allow us to clean up the selection.

Smart Radius – This value allows you to increase the border of the selection for fine details like hair etc whilst not selecting broader areas like the background. Adjust the radius to suit your image (larger images which have more pixels tend to require a higher radius).

Change Hair Colour - Refine Edge Tool

The brush tool should be automatically selected within the Refine Edge dialogue box. Click and drag over the edges of the hair to allow photoshop to generate a better selection of the edges which are more natural.

Change Hair Colour - Refine Edge Brush Tool

At this point you can start being as precise as needed. It’s possible to go back and redo the refine selection as many times as needed to get the precision required. Once done click OK. (For the purpose of this demonstration I have kept the selection fairly loose).

Change Hair Colour - Precise Refine Edge Tool

#3 Layer Adjustments – Selective Color

Selective Color is the process that will allow us to manipulate the existing colors.

How to create the Selective Color adjustment layer.

Under Layer – New Adjustment Layer, Selective Color can be found at the bottom.

3.1

#3 A bit of Color Theory – Neutrals and Blacks

For the purpose of this tutorial I will only be referring to the neutrals and blacks. Neutrals can be considered the mid tones and black the darker tones (or shadows).

Firstly we will manipulate the neutral tones. You should have the following available:

  • Cyan
  • Magenta
  • Yellow
  • Blacks

Red Hair

By decreasing cyan you will be removing the blue hues from the selection which will increase the red hues in the selection.  When combined with increasing magenta and yellow the output will be a strong red.

Change Hair Color - Red hair

Turquoise Hair

By increasing the cyan you will be increasing the blue hues in the selection and when the magenta is decreased further (to pull out the blues) and the yellow increased (which will bring out more green) then you’ll end up with a stronger color that can be considered almost unrealistic. To tame the vibrancy down we can lighten the mid-tones slightly by decreasing the blacks.

Change Hair Color - Turquoise

Grass Green Hair

Using the Turquoise Tutorial as a base I now change from Neutrals under “Color” in the adjustments panel to Blacks. By decreasing the cyan you will be increasing the red hues in the shadows which should bring out a browner color. A slight increase in magenta will enrich the brown. Then by pushing the yellow up we’ll be bringing out the stronger greens inbetween the hair strands. To give it more depth we’ll increase the blacks so that its level with the yellow.

Change Hair Color - Grass Green

Details – 200% Crop

As you can see below, the colors overlap in particular places like on the skin, top etc. To correct these areas we would need to reload the selection, invert it and using a soft 30% opacity brush, color back in some of the skin colour to reduce the excess tinge. A detailed explanation will be covered in a future tutorial.

Note – Hair color will reflect off the skin so don’t take all of the new colour away. Just reduce it.

Change Hair Color - Grass Green 200% Crop

Conclusion

In this tutorial we’ve learned:

  • How to change hair color in Adobe Photoshop CS6
  • How to use the selective colour adjustment layer
  • How to refine the edges of a selection

I hope you have found the tutorial helpful. Feel free to comment below, share this tutorial and subscribe to our Youtube Channel.

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