Learn this powerful technique to change hair color in Photoshop!
Keep in mind that when doing hair color changes in Photoshop it is a lot easier to go from light hair colors to dark.
The biggest reason is that lighter hair tends to have more detail and therefore you can make those areas darker and keep the detail. Going from dark hair to light hair is much more difficult.
For example, turning black hair into blonde hair is extremely difficult or impossible in a lot of cases because the details are lost in the shadows, and photoshop cannot recreate the detail that was lost.
Keep in mind is that everyone’s hair color is different. The numerical values for any adjustments that I use on this photo may not work for your photo.
Use the values in this tutorial as a starting point, and adjust accordingly for your image. The techniques in this video are all non-destructive as you learn how to change hair color in Photoshop, which means you can always come back and edit them!
- You can get the tutorial image from Adobe Stock
Dealing with Flyaway Hair
Start by creating a New Layer.
On the Toolbar, select the Spot Healing Brush tool.
On the Options bar, make sure the box is checked for the Sample All Layers. Then, start using the Spot Healing brush tool by painting over the flyaway hairs to remove them.
To set a sample source, hold the Alt (Windows) or Options (macOS) key and click on it.
Work Non-Destructively with Smart Objects
Hold the Shift key as you select both the Background layer and the New Layer.
Then, right-click > Convert to Smart Object so you can start working on this non-destructively. This means you can add Filters, Adjustment Layers, other distortions while keeping the Smart Object editable for any further adjustments.
To open the Smart Object, double-click on the Smart Object so it opens on a new tab, and you can start editing.
To save the changes you apply, choose File > Save or press Ctrl S (Windows) or Command S (macOS).
Make a Selection Our The Hair
Use the Quick Selection tool to create a loose selection of her hair as you will have time to fine-tune it later.
To subtract from the selection, hold Alt (Windows) or Option (macOS) as you click-and-drag over areas that don’t need to be part of the selection.
Use Select and Mask to Refine The Selection
Once you have a more defined shape of the hair as a selection, go to the Options bar and click on the Select and Mask button.
On the Properties panel of the Select and Mask workspace, set the View mode to On White.
On the Toolbar, select the Refine Edge tool, which helps you refine the hair’s edges and further fine-tune the selection down to the individual strands.
Click-and-drag the tool along the edges to allow Photoshop to create a selection on the finer details.
The results will not be perfect, but you always have the opportunity to refine them with the Global Refinements later. If you want to know more about this amazing tool, click here!
Select the Brush tool, and on the Options bar, click on the plus icon, so the command sets it to add to the selection.
Then, click-and-drag over the areas to add them to the selection.
Since the View mode is On White, white areas mean, they are not part of the selection, and if it includes some parts of the hair, paint over them to retain them in the selection.
To subtract from the selection, click on the minus icon from the Options bar and repeat the process for areas you don’t want to be a part of the selection.
To output this as a selection, scroll down along the Properties panel until you see the Output Settings.
Set Output To as Selection.
Then, press OK so you can save the changes and go back to the working document.
Create a Group and Apply The Selection as a Mask
On the Layers panel, create a New Group and click on the New Layer Mask icon to apply the Layer Mask that group.
By doing so, you will be able to use the Layer Mask on multiple layers within the Group.
Rename the Group into “Hair Color” so you can keep things organized and easier to find.
Why You Shouldn’t Use JUST The Hue/Sat Adjustment
While the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer is easiest tool to use to change hair color, it certainly is not the best tool for it.
To illustrate it, if you quickly change the Hue of the hair into a bright purple, you may notice how it affects the shirt in the photo by turning the shadows into green. To summarize, it applies colors into areas where it’s not supposed to.
If you check the box for Colorize, it shows better results without affecting other areas. However, the results do not look realistic.
Use the Color Balance Adjustment Layer to Change Hair Color
Click on the New Adjustment Layer icon and select Selective Color.
On the Colors drop-down, set it to Neutrals.
In the Properties panel, you’ll see the Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (CMYK) sliders that you can use to adjust the colors in the image.
To illustrate, dragging the Cyan slider to the right turns the object into the cyan.
If you drag the slider to the left, it turns the object into the opposite color of Cyan, red. Dragging the sliders to the left always shows the color into the color label’s complementary color.
With that shown, reset the Selective Color.
Drag the Cyan slider to the right.
Drag the Magenta slider a bit to the left to reduce the magenta.
Drag the Yellow slider to the left to reduce the yellow.
Those recent adjustments turned the hair color into a similar purple shade shown earlier on how Hue/Saturation applies to this type of editing.
But unlike the Hue/Saturation, it doesn’t affect the color of the shirt or any other object surrounding it.
Making The Hair Color Red
Reset the adjustment layer so you can start turning the hair color into red.
With the Colors still set to Neutrals, drag the Cyan slider to the left.
Drag the Magenta slider a little bit to the right.
Drag the Yellow slider to the right to increase the yellows more.
If you achieve a color that is too saturated for your preference, you can always create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and use it to adjust the saturation of the colors.
Change Hair Color To Black
If you want to turn the hair color into black, you can easily achieve that effect with the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer by dragging the Saturation slider to the left to decrease any traces of saturation in the object selected.
Then, you can create a Levels adjustment layer and use the sliders to adjust the hair’s luminosity.
The Levels adjustment layer works by having individual handles for Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights to help you accurately adjust the luminosity in the image.
Meanwhile, the Output Level slider below dictates how dark is the darkest pixel and how bright is the brightest pixel.
With that in mind, use the Levels adjustment layer to determine the luminosity of the black hair.
Change Hair Color To Blonde
Create a Selective Color adjustment layer.
On the Properties panel, set the Colors to Neutrals.
Use the Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black sliders to create your color mix for that realistic blonde hair.
You can start with the Yellow slider and drag it to the right to increase the yellows.
Adjust the Cyan slider to the left to bring down the cyans in the image.
Adjust the Black slider to brighten up the darker pixels if you want to achieve a lighter blonde. For this type of effect, you can also create a Levels adjustment layer for more accuracy and control.
In the Levels adjustment layer, adjust the Midtone to control the contrast and decrease the Output Level slider for the highlights.
Select the Blue channel from the drop-down.
From the Output Level slider, drag the white point to the left to add more yellow to the shadows.
Then, switch into the Red channel in the drop-down. Go to the Output Level slider and drag the black point to the right to add more red to the shadows.
Then, create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.
Decrease the Saturation, and you can adjust the Hue slider to achieve the right shade of blonde.
Bring The Highlights Back
With all those intense adjustments, you may start losing the fine highlights of the hair. To bring them back, start by disabling the Group.
With only the original image layer active, press Ctrl Alt 2 (Windows) or Command Option 2 (macOS) for Photoshop to select the brightest pixels in the image.
Then, press Ctrl J (Windows) or Command J (macOS) to duplicate the highlight’s selection.
Place this layer inside of the Group on top of the layer stack.
Change the Blending Mode to Screen. You can also adjust the Opacity to control the intensity of the highlights.
Refine the Image to Get The Best Hair Color Change as Possible
Zooming into the hair and seeing how the selection is imperfect, you can always fine-tune this by selecting the Brush tool and setting the Foreground color to white (#ffffff).
Then, start painting on areas of the hair you want to include in the selection.
To subtract from the selection, set the Foreground color to black (#000000) and paint as usual.
And that’s how to change hair color in Photoshop and make it look realistic! If you also want to learn how to change eye colors, click here!