How To Change Hair Color In Photoshop

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You can learn to change the color of anything in an image using Photoshop tools, including hair color! Even though changing the color of hair seems difficult because of the different tones, textures, and shapes of hair, it is surprisingly easy.

This technique teaches you to easily change the color of hair in an image to any color you would like. Certain colors will work better on different hair colors, so you might have to adjust the changes to suit your image.

All you need is some precision and patience to change the hair color, so let’s find out how!

How To Change Hair Color In Photoshop

There are various ways of changing hair color in Photoshop since you can make a selection of the hair, then change the color how you like. However, I find this method below to be beginner-friendly and versatile to make adjustments as needed.

Step 1: Prepare Your Image

Once you have opened your image in Photoshop, you need to duplicate the image layer so you can work non-destructively and revert to the original at any stage.

With your image open, select the layer in the Layers panel and duplicate it by dragging the layer to the new layer icon at the bottom of the panel. Alternatively, press Control + J (Win) or Command + J (Mac).

Make sure the new layer is selected before moving on to the next step.

Step 2: Make A Selection Of The Hair

To create a mask of the hair, zoom in to the image to make a better selection by pressing Control + + (Win) or Command + + (Mac).

Select the Lasso Tool (L) from the toolbar, then make a rough selection around the hair using the Lasso tool. To do this, click on an area close to the hair and drag the mouse, following the hair until you reach the starting point again. 

Let go of the mouse once you connect the line to the starting point. The hair will now be surrounded by a marching ants pattern to show the selection you have made.

Step 3: Refine The Selection

Once the selection has been made, navigate to Select > Select and Mask or press Alt + Control + R (Win) or Option + Command + R (Mac).

This will open up the Select and Mask workspace which allows you to refine your selection using various methods.

First, select a View from the drop-down list in the Properties panel on the right-hand side. This will show which parts of the image are selected, and you can choose from the marching ants, or have the selection as white on a black background or vice versa.

In this example, I will use the Overlay option to easily see where I need to refine the selection. The Overlay view adds red (or a color you choose) to the parts of the image that aren’t selected, leaving your selection in its normal color.

Before you begin, check the box next to Remember Settings, to allow you to come back to the Select and Mask workspace at a later stage if you need to adjust the selection more. 

Then, choose the Object Aware option in the Refine Mode tab to help select the pieces of hair near the skin, since the colors and tones of the hair and skin are similar.

If your selection still has a lot of area around the hair selected, start by shifting the Radius closer to the hair outline. Do this by dragging the slider to the right, making sure to not cut off any pieces of hair. 

The selection, which is shown in normal color, will be closer to the hair. 

To further refine the selection, head to the Global Refinements Tab and adjust a few of the sliders to get as close to the hair as possible.

  • Increase the Feather slider by dragging it to the right. This softens the selection, making the selection more blurred without a clearly defined edge. This helps to pick up the stray pieces of hair and blend the new hair color into the rest of the image.
  • Increase the Contrast slider slightly, this does the opposite of the Feather adjustment by defining the edge a bit more. Adjusting this helps with the bottom of the hair to set it apart from the shirt.
  • Adjust the Shift Edge slider to move the selection inwards by sliding the bar to the left or outwards by sliding to the right to position the edge of the selection better.

Once you have adjusted those settings, the selection should be better placed around the hair without including too much of the model or the background.

To further refine the selection in specific areas, rather than on the selection as a whole, select the Refine Edge Brush Tool from the panel on the left. This will allow you to shift the edge of the selection inwards or outwards only in specific areas.

Then select the Brush Tool to add or subtract from the selection by brushing over the areas in or around the selection.

With both tools, you can select the circle with a plus icon from the Options bar at the top, to add to the selection. Or choose the circle with the minus icon to detract from the selection. Then change the brush size with the icon on the Options bar or increase it by pressing ] or decrease it by pressing [.

Next, brush over the areas that you don’t want in the selection. This can include areas of the background, the shirt, or the model’s face.

Once you have made the selection as close to the hair as possible, Photoshop can assist in refining the selection even closer. To do this, click the Refine Hair button on the Options bar to let Photoshop tighten up the selection as much as possible.

Lastly, at the bottom of the Properties panel, make sure the Output is set to New Layer with Layer Mask and select OK.

Step 4: Add A Hue/Saturation Layer

The next step is to add a new color to the hair. Since we have already selected the hair, we can use a hue saturation adjustment layer and a layer mask to change the hair color.

Start by adding a new Hue/Saturation adjustment layer by selecting the icon from the Adjustment panel above the Layers panel.

If the Adjustments panel isn’t visible navigate to Window > Adjustments to access it. The new adjustment will be added as a new layer in the Layers panel.

Right-click (Win) or Control + Click (Mac) on the adjustment layer and select Create Clipping Mask to ensure that the adjustment is only added to the layer directly below. The layer below in this case is the one with the Layer Mask of the hair.

Once the Clipping Mask has been added to the layer, you will notice a small arrow indicating that the changes are only applied to the layer below.

With the Hue/Saturation layer still selected, you can now move up to the Properties panel to add color to the hair. Start by checking the box next to Colorize to enable the adjustment of the color in the image.

The color of the hair will change once the Colorize box has been selected. You can now adjust the various sliders to add the right color to the hair.

  • Use the Hue slider to change the actual color of the hair, by dragging the slider to the color of your choice.
  • Use the Saturation slider to make the new color more vibrant or to tone it down slightly. 
  • Use the Lightness slider to make the hair lighter or darker.

As you adjust the sliders, you will notice the color of the hair changing, so you can easily choose the right color and tone you would like.

Step 5: Blend The New Hair Color Into The Image

When adding bold colors to hair, it can look a bit unnatural against the rest of the image. Adding a blend mode can tone down the new color and help it blend into the image.

To add a blend mode, make sure the Hue/Saturation layer is selected and click on the drop-down Blend Mode menu at the top of the Layers panel.

Then choose the blend mode that works best on your image, such as the Multiply or Lighten option. In this case, the Lighten option works better.

Then reduce the Opacity of the layer to further blend the new color into the image.

You will notice the hair color has toned down and looks more natural.

Step 6: Fix Up Any Color Issues

Now that the hair is a new color, it is easy to notice whether the selection around the hair was right or if there are any issues where the new hair color is leaking into the background or the subject in the image. In this case, we can see some inconsistencies.

Since you selected the Remember Settings option, you can easily reopen the Select and Mask workspace and fix up the selection. To do this, double-click on the layer mask. The panel will automatically open and you can adjust the various settings as needed.

Once you have made the adjustments as needed, change the Output To option at the bottom of the Properties panel to Layer Mask. This will ensure that the changes are added to the layer mask that you previously created rather than making a new one. Then select OK.

If you still can’t get the edges around the hair correct, there is another trick to tighten up the selection even more. To do this, double-click on the thumbnail of the image on the layer that contains the layer mask.

Move to the bottom of the window to the Blend If section and make sure that Gray is selected from the drop-down menu.

Then adjust the sliders to blend the selection better with the underlying layer. You can drag both the black and white arrows to fix the selection as needed for your image.

To adjust the blending with feathering, hold in Alt (Win) or Option (Mac) when dragging one of the sliders. It will be split into two to create a softer blend.

Once you are happy with the fixes to the selection you will have successfully changed the hair color without color leaking into other areas of the image.

You can also go back and change the new color of the hair to something else at any stage. To re-adjust the hair color, select the Hue/Saturation layer and adjust the sliders in the Properties panel. In this case, I decided to try a more natural color by adding a reddish tint to the original blonde color.

So whether you want to slightly change the hue of your subject’s hair, or try something completely different, following these steps makes it all possible!

To help you learn more color-changing techniques in Photoshop, check out these other tutorials below:

Happy editing!

Photo of author
I'm a Canadian photographer and photo retoucher turned founder of bwillcreative.com. Around here I help you to decode the mystery of photo editing with no-fluff videos and written guides to help you achieve your creative goals. Outside of shooting photos and my passion for educating, you'll find me mountain biking or on the trails with my dog, Sunny!

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