The Colour Circle Revisited: Understanding Colours

Colour is essential to how we experience the world.


You’ll probably remember the Colour Circle (or Colour Wheel) from your earliest days as a hairdresser! It’s possibly the most important tool for any colourist, and understanding it is the first step in becoming a master of colour...


The better you comprehend the colours on the wheel – and the relationship they have to one another – the easier it will be to predict the outcome of mixing them together, especially in the context of hair colouring.


Before diving into the details, we recommend you first read our article, Colour Theory for Hairdressing: A Quick Guide to refresh basic knowledge in primary, secondary and tertiary colours and how they make up the Colour Circle.


Dive into the World of Colour


The Colour Circle


The Colour Circle covers the full spectrum of shades and enables you to see at a glance how colours are divided into warm and cool. Cooler colours (Green, Blue, Violet) appear on the left, while the warmer ones (Yellow, Orange, Red) are on the right. Additionally, colours on the left (Green, Blue, Violet) are referred to as Matt Colours, whilst the warm colours on the right (Yellow, Orange, Red) are called Fashion Colours, which are brighter, glossier and often more popular in hair trends.


In line with the colour systems and terminology that’s widely used in hairdressing, in some cases we use different names for our colours:

  • Yellow = Gold
  • Orange = Copper
  • Red/Purple = Violet
  • Blue/Olive/Green = Matt
  • Grey/Blue-Violet = Cendré
  • Grey/Violet = Ash

These names pick out the nuances of colour and help to communicate that they are not e.g., pure Blue or Yellow, but toned-down shades that look more like natural hair colouring.


Remember: colour will always change slightly when applied to strands of natural hair, which is why it’s also important to fully understand how natural pigments in hair react during the colouring process, and how to add depth. The Colour Grid below can help in understanding this!


Using the Colour Grid


The Colour Grid


With this grid you can train your eye! It helps you identify the same levels of depth in different colours, as well as how to tell the difference between pure and muted shades.


For instance, Chocolate or Medium Brown Chocolate is actually a darkened Orange – so Orange mixed with Black. The final Brown shade is a combination of depth and tone – without the depth added by Black, the final shade would be too Orange.


As an example, if you put a Medium Brown Chocolate on a very light base, such as 7-0, you would lose some depth so the final shade would be brighter and more Orange. As a result, when it comes to colouring natural hair, make sure to adjust your colours to account for this.


Where Can I Learn More?

We’ve touched on the basics, now take your colour knowledge to the next level with detailed tips on colour correction and learn how different hair types can affect the final colour result. Explore our colour education, plus a variety of training opportunities:


Looking to try out your colour skills? Download our House of Colour chart to find the right colour products for any service!