Sunday, 26 May 2013

Choosing Hair Colour When Wig Making & Colour Blending

Over the years that I have been undertaking the wig making research process, I noticed that there is an aspect of wig making that tends to get somewhat overlooked: hair colour. So much of a wig maker's focus tends to be on the construction of the wig foundation or the hairpiece base, that what type and colour hair to use is sometimes almost an afterthought. In reality, it should be given equal thought.

Unless one is making a wig for a character as part of a production (TV, film, theatre etc), then there seems to be two situations regarding hair colour:
  1. People who want to stick to, or as near as possible to, their own hair colour (or, in the case of alopecia totalis/universalis and people who dye their hair, what they think would be their own hair colour).
  2. People who want to use supplemental hair as an opportunity to change their hair colour.
In situation 2, choosing hair depends on what the wearer envisages, as the change could be minimal (1 shade lighter), but you may also find that some people do not mind having far more expressive, modern and funky hair colours. For people who are open to suggestions, it can be a case of: anything goes and I think as a wig maker, it can be a good way to exert some creativity.

At the same time, it is sometimes hard to imagine how a wig or hairpiece is going to look, so asking the prospective wearer for pictures (from magazines or printed off the Internet) that demonstrate the colour they are trying to achieve can be a good way to aid the design process. It also helps to minimize getting your wires crossed about what they really want, and you think they want. Do not be afraid to make well-thought suggestions if you think the colour or colour combination may not be the best option for them. If you choose this be careful how you word it; usually it is better to gently suggest an alternative.

It is also important to be aware that not all colour tones suit all skin undertones. For example, I am a person who struggles to wear blonde. It's definitely not an easy colour for me to wear because most shades of it can make me look sickly, pale and/or yellow. I tend to suit daker hair colours, certain reds, and highlights that are light brown rather than blonde.

For people in situation 1, while adhering to requests for a match to their own hair, it is important to try and achieve as natural a hair colour as possible. For example, people who have European-type hair tend to have hair that has a range of hair strands of different tones that make up their 'one colour', rather than every hair strand being the same colour. As a wig maker trying to achieve this look, this is where colour blending can be a good option. If the request is for colour 8, blending a 6 and a 10 together can achieve a nice shade that is somewhere in the middle and has a depth and richness that may not be achieved by using just one colour.

The wefts below are virgin European human hair in a number 6 (the darker on the right) and a number 10 (the lighter on the left):

Hand Wefted Virgin European Human Hair in Number 6 and Number 10
Close Up of Hand Wefted Virgin European Human Hair in Number 6 and Number 10

Combine these two colours - 1 weft sewn on top of the other, and you get this blended hair colour:

2 wefts blended to make a mid-range hair colour
Close up of the blended hair colour
On the other hand, people of other ethnicities, such as Asian and African, who are opting for colour 1, 1b and 2 will generally be okay with having a 1 shade colour. This is because it is rarer to find a high level of variation in individual strand colour in these shades.

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