What I’ve learned… about vivid colours

Charlotte McKenna, a madly busy Manic Panic stylist, shares her top tips on handling all things bright and beautiful


To get the best from your vivid colours you need a clean canvas. Without this, your vivid colour could become patchy with muted tones. It’s very important to lift low and slow to at least a base 7 (depending on the tonal palette you choose to use) to get the best results from your colour. If you don’t lift high and clean enough, your blues will turn green and your purples will be muted and merely tone the blonde canvas. If your base tone is too yellow, remember to pre-tone to remove any warmth.

Spin that colour wheel

The colour wheel is your best friend. You don’t always need to buy every colour of the brand you’re using, but if you have your primary colours you can customise your own shades. Remember: opposite colours of the colour wheel will make a muddy colour, so be aware of this on application!

Don’t get messy

Application is where the fun begins, but be prepared. A messy station equals a messy colour. Get all your equipment ready beforehand, including a towel to wipe your hands on; you don’t want to cross contaminate the colours on the hair. Follow your brand’s advice on application. For example, Manic Panic recommends you apply on damp hair.

Be ready to think on your feet

Every stylist has seen the videos on Instagram, where hair goes from dark to light in a hot minute! Well the same is now happening with vivids going from one end of the colour wheel to the other. Sometimes this is possible, but educating your client on the colour wheel and how you would need to work around the wheel to go from, say, purple to red will give your client realistic exceptions on what you can achieve in their colouring session.

I have a good relationship with my clients and it’s important to build trust when removing vivid shades, as sometimes they can behave in an odd way when removing them. Purples can turn to green, and when this happens, it’s best to explain to your client that instead of compromising their hair, a different colour will need to be done that day. It’s better to go green then orange then to pink/red than trying to do this in one session, especially if they have a lot of colour build up.

I always explain to my clients to keep an open mind when it comes to colour changes and have a few options ready for them. Either way, they leave with a beautiful colour, healthy hair and are happy that I took the time to explain the processes and that I didn’t promise something that can’t always be delivered. They always get to the desired colour in the end, but sometimes it takes time.

This is ART

Before I became a hair stylist I studied art, and I come from a family of artists. I take a lot of inspiration with my colour choices by looking to great artists like Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and especially Henri Matisse. The biggest tip I can give is to look at different mediums to help you explore colours. Buy a sketch book, buy some paints and spend time mixing, creating colours and see how they blend together on the pad. You need to step outside your normal limits and create. This way you will see what works and doesn’t and find your style of painting, which will then transfer to your hair painting.


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